I don’t really want to write this blog, but I feel I must.  I wish I could continue to hide my head in the sand and act like the massacre in Orlando didn’t happen this weekend, but I can’t.  We’ve got to start discussing and debating in this country and quit yelling and demonizing.  I need to speak up more.  There are things going on that I cannot stomach and I shouldn’t just be sitting on the sidelines shaking my head.

To paraphrase a post a saw on Facebook yesterday: Pardon my dust. I’m still sorting this all out, but I have to talk about it.  I usually write and tweak and edit these entries, but I feel I need the benefit of stream of consciousness today.  I certainly don’t have all the answers, but here we go.

Let’s talk about guns.  I am pro gun control.  What does this mean for me?

If you like hunting: no problem

If you want home protection: no problem.

If you enjoy target shooting: no problem.

If you want to own a military grade weapon: I have a problem with that.  They should be outlawed.

All the arguments and sound bytes and pro/anti gun rhetoric is just a bleak cycle of feedback. I don’t want to hear the same arguments anymore.  Assault rifles should not be legal.  That’s it.  

People should not be able to buy ANY gun without thorough background checks.  Gun shows? Private sales?  Off the radar transfers?  Illegal.  I mean: when will this madness stop?  Shootings at an Amish schoolhouse, colleges, movie theaters, Sandy Hook, Ft. Hood, Planned Parenthood. Could it possibly be worse?  Are we not even willing to try?

We have got to take a radically different path with guns.  It’s new ground.  It may scare some.  It may outrage some.  But this can not continue.  The inflexibility of the debate must end.

I need to do more to make my voice heard on this issue.  Signing petitions.  Calling Congress. Whatever I can do, I should do it.  I’ve been too silent, I guess.

Now, let’s talk about Islam.

It is certainly disturbing to read about these terrorist cells or individuals in our country.  People that are plotting violence should be ferreted out and incarcerated.  But the horror of Orlando isn’t about Islam any more than the Westboro Baptist Church is about Christianity. This is about minds warped beyond recognition with hate.

How do you respond to that?  I don’t have a pat answer, but I know the answer isn’t with more hate.  Hate is a convenient but dangerous vehicle to pour our anger, frustration and sadness into.  It’s too easy.

I don’t know the specific reason why our president won’t use the exact words that his critics want him to, but I would bet it has something to do with not wanting to demonize an entire religion that a large number of Americans practice.  The moment a leader says: “This was Islamic terrorism,” he or she is subtly or not so subtly pointing a finger at millions of people that are just as repulsed at these crimes as we are.

There is nothing wrong with Islam simply because it is different than what many of us know.  It is foreign to many of us, so it might seem intimidating.  But take several steps back and view the long strand of history: how many horrific things have been done in the name of the Christian God?  The scales are weighed down on both sides.  Millions of lives lost in campaigns of diseased righteousness.

The problem is extremism.

My good friend has the last name “Hussian.”  Easy enough to pronounce: it sounds like “Russian” with an H.  But in the wake of the first gulf war, he had nutjobs calling him out of the phone book because in their addled mental state, “Hussian” looked too much like “Hussein.”

These are the people that refuse to fly with someone in a turban on an airplane.  Or desecrate a mosque.  Or open fire in a crowded nightclub.

They are all on the spectrum of fear and hate.  And we must reject them.

This isn’t some namby pamby meme-message that “Love Conquers All” or that we all just need to hug each other more.  No.  If your neighbor is a creepy freak that you think is going to do something violent-- call the cops.  Whether he is a Muslim or a Jehovah’s Witness.  Don’t hesitate because of political correctness.  That is another kind of madness that needs to stop. Horrible crimes are committed by people of all colors and creeds.  If you see something, say something!

But following Donald Trump’s urge to ban all Muslims?  That is completely the opposite of what this country is supposed to be about.  I don’t think that my friends who support Trump (and I have several) are nasty hatemongers, but I do think they are misguided.  And I do think that the path that Trump would take us down is slippery and dangerous.

History is littered with tyrants, demagogues, and dictators.  America is somehow immune to this possibility?  No, it is not.  We sadly seem quite attracted to suspicion and division.

Lastly, let’s talk about avoidance and de-friending.  The answer to tragedies like Orlando is not to cut yourself off from people who you disagree with or who piss you off.  The answer is to talk, engage, and debate with them.  Removing them from your Facebook feed isn’t going to make them or their opinions disappear.  These are difficult conversations.  But if we don’t have the guts to face prickly conversations with people we know and love, we’ll never get anywhere.  

I’m not wild about the fact that I know many people who support Trump because I think he is a terrible choice.  But I refuse to vilify those who disagree with me because that decision is not that removed from the scapegoating of any group.  It is too easy and doesn’t get us anywhere.

Let’s keep talking.  Let’s get uncomfortable.  Let’s make progress.  And I guess even if it doesn’t solve all our problems, it couldn’t hurt to hug a little more, too.