My heart is broken for all those mothers, those fathers, those loved ones who were on the receiving end of those terrifying text messages, the ones that said a madman with an assault weapon was on a rampage, hunting them down.
I’m gonna die.
He’s here with us.
Call the cops.
Tell them I’m hiding in the bathroom.
Tell them to hurry.
Tell them it’s too late.
I’m gonna die.
They call their mothers, the terrified do. In the last moments of their lives, the dying will call out to the one who gave them life. It is their mothers they reach out to for comfort, for assurances, the last voice they long to hear. The one voice that has always steadied them, reminded them of their value and worth.
I’ve heard the nurses who served the dying in Vietnam speak of how the wounded always had messages for their mothers: Tell Mama I love her, okay?
I suppose it’s that water and blood connection that we all have with the women who plunged us into this world that makes us long for them whenever we are frightened, or threatened, or dying.
Not that fathers are any less loved.
Fathers shape us, even in their absence. It is our fathers who teach us to either love others or fear them.
The shooter, his father says, was a good son. Clean. Educated. Never a problem.
Not even when he was battering his wife?
Or when he was spouting off bigoted comments to coworkers?
Mateen was a good son, a son any father would be proud of, his father said.
Meaning he wasn’t a homosexual, like those Mateen slaughtered with purposeful intention.
On a Sunday. A day that has always represented grace to me and you, too, perhaps?
Mateen was angered by two men kissing, his father says. The bereaved father offered prayers and condolences for all those whose sons died at the hands of his son. Homosexuality is a sin that will be punished by Allah, this Taliban supporter proclaimed. He failed to make the connection between his fundamentalist belief and the actions of his son.
In the wake of the shootings, some have taken to Social Media to deride our country’s immigration policy. Never mind that Mateen was a US-born citizen, as have been the overwhelming majority of killers who have slaughtered the masses.
These shooters are almost always educated, middle-to-upper-middle class US born citizens.
Our immigration policy is not to blame for our mass shooting problem.
Nor are Islam and Christianity to blame for the evil that lurks within people. Hatred is self-cultivated. As a person thinks, so he is.
Raise up a child in a home full of bigotry and hate, and he will grow up to hate and fear others. Raise up a child to think ill of others and he always will.
If Americans really want to fix our mass shooting problem, we have to quit looking to our borders and begin to look to the walls we’ve constructed in our hearts, our lives. Who are we shutting out? Who do we marginalize? Who do we regard as “less than” or “sinners” or “reprehensible” or “enemies”?
There is one common denominator in all of these mass shootings. One thing that all the gunmen have in common. It is the one thing we have to consider if America really ever hopes to slow the slaughter: Access to assault weapons.
Had Congress passed the 2015 bill banning firearms and explosives to those identified as suspected terrorists, there’s a pretty good chance those boys would have woken up Sunday to send their mommas a “Good Morning” text instead of all those terrified texts goodbye.
I always have trouble praying after slaughters like this. I simply can’t put into words the brokenness I feel. But this time, I’ve found one prayer that is working for me. I am praying that every Congressman who voted against the bill restricting firearms to those on the terrorist list be haunted by the cries of all those murdered. I pray their every dream is filled with the horror of that night; I pray the acrid scent of gunfire and blood haunts them throughout the day. I pray the names of the fallen will be before them constantly, so that when the look into the eyes of their own sons and daughters what they see will be their own children slain.
This is my prayer for Orlando, for us all.
No one whose name appears on a potential terrorist list should ever have the “right” to assault weapons.
Karen Spears Zacharias is author of After the Flag has been Folded (William Morrow).