A Reflection on the El Paso Shooting

As I write this (late Saturday evening), the deadly shooting in El Paso is only hours old and the facts are still being sorted out, but evidence is mounting that this was motivated by hatred for Hispanics and immigrants. Such incidents have become all too common in the United States, and, frankly, the death toll from them in recent years (in the U.S.) has far exceeded that rooted in Muslim extremism. The enemy is within.

In the cauldron of anger that America has become, violent rampages are now weekly occurrences. Overt or barely repressed anger seems to be the new normal in America. Without civil discourse rooted in shared values, it is easy to resort to invective, demonizing, and fearmongering. The sickest among us drink this poison and succumb to it.

Saddest of all, it is doubtful that an event like this will cause us all to stop and seek the way of peace; it is more likely to have the opposite effect. The blame game began on the national news almost immediately after the reports started coming in. Speculation went directly to how this incident will benefit or hurt various national political figures. Major networks were running to presidential candidates to get their reactions. Some of the victims had not even breathed their last before the whole matter had been politicized. Talking heads were being lined up to give “expert analysis” on who is to blame, how this will influence the ongoing gun-control debate, whether this should affect immigration policies, whether the incident demonstrates that America is a racist nation, and/or whether this should be viewed as the solitary action of a lunatic. Many will want to know who should have seen this coming but did not report concerns. There is and will be a lot of heat but very little light.

We are all to blame in some sense. To some degree we all contribute to this bubbling cauldron of hostility, to the rage that is often no longer below the surface. Almost no one will own up to his own role or that of his particular faction, however. It’s the other side; they are the ones to blame: It’s Antifa’s fault; no, it’s the white supremacists who are to blame; no, it’s illegal immigrants; no,  it’s Trump; no, it’s the Democrats; no, it’s the Republicans; no, it’s the NRA.

My fantasy is that the President, congressional leaders of both parties, and other key leaders would all gather and declare a time of prayer, fasting, and cooling off. Imagine each of them saying something like this:

I am partially to blame for this and so is my party. We have contributed to the atmosphere of anger and blame that has driven some individuals beyond the boiling point. I realize that I harbor too much hatred for my opponents. I have failed to listen to them. I have failed to express my disagreement with them in a respectful manner. I have engaged in personal attacks or have repeated those of others. I have demonized my opponents and delighted when others did so. Yes, I and my party have contributed to the epidemic of anger in this country. Admitting my part, I reach out to my political adversaries and ask them to consider theirs; I suggest that we are all to blame. I hereby commit to engage in self-scrutiny and to curb my personal attacks on those with whom I disagree; I ask my opponents to do the same. I would like to participate in a month of national mourning, repentance, and reparation for the damage that has been caused and to which I have contributed. May God have mercy us and grant us a time of peace and change.

I know this is naïve, and perhaps I sound “preachy,” but I can dream, can’t I? Even if none of these public figures will do such a thing, what about us? Is it possible for you and me to watch our words and our behavior? To avoid ascribing the worst of motives to those with whom we disagree? To stop eagerly passing on every rumor and allegation we hear or read? We will never all have the same position on every issue, but can we express our disagreement with respect and charity?

Unfortunately, the more likely outcome of today’s shooting is that the anger and blaming will escalate even further. And then in about a week’s time there will be another shooting, and we’ll go through this all over again. [Update: Before this “went to press” there was another shooting, this time in Dayton, Ohio. Apparently my “in about a week’s time” was too optimistic.]

Things are getting hot in the U.S., but although the “warming” is man-made, it has nothing to do with climate change. Satan thinks the weather in America today is just fine.

Help us, Lord, and may the dead rest in peace, far from this angry, overheated world.

When evil days are upon us and the worker of malice gains power, we must attend to our own souls and seek to know the ways of the Lord. In those times reverential fear and perseverance will sustain our faith, and we will find need of forbearance and self-restraint as well. Provided that we hold fast to these virtues and look to the Lord, then wisdom, understanding, knowledge and insight will make joyous company with them [From the beginning of the Letter attributed to Barnabas (Cap. 1, 1-8; 2:1-5: Funk 1, 3-7)].

Cross-posted at the Catholic Standard: A Reflection on the El Paso Shooting

14 Replies to “A Reflection on the El Paso Shooting”

    1. Best thing I’ve ever read concerning the sick violence in our country. Thank you, Monsignor Pope.

  1. Violence is an affront to God, in any form, as it denigrates or destroys others, who are made in the image of God and who, ultimately, are souls destined for goodness on Earth and holiness in Heaven.

    As tragic as these shootings are, or as any act of violence is, the death toll from both shootings equates to 7 minutes of abortions in the U.S.. Calculated differently, abortion equates to approximately 4 (four!) El Paso/Dayton shootings *every hour*, every day, 365 days a year.

    Every death from violence– war, abuse, neglect, shootings, abortion– is precious life lost. But until we confront and reject, by far, the largest single source of murder in our society– let alone (for many) defend it or (for some) celebrate it, we delude ourselves.

    “Oh, but that’s different…”. No, it’s not.

    Heaven cries out over every one lost, not just the dozens with iPhone footage but the millions in silence.

    1. Best comment in my book! Much better than the esteemed Msg Pope’s putting words in Trump’s mouth. All mass shootings don’t have the obvious illegal immigrant target the El Paso shooting does, so that argument does not follow. Jake says what Pope Paul Vi predicted in Humane Vitae- contraception & abortion lead to a cheapening and disregard for the value of human life. If we are painting with a broad brush- this is the one to use.

  2. Hi from Ireland.

    Here there are few legally held firearms other than shotguns farmers have for foxes. There are some criminally held guns. The only armed uniformed police are “emergency support.”

    This is real good. But gun control will not create such a situation in the USA. There are just too many guns in circulation in America.

    Calls for gun control only advocate a legal slogan that will do nothing to alleviate gun crime. This is sad, I very much feel, but it is true.

    Please God, let someone come up with a way out of this problem…

  3. Only after horrific societal pain becomes truly so widespread and unbearable and to where death and destruction peak to cause the demolition or the global safety net that supports a truthful pleasantness in living, only then, amidst the abject devastation, will humankind then again be taught and be given another chance at peace, tranquility and real love.

  4. My dear Monsignor:

    With all respect, when one spreads the blame for these shootings as thin as you do, the blame evaporates. Who, among our leaders, is more responsible for stirring up hatred of Hispanics and immigrants, and who is less? Why, sir, are you unwilling to name names?

    1. I am not of the opinion that it is particularly helpful “to name names” because truth be told there is more than enough blame to go around. Whether it is the divisive rhetoric of a President Trump toward immigrants or New York Governor Cuomo celebrating a law that will only increase the destruction of nascent human life, the effect is the same – a coarsening of our moral conscience.

    2. As a Hispanic-American who lives in Texas to place the blame on President Trump which I’m sure that is who you are referring to is wrong, its the shooter himself that is to blame, but if anyone is fostering animosity towards mexicans or muslims its the democrats and their media with their false narrative and lies that Trump and his supporters like me are nazis, facists, etc. and therefore hate mexicans, muslims, etc.
      Trump’s immigration policies are the same that past presidents implemented based on current immigration law, if you do your research you will see that Clinton, Obama and other democrats use the same lanuage concerning illegal immigration.
      If you search the State of Texas website you can see for yourself the number of crimes illegals have committed here in Texas over the years, its something we see in our daily newscasts.
      While the republicans are not perfect and I have problems with some of them, its the democrats and their vile socialist/marxist agenda that is the root of the class warfare they are trying to incite.
      As a Trump supporter I welcome people from all over to come to our country legally and be part of this great country and to help make it better for everyone

  5. What happened in Ely Paso is a function of guns. How to control them? Left-right debate on this is at all times missing the point. Gun control as advocated by the left will do nothing to curb crime. There are simply too many guns in circulation. And the right wing response (do nothing) will similarly achieve nothing.
    What is required is an anti firearm cultural revolution.
    Here in Ireland most privately owned guns are shotguns farmers use for foxes. Some criminals have guns. Our police force is largely unarmed.
    I hope someone day you will joineed us….
    What I describe are not imaginings.

    1. When I was in high school here in Texas we had gun clubs and brought our guns to school, there were not any gun shootings as there is now, the AR15 rifle has been on the market for decades so its not the guns, the issue is with young people today, not sure how to pinpoint what it may be but I have my assumptions.
      But Americans like me love our 2nd amendment and wish to keep it.

  6. What happened in El Paso and Dayton is not a function of guns. It is the effect of the separation caused by hatred. Guns are merely the method used by the responsible parties (the murderers) to animate their hate. And when this happens, we look to “name names” and lay blame. That is classic Satan, always with the subterfuge, for this simply feeds that very same hate.

    I am responsible for this travesty. You are too. Every one of us is responsible. And as such, every one of us is called to change. Every one of us must die unto self (cast off selfishness, greed, lust, wrath, pride… you get the gist) and put on the mantle of Christ. For what defiles us comes from within and nowhere else.

    Tossing blame, name calling, demanding change of others – it is just a way to get the world to change so you don’t have to. And this world is EXPERT at not changing. We have learned absolutely nothing from WWII. Nothing. We still hate. We still marginalize. We still enslave. We still persecute.

    Now say those last 4 sentences using “I”. I still hate. I still marginalize. I still enslave. I still prosecute. It’s true of all of us because we are imperfect sinful beings. I don’t like it any better than you do, but I know that apart from Christ, this is who I am.

    Now, from this point forward, stop saying “you”, because pitting yourself against the world means you’re not actually living in it. You are living apart from the truth of humanity and as such have absolutely NO VOICE. There is a veil between you and I, and it leaves you powerless to effect change. But when “you” join “us”, when you join Christ, the world will change.

  7. Most of these are angry people who want suicide by cop and they want fame. Guns are the tools they use. Forensic psychologists have said that publicity is the driver and that the the media should stop publishing their names and body counts. Basically, they should treat it as a local and not very interesting story. It’s worth noting that these mass shootings have increased even as legal guns are harder and harder to get. So the guns aren’t the problem.

  8. Self-scrutiny in politics is a most dangerous idea. Many have been killed thusly.
    In America, one can be right by ones own self.
    Politics w/out disagreement is only a form of slavery.

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