Heidi M. Pascual*
Publisher & Editor
* 2006 Journalist of the Year for the State
of Wisconsin (U.S.-SBA)
For more Asian American
stories in Wisconsin, click:
Hate, Guns and Reconciliation
by Heidi M. Pascual

Two topics actually stirred my inquisitive mind this past week: the Orlando tragedy and the Vietnam visit of President Barack
Obama. I reflected on these because of their significance to our society and even our history.

The Orlando tragedy

Fifty people were killed and more than 50 more were injured last June 12th when 29 year-old Omar Mateen opened fire inside
the Pulse nightclub in Florida. This tragedy has been called the deadliest mass shooting in U.S. history. The Pulse is an
LGBT nightclub, supposed to be a safe place for LGBTs to congregate, have fun, and enjoy each other’s company during
Pride Month! The Islamic State (ISIS) claimed responsibility for the attack, in a statement that said,  “The attack that targeted a
nightclub for homosexuals in Orlando, Florida and that left more than 100 dead and wounded was carried out by an Islamic
State fighter." If this attack wasn’t an act of hate, I really don’t know what to call it. Why target a gay club and kill as many people
as possible, without regard for even his (the shooter’s) own life? (Unbeknownst to the shooter however was, many of those
people present that night at The Pulse were straight; they were there to enjoy Latin music, the special of the night!) At the soul
of the matter is the undeniable fact that the perpetrator of the attack hated LGBTs, for who they are and everything else they
represent. I am deeply saddened that this blatant disregard for human lives and for human rights was carried out
senselessly, for an evil belief and distorted mindset.

I am equally disturbed that this attack would further alienate our Muslim brothers and sisters living in the United States. Hate
begets hate; unfortunately, many of our countrymen would wrongly place their hatred on peaceful Muslims who, just like most
of us, came here to be part of a free and democratic society, and contribute positively and productively to America’s workforce
and economy. Omar Mateen doesn’t represent ALL Muslims in this country. He’s one of the few eggs in the basket who had
spoiled the reputation of many others who do not share his devilish deed. I hope that we don’t blindly make any sweeping
accusation against our peaceful Muslim citizens because of Orlando.

Guns. Mateen used an AR-15-style assault rifle and a handgun. How could we truly, TRULY, keep guns out of the hands of
persons like Mateen (and other deranged criminals or terrorists)? As an ordinary citizen who doesn’t even know how to hold a
gun, my answer is I don’t know. Guns, to me, are war weapons that should only be used for that purpose: war. When we are at
war with terrorists, sure, let’s use our guns to protect our shores and citizens abroad. According to news reports, Mateen was
in the FBI’s list of people of interest, in connection with suspected links to terrorism. My question is, how in the world was he
able to purchase guns easily? Where was the FBI’s notice to gun stores in regard to people suspected of terrorist links? We
are always ready with an answer: no evidence, so case closed. When suicide killings like Orlando and 9-11 happen, that’s the
only time we reconsider. Most times, prevention is better than delayed reaction. It’s true that human rights and due process
must be foremost in our dealings with crimes; but after 9-11 and other similar deeds, we cannot afford to be lax.

On President Obama’s Visit to Vietnam

The US-Vietnam War is still fresh in my mind. I was in high school then, and news of thousands of American soldiers killed by
the Vietcong was always a sad topic in every discussion. The local Communists in my native country were celebrating, for
sure, and more celebrations ensued after the defeat of the American forces. In my mind, the US participation in that war was
doomed from the start because the American people were against it. It was so unlike Pearl Harbor that pouring resources and
putting young American lives on the line didn’t merit a similar response. But the loss and destruction of hundreds of
thousands of families and property were enormous. It’s been a bad dream; but the rebuilding of Vietnam under the
Communist regime seemed okay, after all.

Today, reconciliation between the U.S. and Vietnam is evident, as exchanges through commerce and politics are the order of
the day. Differences in ideologies have no place in a global community made up of diversity. I just hope that true peace be
achieved in the world, where powerful nations create alliances in support of poor nations, helping them get out of poverty,
instead of conquering them either militarily or in a more subtle way as siphoning off their wealth of natural resources in utter
disregard for a nation’s dignity.