It is with a heavy heart that, here at JUST Lincolnshire, we have seen a weekend where hatred and intolerance once more make the global headlines. I am, of course referring to the deadliest mass shooting in recent U.S. history that took place at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando. No one would have been expecting to go out for an evening of fun at a local nightclub and not return home.

Disappointingly, in the aftermath of the massacre, we have seen individuals quickly wishing to gain political and moral capital from these tragic events. In what President Obama correctly described as an act of “terror and hate” there has been an unseemly rush to equate this solely to Islamic extremism largely based on the gunman, Omar Mateen, being known to the FBI and also so-called Islamic State attaching themselves to the massacre.

Maybe we need to step back and reflect that although the FBI investigated Omar Mateen twice they found no wrongdoing and also there is a strong likelihood that so-called Islamic State is attaching themselves to this tragedy in order to capitalise on the subsequent publicity. Could it be that in focusing on this being seen as just an ‘open and shut’ terror case we are missing what the greater evidence is pointing towards, that of a targeted attack against members of the LGBT community? The tragic irony can’t be missed that in a place that encouraged love and acceptance people fell victim to actions fueled by intolerance and hate that in all likelihood killed not only those who are LGBT but straight as well.

As is often the case, the better side of humanity shines through in the aftermath of such a tragedy with so many people responding to give blood that they are being turned away and asked to return later as well as vigils being held across the globe. The reaction to the killings demonstrates the possibility of humanity choosing to respond in a way that provides an alternative to meeting hate with hate.

However, the shootings in Orlando throw up questions not only for the U.S.A. but for us all. After every such shooting, the U.S. faces the dissection of its gun laws and the exploration of how a firmly held right by many American citizens to bear arms balances with arguably the more fundamental right, that of the right to life. Sadly, this seems to be a discussion that will continue long into the future.

Maybe it’s about choices we all make…

President Obama was not only confronting his own country but asking a question of us all when he asked: “We have to decide whether that’s the kind of country we want to be.”
Will the U.S.A choose to be a country that decides on a view that ultimately love wins not hate?

But what about here in the U.K? Let us not become a nation defined by parochial self-interest at the expense of holding a generous, openhearted view of our communities. We have heard polarised views expressed of what is best for this country and in turn what is best for Lincolnshire. These issues have quickly become political footballs, bouncing back and forth, with the current level of debate benefiting no one other than those seeking to shout the loudest. Frankly here in the U.K., we can do better than this, here in Lincolnshire we can do better than this.

JUST Lincolnshire calls upon all sections of society here in Lincolnshire to join together in responding to this atrocity, not by fighting hate with hate or intolerance with further intolerance but by recognizing that communities work best when we all pull together. If any dignity and credibility are to be found in the aftermath of these killings it is in how we, as individuals and communities choose to respond.

There is a quote from Martin Luther King Jr that often appears on many social media sites but is no less true because of that and bears repeating:

“Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”

We all have choices to make about what sort of country we want to be. Let us choose wisely.

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