Senseless. Tragic. Unfathomable.
Those are the words we hear during times such as these, as sombre politicians and law makers parade before the cameras offering their sympathy and support while they ask people to pray for the victims and their families during such unimaginable grief…as if sitting somewhere in silence and praying to no one in particular is our greatest call to action.
We hear these same leaders say things like “this could have happened anywhere….but today it was our city’s turn” as though we’ve come to expect shootings such as these like we might anticipate rainfall for the weekend. We watch as people come forward, giving exclusive interviews to the media and gaining their desperate fifteen minutes of fame as they claim some expert knowledge of the shooter. They tell us how unhinged this person seemed for so long, how angry, violent and unpredictable was their nature. And how they needed serious psychiatric help and no one would listen..and yet this so-called cry for help on their behalf always comes after the true horror of these events unfolds. Never preemptively, never proactively, and almost always posthumously.
As I reflect on the past few days in Orlando, so many things run through and rattle about in my mind. First, the staggering realization of such a profound loss of beautiful young lives, cut short in their youth and their prime, as they gathered together as a community, to laugh, to celebrate, and to dance. To live, and to freely love. If you’ve ever been to a gay dance club, you’ll understand, at its core, what an unabashedly joyous and fun-loving place it can be. A place where people are free to let loose and be themselves without fear or recriminations, to let all thoughts and worries and sometimes even reason get swept away as they lose themselves in a crowd of positive energy, flashing lights, and pumping beats. Clubs such as these SHOULD be a safe haven for our community, and a celebration of love and acceptance for all who enter it’s doors…but early Sunday morning past it became a literal hell on earth, only our latest example of how terror and hate continue to wreak savagery in our modern world.
As a society, we’ve become desensitized to this degree of violence and mayhem. For many, we shut it out completely and become almost numb to it, while others acknowledge it briefly before we quickly move on to our daily routines, with our Pinterest finds or the latest Game of Thrones spoiler, or some new fad diet or workout routine. Or, for some, perhaps we truly become overwhelmed by it and are unsure of just what to do with all of our grief and our upset and our rage. Most of all, that is where I find myself these days.
I question what I thought I knew. I once again am left to wonder if we perhaps we haven’t come nearly as far as a society in our acceptance of LGBTQ people as I once thought we did. With this singular terrible act, I am left with the possibility that I have only been deluding myself, convinced that the world had changed and that my rights and my beliefs, and those of my “family” of brothers and sisters, were as valid and as important as anyone else’s. That I was embraced and accepted by society at large, and that I was free to love whomever and however I choose. And more than anything, I HATE that this self-doubt has come creeping back in, to take up residence in some dark, dusty corner of my mind. Someplace I thought I’d locked away and banished forever.
So where do we assign blame for this latest tragedy? Where do we focus our frustrations and our sadness and our anger. There seem so many places. I’m angry at today’s pop culture, and how we continue to glorify mayhem and violence in our TV shows and our movies, our music and our video games. We rest easy at night thinking of the fun and the entertainment value of it all, and convince ourselves that no rational or sane person could truly be motivated or inspired to carry out some heinous act through the influence of Call of Duty or the Walking Dead. But do we stop to consider how these games and movies and music we become so addicted to absolutely sensationalize and glorify violence, paint unrealistic portraits of sex and incredible distortions of body image, and promote misogyny, bigotry, and homophobia? Who truly profits from this? When we try to justify or rationalize it to ourselves, do we stop and consider those less rational than us? What about those significantly less rational and dangerously more radical?
I’m sick over the lack of gun control laws and the pervasive influence of the NRA on the political landscape in the US, particularly the power and influence it seems to wield, supporting the very politicians who built their careers around stomping all over the rights and freedoms of the LGBTQ community, women, and minority groups everywhere. Consider these statistics: In the US there have been over 1200 was mass shootings (defined as incidents where 4 or more people are shot) in the past 3 years. And in these past two weeks in June there have been 74 deaths and 125 people wounded that are attributed to gun violence. That’s 199 people in less than two weeks! Let that sink in for a moment.
I’m saddened for the young members of our LGBTQ community. What does this absolutely horrific and devastating hate crime say to them? What happens when what was once considered a safe and welcoming space becomes a literal hunting ground of terror? And now we are forced to bear witness as the world media avidly works to downplay the idea of this as a “hate crime” against gay people everywhere and promote it more as some insidious plot stemming from ISIS and other terror regimes, as though our response to one should outweigh the other? Or is it because the political gain is so much greater when we can invoke the fear of terrorist attacks? How much does it sting to hear of blood shortages but know that, because of your sexuality, you are unable to donate to your very community that so desperately needs help? How must it feel to hear these latest reports that the shooter was gay himself, and was perhaps facing some profound and terrible internalized homophobia that led him to his actions that day? Are we suggesting that being closeted and conflicted can therefore lead to murderous thoughts and rampages….that we as a community somehow ignored and rejected this man, and in turn created our own monster?
So are these the messages we must take away?
No. They are decidedly NOT. But in order to make sense of the senseless, in order to find meaning in the tragedy, we HAVE to learn something. We have to find something that makes us better and stronger and more united than before. Once again, we are forced to look for meaning in the darkness and the chaos.
And so, the message is this:
Stop glorifying the shooter. Don’t try to understand their motives by giving them some international spotlight they do not deserve. Remember that often these actions are fuelled by some sick need for attention that’s gone unfulfilled,by their desire to leave some terrible mark on this world and incite others to do the same.
Do not give him – do not give anyone – that sort of power.
Stop trying to process the fact that some unhinged individual with violent tendencies and a history of spousal abuse, someone who was investigated by the FBI TWICE for possible terrorist connections, was still readily able to buy assault rifles and handguns within the span of a day or two and then use them to such terrifying ends. There IS no logic there.
Remember and honour the victims. Celebrate their lives and let their spirits live on by holding close the ones we love and reaching out with compassion and tolerance to those that we do not.
Accept the simple fact that gun control laws save lives. Australia adopted stringent gun control laws in 1996 following decades of violent outbursts and has not had a single mass shooting SINCE. Not one. Let that be our statistic.
Stop using religion to promote hate and intolerance. Let our religious teachings centre on love and acceptance, not some warped interpretation of some loose guidebook allegedly written hundreds or thousands of years ago. They were meant as a reflection of that time, not ours.
Stop attacking Muslims and immigrants and refugees. Stop vilifying people who are probably more frightened than you are. Stop equating all Islamic people with terrorist and radicals, and acknowledge and accept the fact that a small faction has perhaps perverted the Islamic religion to their own sick and twisted ends and means.
Accept that this was undoubtedly a hate crime against the LGBTQ community, carried out by an AMERICAN citizen…a mentally ill and repressed homophobic man, radicalized by a father who appeared more concerned his son would be considered gay than his newfound infamy as a mass murderer.
Don’t let a hateful, knuckle dragging, fear mongering and all around repulsive human being such as Donald Trump actually have a chance to aspire to the “highest office in the land” by allowing him so spew venom and hate and actually use this tragedy for his own personal political gain. It sickens me to the core that a tragedy affecting LGBTQ people could be a true catalyst to his rise to power.
Be mobilized, demand change, fight oppression and hatred in ALL its’ forms and promote peace, acceptance, and harmony. Embrace diversity in all is beautiful forms in this world and stop marginalizing others. Accept differences and worry less about these stupid conflicting opinions.
Realize that ALL life is precious, and that our time here is simply too damn short, and enjoy each day as some kind of blessing. And know forever that love is love is love is love….