In the wake of the Orlando massacre last weekend – with 49 people killed and another 53 people injured – I would like to call on America’s political elite to be silent.
Not because there is nothing to say; not because there are no truths to be found; and not because there are no action plans to make America safer in the aftermath of this shooting. I am calling for quiet because what is almost as disgusting as a person shooting down those around him is a person using that loss of life for their own political advantage.
And US politicians just can’t help themselves.
“Appreciate the congrats for being right on radical Islamic terrorism”, Donald Trump tweeted on the Sunday after the attack. Yes, congratulations Donald – it only took 49 lost lives for the nice tweets to finally start rolling in. The Orlando attack has proven an opportune moment for Trump to double-down on his plan for a temporary ban on Muslim immigration to the United States. The storyline doesn’t quite add up (the shooter was a New York-born citizen, not a foreigner), but far be it for details to stand in the way of Trump’s preferred narrative.
Meanwhile, you might think Hillary Clinton has personally taken it upon herself to kick-start a campaign against the National Rifle Association, given how many gun control tweets have shown up on her Twitter feed in the past five days. It may be widely accepted – and even hinted at in Clinton’s own messages – that the kinds of gun control she is calling for would do very little to prevent mass shootings, but never let it be said that the Democrats passed up an opportunity to implement some inefficient but symbolic regulations.
Nor let it be said that Clinton passed up an opportunity to use pre-planned talking points. This might explain why her tweets on guns outnumber her tweets about the victims of the massacre by almost two to one.
Even looking beyond America’s two nominees in the presidential race, commentary on the victims of Orlando or the LGBT community has been few and far between – it’s all laced with seething attacks on guns, Islam, or (insert whatever you choose to blame – besides the attacker himself).
According to the world of punditry, this act of hate targeted at the gay community – and the perceived threat against all who embrace freedom and tolerance – is not enough to mourn or reflect upon. We must create more enemies, divide ourselves further – and these divisions must fit into political paradigms.
As I was lamenting the egos that have managed to outshine Orlando’s lost souls, the terrible news broke that Jo Cox MP had passed away after being shot in West Yorkshire while holding a constituency surgery. Both the Remain and Leave camps have rightly suspended their campaigns, and it is a credit to the British political system that politicians of all sides have focused on paying tribute to her contribution to public life. But alongside this display of support, there is an undergrowth of effort already trying to politicise this tragedy.
There is no election or referendum that is worth losing our humanity over. There is no political win so big that it justifies trampling on the tragedies of others. There will be – and must be – a time to vehemently debate the tough issues that have emerged from these attacks – including gun policy and (in the case of Orlando) radicalisation.
But now, today, is a time to reflect on Jo, the Orlando victims, the LGBT community, and the human race, as imperfect and resilient and remarkable as it is. Now is not the time to play politics.