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Mary Jo Melone: Not a column; a plea for Orlando

in Statewide/Top Headlines by

Driving I-4 through Orlando, you see them. The billboard proclaim what is now ho-hum in this country.




Add this to the list, please.


Have you noticed that the phrase “take him out” is now part of our everyday language?  We are accustomed to terms like “SWAT team,” “active shooter,” “on lockdown,” “armored vehicle.” It is the language of an armed camp.

The news coverage is predictable.

TV stations repeat and repeat cellphone videos punctuated by gunfire and interviews with weeping victims. Newspapers publish gun ownership statistics, mass shooting statistics, compare our massacres to countries that escape them. Then the papers predict in editorials that the terrorized town or city where the latest mayhem has occurred will heal. When the next shooting occurs, the same editorial appears. Only the location of the mayhem has changed.

It is also predictable that many of us will complain about national Republican leaders who refuse and refuse to ban assault rifles that can shred flesh like so much paper. They calculate their “talking points” — political consultants’ jargon that every voter recognizes. Most GOP leaders don’t mention that the victims were largely gay because doing so might upset fundamentalists. They don’t mention the victims were largely Hispanic because — who knows? — maybe some were illegals, and that would set off another part of the base. They insist that a ban on assault rifles wouldn’t have stopped the attack because so many of these weapons of war are out there already — yes, thanks to the GOP.

This isn’t the behavior of people happy for cash from a deranged lobby. This is the behavior of the morally bankrupt.

The GOP says Omar Mateen was an ISIS-inspired Muslim; they don’t say he was an American, born here, the son of an immigrant, a near-universal American story. There appears to be little doubt that those killers influenced Mateen, but that ideology could have easily been psychological cover for an emotionally tormented man so overwhelmed by the storm within that he tried to obliterate it by obliterating others.

They refuse to call Dylann Roof’s alleged slaughter of nine African-American men and women during Bible study at a Charleston church last year terrorism, when the slaughter was driven in part by Roof’s white supremacist views. They don’t call the murder of 6-year-olds in a classroom in Sandy Hook an act of terror, even though terror must have been the final emotion those innocents and their teachers knew.

They were unmoved by dead children, as they will likely be unmoved by the pleas of 30-year-old Eddie Justice, who was trapped in a bathroom at Pulse. He managed to issue a series of texts.

“Call police”

“They shooting”

“He’s coming”

Picture it.

He sent them to the woman who had always comforted him and kept him safe. Picture what his mother, Mina Justice saw, when she was awakened by a text at 2:06 Sunday morning.

“Mommy, I love you”

“Mommy, call the.”

Mommy. The name that reaches the deepest part of a mother, who knows the sound of her child’s pleas, even when she cannot hear him speaking.

“He’s in here with us”

This, then, is a plea to the GOP. Whatever slivers of compassion you possess, drag them up out of the dark of your soul, and act.


Tampa-based writer Mary Jo Melone is a former columnist for the Tampa Bay Times.

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