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Kunin: Faith In Diversity

After the horrifying massacre in Orlando - we search for answers. “Why? Why?” We listen to the radio, turn to social media, and watch TV and see the backs of two men, two women, and a man and woman with their arms around each other. We catch sight of a middle aged woman standing alone, stupefied. Perhaps she is somebody’s mother. What happened in Orlando make us want to embrace one another, to stand together, to march together, each of us attempting to give comfort and to receive comfort as we share our grief.

We know the terrible numbers. Forty-nine dead, so many wounded - the deadliest mass shooting in recent US history. Now, through the choked up reporting of CNN’s Anderson Cooper, we begin to know who they were. The Hispanic names tell part of the story: Juan Ramón Gerbera, Stanley Almodova, Edward Sotomayor. How young they were; nineteen, twenty three, thirty three. They had so much to live for.

Gay nightclubs – all over the country - are believed to be safe, not only safe from violence, but safe from name calling, safe from losing a job. The Orlando club is where a person could be himself or herself and be recognized for who they were. Gradually, the LGBT community could step out of such safe spaces and come out - out to their parents, out to their employers and out to their friends. Some of these victims had not even had a chance to do that.

Some voices tell us to hate Muslims everywhere because the shooter, an American citizen, had a father from Afghanistan. But while we stand with one minority group we cannot stand against an entire religious group. Our fear and anger must be focused on those who deserve our wrath and not squandered on an entire civilization.

And we must do a better job of identifying likely perpetrators before they strike, using every tool available.

But we cannot allow fear to reduce our belief in diversity. This hate crime cannot be allowed to breed more hatred.

Our strength lies in solidarity. And I am reminded of Pastor Niemoller, German anti-Nazi theologian and Lutheran pastor who wrote that as groups were taken away - first the socialists, then trade unionists, then the Jews - he did not speak up. “Then they came for me – and there was no one left to speak for me.”

Madeleine May Kunin is a former governor of Vermont, and author of "The New Feminist Agenda, Defining the Next Revolution for Women, Work and Family," published by Chelsea Green.
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