Before the horrific mass murders in Orlando, Florida, become completely enfolded in and submerged by politics and the presidential campaigns, we ought to remember what’s most human and most important about what the tragedy.
We ought to more than anything remember the names, even as the presidential candidates get caught up in the blame game, even as the press tries to analyze the disturbing persona of the killer, even as Donald Trump becomes even more like Trump, like one of those sky-high parade balloons.
We ought to remember and continue to remember the names.
Forty-nine people were murdered it appears in a matter of minutes by a man using a semi-automatic weapon and a handgun, an American-born man of Afghan parentage who pledged his allegiance to Isis with a 911 call right before he began killing people.
We ought to remember Stanley Almodovar III. Amanda Alvear. Oscar A. Aracena-Montero. Rodolfo Ayala-Ayala. Antonio Davon Brown. Darryl Roman Burt II. Angel L. Candelario-Padro. Juan Chevez-Martinz. Luis Daniel Conde. Cory James Connell. Tevin Eugene Crosby.
Details of the massacre have already been well-documented and endlessly characterized. President Barack Obama, in a measured observation in the immediate aftermath, called it both an act of terrorism and a hate crime. The victims were all celebrating Latino night during the course of Gay Pride Week celebrations in Orlando, Florida, at the Pulse nightclub, dancing the night away, before the killer arrived and changed it all. In the end, 49 died, another 50 or more were injured and the killer was killed himself by SWAT team policemen who stormed the club clogged with bodies.
Most people in the country—those not out and about and celebrating—were still asleep when the killings happened. Most of us woke up to the news in the morning, thinking San Bernardino, thinking terror or another one of those sullen mass murderers. The news set of little time bombs of previous senseless, tragic events, in the post-9/11 world, and we stumbled about taking it all in with a certain amount of dread, fearful of what it might mean this time.
The fact that this was a specific target—the gay community of Orlando, but also the LBGT communities everywhere by someone who also appeared to embrace and may have been inspired by ISIS and who wanted their approval, made the tragedy a perfect storm, a perfect political storm which is only growing.
As the bodies of victims are being dealt with, as people mourn, and vigils pop up all across a suddenly rainbow-colored America, two things made themselves felt almost immediately: that this would have enormous political implications in the presidential race, given the contenders, and, less obviously, that a sea change was coming.
The names from the beginning, as soon as they became known resonated with ordinary Americans, families, parents, children, young people. In Orlando, there was a spontaneous rush to give blood on the part of citizens al across the city. They were making sure the names would resonate for more than the duration:
Deonka Deidra Drayton. Simon Adrian Carrillo Fernandez. Leroy Valentin Ferandez. Mercedez Marisol Flores. Peter O. Gonzalez-Cruz. Juan Ramon Guerrero. Paul Terrell Henruy. Frank Hernandez. Miguel Angel Honorato. Javier Jorge-Reyes. Jason Benjamin Josaphat. Eddie Jamoldroy Justice. Anthony Luis Laureanodisla. Christopher Andrdew Leinonen. Alejandro Barrio Martinez. Brenda Lee Marquez McCool. Gilberto Ramon Silva Menendez. Kimberly Morris.
Here in Washington, D.C., which held its own gay pride parade, a color-saturated celebration which draws big crowds every year, vigils and sadness and shock were the norm.
In politics, it was another story. While gay political issues from weddings to bathrooms were still playing out in the political discourse, the tragedy resulted in what appeared to be a nation-wide outbreak of compassion, love, and empathy for the gay community and for the victims. The fact that an Isis sympathizer if not activist had committed the crime sent shivers up the spines of most people, being reminiscent of Boston, San Bernardino and Paris and all the attendant fears that went with such memories.
Predictably, there was an almost resigned call for gun control, especially on automatic weapons.
Trump took this to be his defining moment, another in a long list. At the time of the killings, Trump had been embroiled and not a little damaged by his attacks on a judge handling the Trump University civil suit, in which he suggested that the judge could not be fair because he is “a Mexican.”
Now, after a perfunctory nod to the victims and their families, Trump once again invoked that he had been right and called again for a ban on Muslim immigrants, and attacked both Hillary Clinton and President Obama, going so far to suggest that because the president would not use the phrase “Islamic terror”, that he should resign. He suggested not too subtly that the president was sympathetic to terrorists and Isis.
After the political climate got so that hot that a debate erupted in Congress over gun control, complete with filibusters, Trump went for a meet with the National Rifle Association and hinted that he might be in favor of not selling weapons to people on a terrorist watch list, a no-brainer. He yelled at Republicans for not backing him on just about everything, telling them to unite and “be quiet.” He banned the Washington Post from covering his rallies.
As for the victims of this tragedy, he had very little if anything to say. He showed again—in his reaction to criticism, in his inability to strike a note of authentic sympathy and empathy—that he lacked critical components of presidential leadership and character: a sense of humor and a sense of tragedy.
More and more, the horrible murder of 49 people have become a part of the Trump show. More and more, in his behavior toward his party, his criticism of rivals, the media and the president of the United States, he is behaving like, not a presumptive presidential nominee, but like a presumptuous dictator. Be quiet, indeed.
The names remain and resonate with our common humanity:
Akyra Monet Murray. Luis Omar Ocasio-Capo. Eric Ivan Ortiz-Rivera. Joel Rayon Paniagua. Jean Carlos Mendez Perez. Enrique L. Rios, Jr. Jean C. Nives Rodriguez. Christopher JosephSanfeliz. Xavier Emmanuel Serrano Rosado. Edward Sotomayor Jr. Yilmary Rodreiguez Sulivan. Shane Evan Tomlinson. Martin Benetiz Torres. Jonnathan Antonio Camuy Vega. Franky Jimmy Dejesus Valazquez. Juan P. River Velazquez. Luis S. Vielma. Luis Daniel Wilson-Leon. Jerald Arthur Wright.