Last night, like millions of others do routinely across the nation, Americans in Orlando went out to meet old friends and new ones.
At least 50 of them never came home, and more than 50 others were seriously wounded. Yesterday was a terrible day for the Republic.
Yet it was also a day of American moral glory. Because just as soon as the terrorist had spilled the blood of innocents and scarred the lives of hundreds of families, the nation rose up in moral resolution. The stories from the scene testify to that truth. Of the victims who helped fellow wounded to safety. Of the medics who saved lives. Of the officers who entered Pulse and confronted the terrorist: one officer was shot in his helmet. Of those who stood under the Florida sun to give blood to strangers. The photos of the long lines at blood banks speak to the identity of those who answered the call to save lives. Good Samaritans of every age, creed, color, and faith. And their moral goodness soon rendered outcome: the blood banks reached capacity.
The juxtaposition is defining.
Yesterday, one terrorist spilled as much blood as he could to kill strangers he hated.
Yesterday, thousands of Americans gave their own blood to save strangers they loved.
Of course, the physical juxtaposition speaks to a deeper philosophical juxtaposition. We now know that the terrorist had pledged allegiance to Daesh, or the “Islamic State.” As Opportunity Lives has noted before, Daesh is an organization imbued with hatred for individual freedom. It seeks to purify the world under a banner of totalitarian zealotry. All who do not yield are destined for slavery or death. And in slaying innocent men and women for their personal lifestyles, this attacker sought to bring Daesh to America. The blood donors proved his pathetic failure. After all, that many of those who gave blood were not gay. They were simply Americans. Moreover, we can surmise, based on the diversity of opinion in our nation, that at least some of those who gave blood do not approve of homosexuality. Consider, for example, the many faith groups — Christian, Muslim, Jewish and others — who responded to the atrocity by calling on their members to give blood. This fact deserves our special attention. Because it offers physical rendering of our national motto amidst crisis: “E Pluribus Unum” — “Out of many, one.” Where Daesh seeks exclusionary authoritarianism, Americans seek inclusivity and freedom. Orlando’s St. John Lutheran Church said it best on Facebook: “Our city has been devastated by a terrorist who chose to commit mass murder, who chose a gay night club as his target, and we, as people of faith, are called to respond to such evil in Christlike words and deed. We pray for the dead, the wounded, and their families that they might know comfort.’’
Even then, all across the nation, the near-universality of American anger proves that we are one family. We look at this massacre of innocents not just with revulsion, but also with a desire to turn that revulsion into positive action. At the lowest level, that has meant simple tweets. At a medium level, it has meant fundraising drives for the victims. And at the greatest level, it will mean a national bipartisan effort to debate policy — even if passionately — and to support the people of Orlando. But in all these endeavors, our mutual devotion to democracy will define our response.
And that leads us to one final truth. The United States is and will remain an exceptional nation. For all our flaws and divisions, at home and abroad, we know that all men and women are created equal and endowed with rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Immortalized into physicality by 240 years of moral glory, those words remind us to be confident. Against all evils, the Republic inevitably triumphs.
Tom Rogan is a Senior Contributor for Opportunity Lives and writes for National Review. He is a panelist on The McLaughlin Group and a senior fellow at the Steamboat Institute. Follow him on Twitter @TomRtweets.