For God so loved THE WORLD that he gave his only Son, that whoever trusts him should not perish, but have eternal life. (John 3:16)
By now everything that can be said about the Orlando massacre has been said. Soon there will be another outrageous assault on the lives of innocent people and we’ll all turn our attention to that one. Again we’ll line up on our preferred sides of the political arguments about who’s to blame and what’s to be done about it all.
There is, however, one misconnection that needs to be corrected. The Orlando nightclub shooting was NOT the worse mass shooting in US History. Wounded Knee in 1890 holds the record. Mountain Meadows Massacre in 1857 comes close. The 1921 race riots of Tulsa Massacre resulted in about 300 people killed by angry mobs of white people.
People have been killing large groups of people outside the parameters of a declared war for as long as there have been people. What’s new is the non-stop, global coverage of the slaughters, followed by internet commentary immediately following each incident.
Dr. Grant Duwe, Director of Reseach and Evaluation for the Minnesotat Department of Corrections, wrote “Mass Murder in the United States” and numerous articles on the subject. He explains, “there are two distinctions between mass murders before and after the 20th century. Before 1900 most mass murders were perpetrated by the “haves” against the “have nots.”
In the case of the Wounded Knee Massacre, for example, the United States military was trying to disarm the Native Americans. Whether intentional or a tragic miscommunication, the resistance of one led to the slaughter of nearly 300 others – mostly women and children.
Duwe further explains, “After 1900, mass murders began being perpetrated by the “have nots” against the “haves.” Another difference is that before the 20th century, few mass murders were perpetrated by a single person.
Each incident of mass civilian killings is a stand-alone event. Yet, there are common denominators. An angry, violent and disenfranchised individual with a vendetta, access to lethal weapons, and possibly a suicide wish, goes after the designated group. Whether the murderer is a “have not” seeking retribution for offenses or a “have” determined to preserve a preferred way of life, the end result is the same. Innocent people who were going about the normal, everyday activities of catching a movie, shopping in a mall, attending a Bible study at church, or going to grade school end up dead.
Then the Internet goes viral with people from conflicting points of view try to convince each other in tweets and posts. It’s about gun control. It’s about immigration. It’s about mental health. On and on we go, with no real solutions and apparently no let up in sight.
I have another theory. Perhpas some of this stems from how we identify ourselves. For example, I am a native-born United States citizen of Northern European heritage. I affiliate with the Lutheran tradition, embracing it as an adult. I live in Texas, yet still think of myself as someone from Ohio. I pledge allegiance to neither national political party and have registered with both in recent years. I get a LOT of political mail and e-mails. I toss or delete most of it.q
All well and good. The problem comes if I over affiliate with any particular ethnic, religious, or political party. When I over-affiliate, I make assumptions that my group’s way of dressing, dining, drinking, debating, expressing devotion, and operating in the word is the correct. If my group is right, guess what that makes your group – not just different, but wrong. If you are different (read wrong) enough, you become a threat. If you are a threat, I have to deal with you as an enemy – not a potential colleague or friend.
Speaking as a woman who is the second generation born here on one side and the thirteenth generation on the other side, I am advocating that we give up the idea that people of Anglo-Saxon heritage are some how destined to determine world affairs. We don’t need to make America great again. This already is a great country. We’ve done many wonderful things.
But, we are not flawless. We have dark spots in our history that are now coming into the public spotlight in ways I certainly ever learned in my public education. It’s about time. We are only as sick as the secrets we keep. I see giant steps forward in addressing the sins of our past. I also see tremendous resistance to admitting how the wrongs done back then are still hurting us and holding us back.
We are not the only ones created the image of God; nor the only ones God loves; nor the only ones with contributions to make for the common good. Today we live in a global village. If we’re going to survive as a species we need to quit over-identifying ourselves as members of a particular ethnic, religious, or political group and start seeing one another as neighbors. Some of our neighbors are troublemakers to be sure. All the more reason we need to work together to corral them and prevent them from causing chaos for the rest of us. They are not dangerous because they are of some particular national, religious, or political persuasion. Rather, they are severely misguided, disruptive, violent people capable of doing great harm.