Law enforcement and medical assistance arriving at the scene of the Orlando attack/City of Orlando Police Department

Politicizing tragedies

By Peter Houston-Hencken

Why are we so quick to politicize mass tragedies?

On Sunday morning, 49 people were killed and 53 were injured in Orlando, Florida in a mass shooting that can only be described as sickening. These 49 individuals had lives of endless opportunity to change the world for the better. However one man selfishly and maliciously decided to end those 49 lives and erase every one of his victim’s futures.

After learning as much as I could about the Orlando shooting on Sunday I turned to Facebook to see how others were reacting to the horrific event. While I saw some encouraging posts and movements encouraging unity, I also saw individuals post political commentaries surrounding the Orlando shooting.

Less than 24 hours had passed since these individual’s had been killed, but people were already using it to continue debating issues that have been discussed for years. Namely, gun control and the spread of ISIS and domestic terrorism.

I was shocked. Where was the reverence for the victims and the families that have been impacted by this tragedy?

I recognize that major events in history spark political debates and can act as a call to action. Events like these will ultimately encourage and even warrant discussion about these important issues. But is it necessary to talk about how this shooter does not represent every gun owner before all the bodies are even identified? Is it necessary to start petitions for Congress to pass gun control legislation while parents still do not know if their child is alive or dead?

I was pleased to see posts and groups forming to donate money, coordinate gatherings, and promote unity. But people seemed more interested in criticizing the statements made by presidential candidates and getting in arguments over whether the Obama administration should use the words “radical Islamic terrorism.”

I’ll admit that I do have strong convictions on these issues, but I beg the question: How long should we wait before making this tragedy about our own political views?

I do not have a clear answer. However, I think everyone should take a minute to reconsider their public commentaries. A time will come for everyone to express their views of gun control. Again, there is not a set number of hours that must pass before we can debate, but perhaps America can at least give the families time to mourn their losses before their tragedy becomes our political platform.

About Peter Houston-Hencken

Peter Houston-Hencken is a recent graduate of Whitworth University with a degree in journalism. Peter currently works for a background investigation firm but is passionate about freelancing on the weekends. Peter grew up as the son of a Presbyterian pastor. He feels strong in his faith and his commitment to Jesus Christ. He aspires to have a career in journalism and help people get more informed about the events in their communities.

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  1. I think we all have different ways of reacting and responding to a tragedy. For some of us, this means taking action and trying to do something about it. Perhaps that comes off as political or manipulative. That’s not the intent in my case. I’m not a demonstrative or emotional person. I may not cry when these things happen, at least not in public. I will, however, probably go to a protest or a rally or demand change and action that I think matters.

    My way of caring may look different than someone else’s way, but that doesn’t mean it’s not valid or that it’s selfish.

  2. Thank you, thank you, thank you, Peter, for drawing attention to what is missed with each new tragedy. Until we disavow the artificial divide ruling our political climate, emotions continue to overwhelm the significance of the situation, lashing out with short-sited cries attacking or defending different beliefs. Once WE are truly reverent and determined to solve this crisis TOGETHER we will dive deep into our fears to act from our greater strength. We will sit down at the table TOGETHER and resolve to tackle, investigate and respond to any contributing factors to systemic violence. Such efforts will be steadfast and unabated so when tragedy occurs we grieve assured WE ARE UNITED in the face of such fear.

    Our co-workers, our neighbors, our friends, our families, our CHILDREN deserve such a commitment.

    Thanks, again.
    We risk our humanity if we force tactics over solemnity.

  3. I felt like we should be focusing on the families and being respectful to those who were injured and lost their lives as well.

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