Barack Obama didn’t need to give a speech on the Orlando shooting Tuesday, having already addressed it in solemn voice the day before. But following a meeting with his national security team on the state of our country’s fight against Islamic State, he found he had something important to say.
He was haunted by an ugliness – not overseas, but right here in America – that’s beginning to rear its head once again. It’s a darkness embodied not just in the horrific attack in Orlando on Sunday, which left 50 dead and 53 wounded, but more by how we as a society respond, and even who we become in its aftermath.
The day after the attack, Donald Trump spoke, not to console us as a country, but to stoke fears and fuel unfounded hatreds. He sought to further terrify the American electorate by casting the act not as aberrant and extreme and the consequence of how readily available weapons of war are to all, but as the logical conclusion of our country’s immigration policy. He called, yet again, for a ban on all Muslim immigration, despite the fact that the shooter was born in the United States, and despite the fact that his motives remain unclear.
“We cannot continue to allow thousands upon thousands of people to pour into our country, many of whom have the same thought process as this savage killer,” Trump said of any Muslim who would come to America. It was a frightening portrait of what America could become under a Trump presidency.
“That’s not the America we want – it doesn’t reflect our Democratic ideals,” the president said Tuesday of Trump’s anti-Muslim stance.
We are at a crossroads in this election, and the choices before us have perhaps never been more stark than they are today. Obama is right to be worried: it’s not just our safety that’s in question, but our country’s heart and soul.