On Saturday, a white Dodge Ram truck stopped in the staging area of a Fort Lauderdale gay pride parade, moved slightly forward anticipating the parade’s onset, and then accelerated unexpectedly. The truck struck two pedestrians before continuing across all lanes of traffic, ultimately crashing into a fence on the other side of the street. At the hospital shortly thereafter, the first of the two pedestrians was pronounced dead. Absolutely awful. Scary. And unquestionably tragic.
As news broke of the fatal event, shock and outrage accompanied the reporting. Multiple media sites included the outrage — even the Associated Press, which originally reported that the driver of the truck “acted” like he was part of the parade… Who would do such an evil thing?
That sentiment was echoed in the immediate aftermath, most notably by Fort Lauderdale Mayor Dean Trantalis, who was at the staging area at the time. “This was a terrorist attack against the LGBTQ community. He came here to destroy people. This was clearly no accident… It was deliberate; it was premeditated, and it was targeted against a specific person.”
Except that it wasn’t.
It was an accident; the driver was part of the parade; and he came to participate — not to destroy anyone.
Friends, let me first encourage great grace extended to Mayor Trantalis. We can be a rather unforgiving crowd when people misspeak. True, there is a difference between misspeaking and intentionally misleading; and way too often it’s difficult to discern which is which. But no doubt the understandable shock of the moment prompted emotion which impacted the Mayor’s perspective.
Allow us to say such once more, if you will…
No doubt the shock of the moment prompted emotion which impacted perspective.
Hence, there’s no need to criticize.
There is, however, need to recognize… to recognize that emotion has the unquestionable, understandable potential to distort perspective.
And not only did emotion distort perspective in Fort Lauderdale; it prompted far more than one to think the absolute worst of another… How evil — remember?
It makes me wonder…
Where else is this in play?
Where is it in play in me?
Where — because I feel so strongly, feel so deeply, am sad, shocked, angered, outraged, you-name-it — where do I have an inaccurate interpretation of what actually happened? … Where, because of that inaccurate interpretation, have I allowed myself to think the worst of someone else?… (… how ignorant… how awful… how evil…)
Is that happening anywhere still? Are there other areas where I have allowed my emotion to dictate what I believe to be true?
Have I remained steadfastly unwilling to be challenged in my perspective, precisely because my feelings are so strong?
On Sunday evening, learning that he was incorrect in his initial statements to the media, Mayor Trantalis shared his regret. “I regret the fact that I said it was a terrorist attack because we found out that it was not.“
He also added,”But I don’t regret my feelings. I don’t regret that I felt terrorized by someone who plowed through the crowd.”
I think that’s a pretty sincere, honest, even profound account…
I regret that I said something that was wrong…
I don’t regret my feelings…
But my feelings don’t make my perspective right.
That seems wise to recognize.