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Ignore multiple dimensions at our peril

By ReligionJune, 2016January 19th, 20243 min read

As if it wasn’t bad enough that 49 innocent people were murdered in cold blood, and dozens more injured, the tragic mass shooting attack on a gay club in Orlando has spawned disgusting political rifts over the reasons for the attack, and how we ought to respond.

What makes this attack distinctive is its multiple dimensions (in no particular order):

  • Members of the LGBT community were an obvious target
  • An automatic weapon was used
  • The motive may have been linked to Muslim extremism (still to be confirmed, but evidence is building)
  • Attacker may have suffered from mental illness (also to be confirmed)

The lack of an obvious single cause for the attack has led to different and conflicting responses from different sides of the political spectrum, and from special interest groups. The right blame Muslim extremism (or all Muslims, for simplicity). The left blame lax gun control laws, and/or homophobia.

This is not an either-or choice. This was an attack by a Muslim, against a target that is a known enemy of radical Islam (gays, Americans, and certainly gay Americans), using a weapon that, given reasonable controls, should never have been made available for sale to the attacker. You could take away any one of those factors, and the attack would probably still have taken place. You could even take away two of those factors and the attack may still have taken place.

But each group insists on the primacy and importance of their favoured root cause, and in what can only be described as the secondary trauma of political point scoring, attack the other side by defending the other factors, or for ignoring their cause. For example:

  • it’s about gun control and not about Muslims;
  • it’s about LGBT and not about guns;
  • it’s about Muslims and not about LGBT;
  • how dare you ignore factor X;
  • your sympathy is hypocritical;
  • see, I told you so

All wrong. It’s not black and white. It’s complicated. It’s about all of the causes, to a greater or lesser extent. And debating the extent to which it is about one cause or another is actually a waste of time. Putting too much emphasis on one factor will mean another factor runs the risk of being ignored. All that will do is shift the problem from one place to another.

Our response to an awful attack such as this is to find ways to unite around it, rather than use it as an opportunity to divide us further. Sadly, with the US heading toward what will probably be the ugliest and most negative presidential campaign in its history, it’s too easy to fall into the trap of politicising.

Ignoring or failing to acknowledge the multiple dimensions of this attack will only lead to an inadequate and incomplete response, and we will be right back in the same place “next time.”

This was also posted at The Times Of Israel.

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