Many of us woke up Sunday morning (June 12, 2016) to another news story of mass murder in the United States.

The early reports said 20 people were killed at an LGBTQ nightclub in Orlando, Florida. It forced many to stop and stare at their phones in disbelief. Some might not have really paid attention until the death toll rose to 49 and it was confirmed that the shooter had pledged allegiance to ISIS.

It’s been impossible to avoid the political fallout of this tragedy. Three hot-topic issues were thrown into a bewitching stew that has the US and Canada under a spell of opinionated chaos: Homophobia, Gun control, and Islamic extremism. The swirling outcry, outrage and grief complicates the public discourse.

There isn’t a simple answer any of the underlying issues here, but we found a few books that might help guide discussion and ultimately untangle a few knots for those trying to make sense of the shooting and it’s resulting media hurricane.

The Rights Revolution by Michael Ignatieff

Rights Revolution - The River Trading CompanyMicheal poses a question in this book that is very timely for our conversation about gun control.

“When everyone asserts their rights, what happens to responsibilities?”

In The Rights Revolution, Michael examines Canadian issues specifically. He talks about the importance of our right as individuals and as groups of people (indigenous peoples specifically). But individual rights and group rights can fight each other. So where’s the balance? Answering that question will help us iron out what the Orlando shooting should mean for American’s right to bear arms.

Terror and Liberalism by Paul Berman

Terror and Liberalism - The River Trading Company“Islam is not the cause of the [terror] war. It is the arena in which the war is presently being fought.”

It can be hard to separate the extremists from genuine believers. But it is important to remember that one man cannot paint an entire religion red because of his deranged motives.

There are also American extremists who are crawling out of the dark corners of US culture, demanding bans on all Muslims, or praising the work of the shooter. These people do not speak for all Americans and cannot taint an entire Nation with their beliefs alone.

The Better Angels of Our Nature by Steven Pinker

the_better_angels_of_our_nature_0We don’t currently have this book in stock, but we think it brings some much needed perspective to those of use not directly affected by the Orlando shooting.

If you take a step back and look at Human history, violence has seen a sharp decline. When was the last world war? When was the last public hanging? Our punishments are more humane. Slavery is illegal, women have rights, and family feuds don’t typically end in massacres. Steven points out that the trend of violence through the last 1000 years is sinking quickly.

That’s not to say violence is gone and that humanity is cured of tragedy. But there is hope. We are improving as a species. Let’s mourn with those who mourn and then let’s continue to live assured that we are moving in the right direction.

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