“This will not define us,” stated a government official in El Paso a day after the mass shooting that left 22 people dead and dozens wounded.
We’ve heard other civic leaders utter the same words. We understand what they mean.
Given the wonderful qualities of their cities, leaders do not want their regions defined by the horrific act of hatred perpetrated by one or two individuals.
Yet, these mass shootings are defining us – not any particular city but our nation as a whole. There have been so many shootings we can hardly keep them straight in our minds.
Despite the outrage that erupts after every one of these shootings, America’s passion for military-style weapons ensures that more shootings are inevitable and it becomes harder to claim that this violence does not define us.
Couple the available supply of assault weapons with the escalating expressions of intolerance toward immigrants and minorities and we have created a toxic combination.
White supremacist ideology has been linked to many of the recent mass shootings. While this ideology is not new, it has been given sanction to proliferate in part by the rhetoric of our current president. President Trump’s characterization of immigrants as dangerous and of minority neighborhoods as rat-infested places, his verbal attacks on congressional members of color, and his defense of the Charlottesville white supremacist march as containing some “good people,” have created permission for hatred to come out from the dark corners.
While we cannot know the private nature of the president’s heart, his rhetoric reflects the language of white supremacists and cannot be sanctioned or excused by anyone calling themselves Christian (I speak here to my own religious tradition).
It is essential that faith leaders rise up prophetically and denounce in the strongest possible terms the president’s disrespectful and racist rhetoric. Silence only ensures that hatred and bigotry have the loudest and lasting voice.
Rev. Tracy Daub
University Presbyterian Church