How to remain an American

Published 10:04 am Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Like most of you, it was both painful and numbing to hear of and read news about the shooting, this past weekend, at a popular gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida. The death toll of 49 people — so far — puts the crime in the undesirable category as being one of, if not the worst, mass killings in recorded United States history.

Or as they say in other countries, just another day in America.

The tragedy is compounded by the fact that many of the victims are Latinos and, given the setting, likely members of the LGBTQ community.

For those of you not up on your initializations or acronyms, the letters stand for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer or questioning.

Since beginning this column on Monday, I found I still could not come up with words eloquent enough to describe the reaction to the horror. Better writers than I can and will find the appropriate language to express anger, grief and consolation suitable to the occasion.

Then on Tuesday I saw the American flags outside along Armory Drive here in Franklin and remembered they celebrate Flag Day. Meditating on the tragedy and holiday, I am reminded of what it means to be an American.

• It means to pray for, or at least think about, the victims and their families. If assistance can be given, send it.

• It means to also pray for the killer, Omar Mateen. Are we not called on to forgive those who hurt us, if for no other reason than to prevent their hate from keeping us captive spiritually? If he’s later somehow proven insane, that’s all the more reason for prayer. Then there’s his family, who must live with it all.

• It means to not succumb to the fear-mongering, vomited in our ears by political and social leaders, which advocates taking extreme measures to limit the rights of Americans of any race, creed or color or sexual orientation.

• It means to also defend the Second Amendment rights of law-abiding citizens. No amount of rules and laws will keep weapons out of the hands of criminals and terrorists.

• It means to stand up and speak out against individuals who imply that the victims somehow “reaped what they sowed.”

No one deserved to be murdered for who or what they are. They only deserved to live their lives as Americans.

Stephen H. Cowles is a staff writer at The Tidewater News. Contact him at 562-3187 or