There’s a sad consistency to how events unfold during the kinds of large-scale violence that too frequently occur in our society. News of a shooting trickles in through our medium of choice. Reporters frantically seek information on the perpetrators. We’re given a preliminary body count. We’re told that the numbers are expected to grow. We wait in dread for confirmation about terrorist ties.

When a clearer picture emerges, we most often find the mayhem was committed by a lone, troubled individual who – but for one explosive moment – lived a mundane life undeserving of the amount of attention he or she receives. For a while at least, this individual becomes an unlikely totem through which we redouble our discussions about gun control, mental health and national security.

And so it goes that on June 12, 2016, a reportedly volatile but otherwise unremarkable 29-year-old man named Omar Mateen left an...

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