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anne mikolay 2018On Sunday, August 4, a 21-year old entered a Walmart in El Paso, Texas and killed twenty people. Later that day, a man in body armor shot and killed nine people in Dayton, Ohio. The politicians predictably took to their soapboxes and condemned gun violence. The public posted the now familiar memorial candles on Facebook. President Donald Trump rightfully stated there should be new background check laws, and then added that any new gun control legislation should be “married” to the immigration issue.

President Trump’s insensitive, calculated inference that gun violence is an immigration issue is just another example of how hurtful and dangerous his words are. Hate-speech is Donald Trump’s common language, and that language is spreading. The El Paso shooter’s published manifesto condemning the “Hispanic invasion of Texas” proves that Trump’s white supremacist, “them versus us” mindset was a contributing factor to the tragedy in Texas. The idea of immigrants overtaking our country originated with Trump when he previously called a caravan of Central American migrants heading toward the U.S.-Mexico border an “invasion”. The very word stirs fear for one’s safety and livelihood and propels individuals to seek protection and act defensively.

It’s time to wake up! What is happening to our country is not purely a bipartisan matter. It’s a deeply complicated issue that speaks to our morals and values. Bottom line: all human beings deserve dignity and a place to live freely without persecution. America used to be that place. Sadly, it isn’t any longer.

While Donald Trump, through his behavior and speech, shoulders much of the blame for the recent shootings and deaths of the innocent, responsibility does not rest solely with him. Legislators who pander to the NRA share blame. Those who downplay the significant role mental illness plays in these shootings are also at fault, as are those who blindly parrot white supremacist rhetoric. We are all, in some way, responsible for our nation’s decline. We are entangled in judgmental nonsense that erodes our moral fabric and diminishes our spirit.

Going forward, we must think critically and be led by a collective Christian heart. Let us listen to all political discourse with a discerning ear. If a Republican or a Democrat says something that is not in line with Christian values, reject it. No one person is better than the next. In all things, strive to heed the words of Paul: “You, then, why do you judge your brother or sister? Or why do you treat them with contempt? For we will all stand before God’s judgment seat…So then each of us will give an account of ourselves to God. Therefore, let us stop passing judgment on one another. Instead, make up your mind not to put any stumbling block or obstacle in the way of a brother or sister.”

Am I pontificating? Perhaps. But I make no apology. I am deeply saddened by these latest murders and the division in our country. The root of this division is prejudice. Prejudice did not originate with Donald Trump; however, he has emerged the shady Pied Piper who gleefully exacerbates the problem. Donald Trump is the major stumbling block in the way of progress and healing.