I woke up this morning to the news— 50 dead, worst mass shooting in US history— and in my mind I could already hear the spittle-stained shouting to see who could respond in hate the most.
Gun advocates, gun opponents, the Muslims, the gays: All will be vengefully and vociferously hated by angry voices of popular and social media for days to come.
I wish my own quiet voice of peace could be louder.
There can be no question that this was a hate crime. How, then, can we possibly prevail if our only response is further hate? Martin Luther King Jr put it best: “Returning hate for hate multiplies hate, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars. Hate cannot drive out hate, only love can do that.”
Even as Trump’s poll numbers will surge in the coming days, even as millions of peace-loving American Muslims will endure one more round of excoriation as the nation’s whipping boy, what I long for is a warm and gentle voice of reason to lead us through the madness.
That voice exists. But it is not shouting. It is saying, “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.” It is saying, “Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” It is saying, “Fear not.”
For all her faults, America has sometimes heard that voice before: when she wrote guarantees of basic rights unheard of in a day and age of autocratic monarchy, when she became a home for all of us former cast-offs yearning to breathe free, when she struggled to cast off her own inner demons of slavery and oppression.
In this historic moment, let us hear it too.
It has been said that the correct response to terrorism is militarism, torture, extermination. It has been said that we must think only of the extremists, that whether Nazis, Stalinists, Maoists, or 9/11 terrorists, the peaceful majority are irrelevant.
My question, then, is this: when our nation of 300 million lashes out in anger against our enemies, sweeping the innocent into the mix, where will our peaceful majority be? Will we speak or be silent? Will we risk our own lives to stand up for the innocent, or be those left mumbling “orders are orders”?
When our collective wrath takes us down the only path that wrath has ever known, will our peaceful majority pass the test that so many others in history have failed? Or will we, once again, be irrelevant?