On Sunday morning, I woke up to the news of the tragedy in Orlando. “There are no words,” I tweeted. “My heart goes out to the dead, the wounded and their loved ones.” As the images cascade, and as the horrific details emerge, I still find it impossible to put words around what happened in that place and or my own feelings of grief. Our lives now require us to make sense of unspeakable horror and to understand that there are those among us who will take the lives of people they do not know for reasons of hatred and fear. We have learned again what terror means.
Some facts: The killer claimed allegiance to ISIS on a 911 call before the massacre. He killed 49 people and injured 53 more. The FBI had questioned him twice before and didn’t find reason to hold him. His ex-wife says he beat her, liked to work out and was not religious. His father and others suggested that he did not like gay people. The Pulse nightclub caters to the LGBTQ community.
Shortly after my tweet, the presumptive Republican nominee, Donald Trump, sent this: “Appreciate the congrats for being right on radical Islamic terrorism. I don’t want congrats, I want toughness & vigilance. We must be smart!”
An hour later, he called on President Obama to resign “in disgrace” if he failed to “mention the words radical Islamic terrorism.”
Still later, Trump tweeted “2nd man arrested in LA with rifles near Gay parade.”
Then, finally, he tweeted “What has happened in Orlando is just the beginning. Our leadership is weak and ineffective. I called it and asked for the ban. Must be tough.”
At the same time, Hillary Clinton tweeted: “Woke up to hear the devastating news from FL. As we wait for more information, my thoughts are with those affected by this horrific act. –H.”
Some more facts: The man arrested in L.A. lived in Indiana. There is no reported evidence of a connection between the two of them other than their hate. Trump’s proposed temporary ban on Muslim immigration to America would have done absolutely nothing to stop either of these men.
This is not, however, about facts. Instead it is about judgment and character. Donald Trump wants to be our president. But he has not demonstrated the capacity to calm a country. Instead, he tried in a callous and revolting manner to turn the deaths of so many into a political opportunity. He called for the president to resign. In so doing, he demonstrated his profound misunderstanding of the soul of this nation.
His effort to use this tragedy for his own personal means should mark the end of any serious consideration of his candidacy.
Here’s how we respond to tragedy: We honor the dead and offer our sympathies to their families. We take comfort from our president and fly our flags at half-staff. As people pulled together across the country this weekend, as they lined up to donate blood in Orlando, as they gathered and observed silent vigil in so many cities, Americans again showed their strength, resolve and compassion. Together, we will find our way. Hatred will not prevail.
In his self-congratulatory rant on Twitter, Donald Trump showed neither strength nor compassion. And the only resolve he showed was his remarkable effort to make everything about him. “I called it,” he wrote. His effort to use this tragedy for his own personal means should mark the end of any serious consideration of his candidacy. The dead and their families deserved better from him. The country deserved better from him. Donald Trump, however, is not capable of better.