As I read the news online, people commenting on the attacks began arguing. Essentially, one fellow advocated “burying the terrorist in a coffin filled with pork” and destroying the mosque where he prayed. As he finished the part about destroying the mosque, he acknowledged such behavior is not consistent with American values except he seemed to think it was okay in response to this incident. Another pointed out in a sarcastic way that pork-filled coffins were a great way to address the problem of terrorism. The whole thread immediately degenerated into a liberals-versus-conservatives rant.
Such bickering is completely inappropriate for at least two reasons. First, our focus should be on honoring and caring for the victims and their families. Investigating whether the shooter had help and identifying ways to prevent this type of attack in the future should also be at the top of list of responses. Second, we should not allow this terrorist incident to cause us to behave in a way that is inconsistent with our Constitution and national values. As soon as we start to unravel the basic fabric of individual dignity that is the foundation of our freedom, we give the terrorist a victory. Liberals and conservatives alike should agree that undermining American social values is not a constructive response to this tragedy.
Islam is not terrorism and people are not terrorists because they are Muslims. It is completely inappropriate and ineffective to respond to a terrorist act by publicly humiliating the religion of Islam or punishing innocent people who happened to worship at the same place as the shooter. There are millions of innocent, law-abiding, tax-paying Muslims in the United States, and they are entitled to every protection of the law the rest of us enjoy. That’s what makes America different—and better—than much of the rest of the world.
Remember the sacrifice and pain of the Marine casualties and their families, but also remember that those Marines had committed themselves to supporting and defending the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic. It may be that preserving our constitutional values exposes us to the risk of attacks such as the one this week in Chattanooga. Beyond ensuring that we find and punish anyone who helped in this attack, the best memorial to the Marines we lost yesterday is for us to re-dedicate ourselves to the constitutional values they were committed to defend.