First, allow me to apologize to everyone because the following diatribe will likely offend each and every one of you. Those who read without thinking will see this as a discussion of politics – it is not. It is an articulation of my beliefs regarding what is the single most destructive, fundamental issue in this nation.
There. You have been warned. Leave your knee-jerk reactions at the door. We have no use for them in this discussion.
So let’s talk about the mass shooting in Orlando – and why the commentary in the aftermath is evidence of why this tragic event happened in the first place and whether it will lead to positive or negative future events.
The concept that is The United States of America has worked for nearly 240 years because our leaders, elected by the people, have intrinsically understood that the key to unity is to embrace, protect and accept our differences. In 1776 – and again in 1787 – our differences threatened to unravel even the best efforts to present a unified front to the King and the world. Certainly, the colony of Georgia had different concerns and needs than the colony of New Hampshire – but they found a way to make it work. It worked because our forefathers accepted – and protected – the differences.
In fact, the forefathers went out of their way to articulate their recognition of these differences. First, in the Declaration of Independence (not actually a legislative document, but certainly one that should help inform any inferred meaning to the ultimate legal document) and The Constitution of United States of America.
When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.
The colonies declared war on the King largely because the wide variety of beliefs, needs and rights of the colonies were being ignored, suppressed and outright violated by the Crown.
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.
The newly created United States of America sought to protect our differences – and our right to profess and live them. In fact, it is articulated in the FIRST amendment. Surely, they felt it was an important point to make.
So what does all of this do with the tragic events in Orlando this past weekend? I believe it comes down to our national acceptance – or lack thereof – of a single concept: pluralism.
Wikipedia offers 16 distinct, yet overlapping, definitions of pluralism. I’d argue that our country was built based upon several of these definitions including cultural pluralism, political theory pluralism, religious pluralism and value pluralism.
Basically, the United States of America has been able to remain united because we support, protect and accept the concept of pluralism. Unified by identifying as “American” but not entirely and destructively separated by our identifying as any specific religion, race, gender or political affiliation – among others.
The Constitution of United States of America protects and supports the right of each an every American to believe something different than each and every OTHER American.
Until we, as a populace and as individuals, truly understand and accept this tenet, we can not truly move forward and progress as a nation.
And here is where I upset each and every one of you. To illustrate my rights, I would offer that:
- I have the right to promote the notion that the 2nd Amendment does not guarantee ownership of a machine gun in every home. Own a gun, fine. But my right to freedom surpasses your right to own your own a military-grade arsenal. It is the right to “bear arms” – not the right to “bear arms”, on an unlimited basis, that infringe my ability to be protected by the rights of our government to “establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity.” My right to tranquility and liberty are in the first line for a reason, folks.
- I have the right to exist without fear of being victim of a hate crime. Hate – and hateful acts – are not freedom of speech. Sorry, they simply aren’t. My rights are protected against you infringing upon them. Tie goes to the runner.
- I have the right to point out that the Orlando terrorist was American-born and bought his weapons legally and point out how Trump’s plan to block entry to this country to Muslim’s wouldn’t have changed these facts – or subsequent events.
- I have the right to point out that recent events are the result of our collective lack of acceptance of “pluralism” combined with our cultural stigmatization of mental health issues. Let’s recognize the problem(s) and work together to fix them.
- I have the right to identify as a Republican and still believe that Donald Trump is not fit to be President of the United States. Hate begets hate and Trump has certainly helped to reveal how deep-seated our collective prejudices are in 2016.
- I have the right to not vote for Donald Trump without having to vote for Hillary Clinton. This is not a matter of heads or tails without any alternative.
- I have the right to vote for anyone I choose – from Mickey Mouse to my next door neighbor – without being threatened by my “friends” on social media, family, clients or peers.
- I have the right to enjoy firing my son’s AR-15 – that was obtained legally – while still hoping that owning such a gun is illegal in the near future. Guns can be fun. I play war-based video games. I’d love to sit in a Sherman tank and launch a shell into an old jeep on a firing range. It doesn’t mean I am a hypocrite to promote abolishing certain types of currently available weapons for the sake of my own – and our collective – safety.
- I have the right to disagree with my own father’s religious and political beliefs – and still play golf with him on a random Wednesday.
- WE have the right to disagree without fearing consequences of any kind.
- I have the right to write this blog post – and you have the right to hit the back button.
I have the right to my opinion. And you have the right to yours. This used to be what made this country great. Differing ideas co-existing to create a new level of progress and greatness.
Unfortunately, our collective acceptance of individuals infringing upon these rights may just be what makes this country no more.
Within the last week I have heard two different voices in society articulate my position in very different ways.
Listen and think.
Watch a New York born Jewish-American comedian speak of his life-long friend, Muhammad Ali – perhaps the world’s most famous and celebrated Muslim.
Speaking of Muhammad Ali:
We were always there for each other, and if he needed me for something, I was there. He came to anything I asked him to do. Most memorable: He was an honorary chairman for a dinner at a very important event where I was being honored by the Hebrew University in Jerusalem. He did all of this promotion for it. He came to the dinner. He sat with my family the entire evening. He took photographs with everybody; the most famous Muslim man in the world honoring his Jewish friend.
This country was built on the idea that we do not all agree on everything. That we are a tolerant, free nation that encourages debate, free thinking, believing – or not – in what you choose.
Please feel free to vilify my publishing of this text and know that your comment may very well help me in proving my point.
If you are in the seemingly silent majority, please share it with your friends and await the backlash.
And if you pray, please do so. With any luck, you’ll pray to a different God than me and we can, together, spread the word just that much faster.
Paul J Dumas