Jackson: So Long ‘Orlando Strong’

The Division Over Orlando Has Already Begun

So, that didn’t take very long. As late as Monday we were a nation unified in grief, outrage and common purpose. Forty-nine Americans had been slaughtered in an Orlando nightclub by a deranged, ISIS-worshipping gunman, and everyone wanted to bring the City Beautiful a casserole.

By Tuesday, certain familiar cracks began to emerge: Anyone who didn’t prominently mention the particular persuasions of the nightclub’s principle clientele were practicing linguistic genocide. And things have only deteriorated ever since.

In less than a week, we have been driven back to our camps, redivided by philosophical crevasses that are wider, deeper, more dangerous and, almost impossibly, more depressing than ever.

So long, #OrlandoStrong. Hello, #OrlandoFractured.

Leftists are, again, employing appalling events as a cudgel to pound conservatives. Never mind that this latest in a series of appalling events tugged at every American with an operating conscience. No, to hear lefty pundits tell it, if you occupied the “wrong” side of recent arguments over gay rights, then not only do you not have any claim on this new wellspring of grief, you were most likely an unindicted co-conspirator.

Nightclub Shooting Florida

Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi understands this better than most after her shameless ambushing by openly gay CNN anchor Anderson Cooper over same-sex marriage. Well, look. That’s the risk of (a) being elected to high office and (b) agreeing to being interviewed on live TV.

Not that the state’s chief law-enforcement officer ever should have to apologize for defending the state constitution. Her position reflected Florida’s codified position, which was a position publicly expressed within recent memory by President Obama and Democratic presumptive nominee Hillary Clinton.

Nope. You’re either on the bus, or you’re under the bus.

NashvilleScene.com’s Betsy Phillips, for instance, is angry at top Tennessee lawmakers who have resisted the advance of gay rights, but nonetheless called on others to “pray for Orlando.”

Phillips makes several compelling points about some problematic legislation and at least one silly one (they’d have had men seeking refuge from the shooter in the women’s bathroom arrested), but her bottom line is, if you’re not on board for the entirety of the LGBT political agenda, you can’t be part of the mourning party.

The headline says it all: “Don’t pray for people you don’t love. It’s insulting.” Which, of course, is exactly what Jesus taught. Oh, wait. The complete opposite of that.

Phillips and Cooper and the editorial board at the New York Times, which blamed everything for the Orlando massacre except the Islamism at its root, are going out of their way to miss the point.

What happened at the Pulse nightclub is not on conservatives. It is entirely possible for Americans to recoil from the implications of ordering bathrooms and locker rooms open to the sexually confused, and to push back against attempts to force the faithful to apply their creative talents to practices that offend their religious sensibilities, and still appeal to their God on behalf of the dead and injured and their loved ones, for medical personnel and for first responders.

To say otherwise is to swat away with malice the tentative olive branch conservatives are tentatively, perhaps in some cases even unwittingly, extending to the LGBT community. Worse, it confirms the worst concepts many conservatives harbor about gay, lesbian and other unconventional lifestyle practitioners: Whatever concessions traditional America makes, it will never be enough.

Not for the militant in-our-faces gay left are raw expressions of lament and comfort from their political adversaries. No. Instead, for our new Pharisees judging which sort of prayer is acceptable, this is a moment for pressing their advantage.

This is bad strategy, terrible tactics and even worse optics.

As Commentary’s Jonathan Tobin writes:

“This is a moment that ought to be one that all decent persons can use as a reminder that the gay victims in Orlando should never be seen as the ‘other’ but merely fellow Americans whose rights and safety are being threatened by a vicious theocratic ideology that also takes a dim view of Christians, Jews, and Western democracy. To shift our view from that to refight culture wars that have already been decided does neither the gay community nor the country any good — and in fact a good deal of harm.”

Conservatives, many of whom stood in line to donate blood; who even now are rethinking what to do about access to rapid-fire weaponry; and who are guided in most things by private meditations with their Creator, are being told they can take their divinely inspired rainbow bridge and shove it.

Well, fine.

In that case, we’ll leave it to those who led the rejection to figure out a way across the crevasse.

Veteran journalist and center-right blogger Tom Jackson has worked for newspapers in Washington D.C., Sacramento, Calif., and Tampa, Fla., racking up state and national awards for writing, editing and design along the way. Tom also has been published in assorted sports magazines, and his work has been included in several annual “Best Sports Stories” collections. A University of Florida alumnus, St. Louis Cardinals fan and eager-if-haphazard golfer, Tom splits time between Tampa and Cashiers, N.C., with his wife, two children and a couple of yappy dogs.