Ok. Here are my thoughts that nobody asked for.
The shooting in Orlando was another installment in a long saga for the United States. One of fear, anger, hatred, and violence. And one that sadly seems to have no end in a foreseeable, or, due to rhetoric from both sides of the aisle, even a hypothetical future.
We have come to accept this as a society. We are used to these outbursts. We call these tragedies “unthinkable,” even though we don't have even have to imagine them. They've become part of our near daily lives. They only register on our radar when they're so large, when the crime appears so egregious, that it warrants additional attention. And too often, after these events transpire, we go back to our normal lives. The very day of the Orlando shootings, people went back to normal, tweeting about Game of Thrones and the Tonys. Not because they do not care, or because a tragedy of this magnitude has a shelf life, but because we have all accepted this as normal, and we have all collectively agreed that in order to feel safe, to feel happy, to not constantly scream and relinquish hope for functionality, we resume in acting “normal.” We continue to enjoy the things we enjoy, to ignore the cancer that lurks beneath skin of our culture. We treat the symptom, and ignore the disease.
To my friends and loved ones in the LGBTQ community: I love you, and I will do my best to support you. If there's any way I can help, if you need someone to talk to, let me know. I will try to refrain from the choruses of “I am human” and “This was an attack on America” because I believe that minimizes what actually happened here. When the shooter entered Pulse, he did so not with the intent to kill Americans, but to kill members of the LGBTQ community. Were there cis/hetero people killed/injured? I'm sure there were. But I doubt he asked. This was not an attack on all people. This was a conscious attack on a specific group of people.
To those who believe this to be the fault of religion. Stop. That is, once again, a minimizing statement. There is no doubting that the world has seen a rise in the incidence of (or at least reporting of) Islamic extremism and terrorism. But to write this off as the flaws of religion is both arrogant and myopic. The conditions in which these extremists incubate are complex, and individuals like this are not born in a vacuum. To say it is merely their religion is to ignore nationalism, economics, global politics, and just sheer bigotry/hate/prejudice. Blaming a centuries old religion for the acts of an individual is a way of washing one’s of the social climate that creates the individual. A social climate which we, as a country, are part and parcel to. Sure, the shooter’s anti-LGBTQ motives MAY have been religiously motivated, but so were the baker’s boycotts of a few years ago, and most likely a large amount of the anti-Trans bathroom legislation. Christianity is a religion bathed in just as much if not more blood than Islam. The privilege of labeling the shooter’s motives as religiously motivated is a luxury exercised by those who have never had to apologize on behalf of their identity.
Finally, there are the gun people. I have many friends who are pro gun, some of which may read this. Let me say, my thoughts here are not to say that I love you any less, that I wish to cease our friendship, or that I think you're an inherently immoral person. In times like these, I would hope not to push away those who differ from me, but rather embrace them, so that I might better understand the complexity of these times.
But I must say this. Your politics scare me. They scare a lot of people.
I can understand why you may be defensive. If there is one group that has to apologize or rationalize as much Muslims in the wake of events such as this, it's responsible gun owners.
I see many gun owners and supporters of 2A post online. They will often defend their stance with much research. Their arguments will be often be coherent, fact based, and usually civil. And I admit, as not a gun person, I am often under informed about gun regulations, what constitutes an assault rifle, licensing, etc. I am underinformed because I do not identify as one of those people. This is a blind spot caused by a bias that I have, and I freely admit it. If you have information, I am hungry for it. I will gladly do my best to try to understand the facts, and be sympathetic to your emotions.
But something I do find a bit revolting is that whenever an event such as this happens, and in emotionally reactive periods people rail against guns, when pro-gun advocates complain about their rights.
I understand, the 2A is a constitutionally guaranteed right. It's a talking point that is reiterated so often, it has become (forgive the pun) bulletproof.
However, in light of this recent tragedy, and many before it, it seems insensitive.
Many of the people in that Pulse that night would not have been able to get married a few years ago. That is a right they were not entitled to. Some of them surely still find themselves denied services from businesses, or health care benefits from employers. I found out today that the victims of the LGBTQ victims of the shooting can, in the state of Florida, be fired by their employer for identifying as LGBTQ. And that night, many of them were simply trying to engage in their God-or-whomever given right to dance, drink, and congregate with friends.
Until a man exercised his right to buy two guns, and murdered 50 people.
It isn't that the common person wants to strip a gun owner of their rights. It's that the rights of gun owners seem both pragmatically and morally incompatible with the rights of those who simply want to live, free of fear.
Yes, the constitution guarantees the rights of most people (see ex cons and such) to own a gun. But the conversation has simply stopped. Whenever any common sense gun law reform is proposed or discussed, rallying cries of 2A rights silence them, and prevent constructive discourse. Last year, a law could have been passed that would have stopped this man from buying the two guns he used to kill 50 people. It did not pass. Would he still have been able to obtain a gun? Of course. But you know what, it probably would have been harder. See, most people don't know where to get guns illegally. And the only reason illegal guns even exist is because they're initially manufactured legally. More guns made always equals more guns owned, whether legally or illegally.
To hide behind the constitution is to ignore one of the core principles of that documents; that it is amendable. Yes, we have a constitutionally guaranteed right to own guns. But to understand, we must also admit that it was a provision from an infant nation, a nation without a decent organized military or police force. And if we kept the constitution as originally written, we'd also still have slaves, and women wouldn't be allowed to vote. We have allowed to the constitution to change with the times. And when it comes to guns, these are certainly different times.
A common defense I hear, often from but not limited to pro gun people, is that guns don't kill people, people kill people. Which is true. People kill people. With guns. People with guns kill people, who sometimes have guns and sometimes don't have guns. Not all people who kill have guns. Not all people with guns kill people. But all people who have used a gun to kill someone, have had a gun. That might seem like a petty, juvenile argument. But the only common factor between all shooting is guns.
And people know guns kill. That's why people buy guns. If a gun wasn't good at killing, people wouldn't buy it. That's the gun’s main selling point.
Another defense I hear often is that there are other complicating factors when it comes to shootings. Mental illness, crime, hate, prejudice, etc. People will say that criminals will always find ways to commit crimes. They'll say we need to reform mental health care to properly address issues that would make someone want to do this. In a rush to defend, some will even say that the very thought or desire to kill is in and of itself a sign of mental illness (to which I would say, the act of purchasing a gun would then also be a symptom) The lists and arguments go on.
But we will never be able to end crime. We will never be able to end mental illness. We will never be able to truly put an end to prejudice or hate.
But we can stop making and buying guns. And as long as we ignore that, we ensure that people who are predisposed to violence, be it because of crime, mental illness, prejudice, or whatever, we ensure that those individuals are that much closer to owning a device designed solely for violence. They may have the ideology, but we, culturally, provide the tools.
It's hard to think that so many years after Columbine, this is still a recurring problem. One would think that high school students would be enough to enact change. Or college students. Or people at a bible study. Or kindergarteners. Hell, we've had presidents shot, and nothing changes.
We've surrendered to our barbarism. Regardless of politics, or what your stance on guns is, we have resigned to the notion that violence is inevitable. That our world is filled with an unstoppable evil. An evil that will find a way, regardless of whatever obstacles we throw in its path. We have lost to ourselves.
This rant has been the product of much lost sleep and endless reflection. Reflection on the number of times I thought a tragedy of similar magnitude would FINALLY be enough to inspire change. And the revelation that that hope is a fallacy.
If you are still reading this, I'm sorry. Sorry it's been such a long rant, sorry it's not exactly the most informed, sorry that it offers no solution, nor even a particularly positive outlook.
Most of all, I'm sorry to those who have ever been the victim of such a tragedy, for it truly has no purpose in this world.
I would say my thoughts and prayers to those affected, but it's not enough.
We need to think differently. We need to stop thinking we need violence to protect us from more violence.
We need to pray differently. We need to stop praying to Gods that treat certain individuals as sub human. We need to stop dividing ourselves based on who we pray to. We need to stop praying as an excuse for action.
Most of all we need to act differently. We need to ACT like this is inexcusable, and not simply another spike in our google searches for “shooting.” We need to ACT as if we are aware that we enable violence, both in general and specifically to disenfranchised groups. We need to ACT as if we are not powerless.
We need to act in love, not in preparation of hate.