By Tom Ehrich

Grief overflows in some quarters, and glee in others. Some leaders respond with compassion and tenderness to the loss of 49 lives, other leaders crow and feast on tragedy.

Even on my quiet country road, I sense a coarsening, worsening and collapsing of the public square. Right-wing extremists cannot “pause for death,” as Emily Dickinson wrote. They bully and excoriate without remorse. Even more gays need to die, they say. No more Muslims in America. Put a firearm into every hand. That alone, plus a strongman at the helm, will keep us safe.

Insanity rises, so loud and relentless that it comes to seem normal. Posturing is mistaken for wisdom, and cruelty for strength. Blame the victims, blame opponents, divert attention from actual causes. Hide the truth in vitriol.

We are witnessing combustion of an unprecedented sort. If it loses, another strongman will step forward, one who isn’t so patently odious as the orange-haired bully. If it wins, our nation could be lost for decades to come. When the stupid, cruel and blind get power, they don’t suddenly develop minds, souls and wisdom. They take up arms and start knocking on doors.

It is tempting to say, "They won’t get to me. On my country road, we are safe. Nothing changes here." That is delusional. As my friend Eric Gurvis wrote for Fresh Day magazine, the hangman eventually gets to everyone. “First the alien, then the Jew,” and then you and me.

When darkness covers the land, it covers all of the land, not just selected portions where “they” reside. Even those shouting loudly for the strongman will find themselves in shadows.

Citizens of the light must push back. Write back, post back, speak back, demonstrate back, vote back – do whatever we can do to “call to mind the deeds of the Lord” and to remember what God wants. That isn’t religious posturing. That is reality. God is God, and the God whose “mighty deeds” redeemed Israel is the same God who healed the blind and broken, the same God who faced down avaricious Church prelates, the same God who brought freedom to slaves and dignity to the lost.

When a smug pastor in Sacramento celebrates the slaughter of gays, that isn’t God speaking. That is the darkness. When the lieutenant governor of Texas tweets bigotry, that isn’t leadership speaking. That is the darkness. When the orange-haired bully accepts “congrats” for blaming Muslims, that isn’t America speaking. That is the darkness.

We counter the darkness by speaking in the light and for the light. There are no safe country roads where we can hide. There is only God’s light.