Understanding is sometimes difficult. When viewpoints differ so drastically and people everywhere are so committed to their personal beliefs- and who wouldn’t be? Isn’t it our beliefs that shape the way we live, the person we become?-whatever those beliefs may be, conflict is bound to ensue.

Omar Mateen

Today in Orlando, Florida, the biggest mass murder in American history occurred. Omar Mateen, a Florida resident shot and killed fifty people and seriously injured fifty-three more. I have a hard time understanding what could possibly drive someone or a group of people to kill an entire room filled with strangers. The shooting took place in a nightclub frequented by LGBT community members. The shooter allegedly pledged allegiance to ISIS and after taking hostages, died in a battle with the SWAT team.

President Obama released a statement reacting to the event from the White House in which he said: “an attack on any American, regardless of race, ethnicity, religion, or sexual orientation is an attack on all of us and on the fundamental values of equality and dignity that define us as a country.” Any American can understand that President Obama is referring to the American Revolution and the colonists’ fight for independence and freedom from religious persecution and implying that we must continue the battle to become a more just and free union. It is hard to understand, however, how an American citizen, born in New York, could believe so passionately in a foreign terror group that he would kill fifty innocents in ISIS’ namesake. The reality is that these things happen in modern society, but why and how can we stop the senseless killing? That is perhaps what I wish to understand most.

Reports have suggested that U.S. FBI knew of Mateen’s ties to an American suicide bomber. FBI agent Ronald Hopper allegedly stated that Mateen’s contact with the suicide bomber was minimal and not a big enough threat at the time. I struggle to understand why nothing was done then, in 2014, when it was not a threat “at the time.” Clearly Mateen’s ties to suicide bombers and ISIS evolved into a very real threat. Mateen has held a fire arms license since at least 2011 and he made a 911 call from inside the nightclub before he made the attack, proclaiming his allegiance to the leader of ISIS.

Perhaps I am incapable of fully understanding anyone who believes that it is there religious obligation to commit mass murder, yet it exists and those beliefs have become a domestic threat to the US public. On the flip side, we justify killing men and women in wars abroad and condone execution in many states. Do these people not deserve the fundamentals of equality and dignity also? Where do we draw the line between isolation and direct action? When do the beliefs of others stop being their privilege and start becoming a threat to the safety of US citizens?

ISIS has become a domestic and immediate threat to the American public and the ideals of American democracy, as President Obama stated. It is with a heavy heart that I write today, for no parent should have to bury their child, no friend should have to watch their friends get shot. Strangely enough, I feel for Mateen’s parents. They too, must bury a son. Mr. and Mrs. Mateen told ABC news that they are “shocked just like the whole country.” Apparently the shooter’s parents are also trying to understand the actions of their son. Whether or not the Mateens knew of Omar’s involvement with terror groups and to what extent remains up to question, regardless, I am sure there is truth to their proclamation of shock. At least I am able enough to understand the gravity of this tragedy- the only thing left is deciding how to respond.

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