It’s really annoying when politicians respond to tragedies on Sunday with lofty words about how “unfathomable” and “shocked” they are. Because can they really be shocked? Because, although not to this extreme, this stuff is happening ON A DAILY BASIS IN THE UNITED STATES. It’s like they are acting surprised so they don’t have to be held accountable for LITERALLY DOING NOTHING TO PREVENT THESE THINGS FROM HAPPENING. They’re pushing blame off themselves and denying what is clear to anyone who pays attention to the news and statistics regarding mass shootings and domestic terrorism. The greatest threat to Americans is other Americans. As long as they deny that this is happening, America has an expiration date. We will not be destroyed by any foreign threat, we will implode from division, anger, and violence.
I don’t believe the shooter was religiously motivated. Regardless of his last minute allegiance to a terrorist organization, he planned and acted alone based on his own hate and prejudice. The target here was never America as a whole, it was very specific and marginalized community of Latinx GLBTAQ people. These people are also the target of hate from xenophobes and homophobes alike (the Trump Club). If anything, I would argue that the shooter could only be encouraged by the American population that believes that these people are not worth protecting or saving.
Those are the people who threaten to kill Trans people for using a bathroom. They are the politicians who lobby against same sex marriage and basic civil rights for queer people. These are the people who rally behind Trump because he promises to build a wall to keep the brown people out (because that’s what it’s really about until we see his proposal to set up an electric fence on the Canadian border) . Everyone who’s commented “die faggot” on a youtube video. You are all responsible for what happened in Orlando because everyone of these actions against GLBTA and Latinx people was an encouragement for someone to act on their hate. Again, for the people in the back, people are dead because of your thoughtless hate. There is only one degree of difference between you and the man who committed the worst mass shooting in history.
Other than in number, how is this massacre different from the Charleston Church shooting wherein a white supremacist (who was Lutheran) shot and killed 9 people during a bible study? In both cases, the victims were together in their sanctuaries that were invaded by a man motivated to kill them simply because of who they are.
I went off facebook about a week ago but I went back on to see some of the reactions from my friends and I think we can all agree that our responses are routine. We write posts to honor the victims, talk about the tragedy, talk about reform. Hashtags in particular gather us all in unity, we try to spread the same message in a unified delivery against violence, against hate. But gets me is that hashtags often turn into blanket sentiment that waters down the whole issue. “More love, less hate” is lovely, but what does it accomplish? It ignores the community that is directly impacted from the shooting. You can shout “more love, less hate” from the rooftops and most people would agree with you. But if you say “More love for gay people, less hate for gay people”, or “More love for Latinxs, less hate for Latinxs” there will be people who will argue with you, who tell you how wrong you are, and then cite Leviticus and Fox News to support themselves.
What we’ve failed to do after every tragedy is to change things. When these horrible events could help us come together and try to improve our nation, some of us would rather dig in our heels and refuse to acknowledge that, as long as things stay the same these things will continue to happen. Every two months we’re going to go through the same cycle. A (larger than average) shooting will come out on the news and we’re all going to go on facebook and write about how sad we are, #prayfor___, go to vigils, complain about politicians, and then return to business as usual. We are Orpheus, constantly reliving our worst moments, stuck in an endless cycle of destruction and recovery, yet every time we recover we lose more of ourselves. It’s time for a change.
I acknowledge that it’s easy to say and harder to do, but the easiest thing is to be thoughtful of your words, to vote for people who will represent you to the best, to call out hate and ignorance when you see it. Some of you might remember, but when I was in high school I was a die-hard republican. I believed all rape survivors were making it up and just wanted attention. I believed illegal immigrants were unworthy of the bounty of America. I was sympathetic towards gay people, but ultimately did not want them to share the same rights as me. I thought feminism was a joke, and treated myself poorly so that men would accept me. But there came a time around the second half of my senior year when someone asked me why I had these beliefs and I found that I couldn’t defend them any longer. I had developed compassion- something that only came after I worked with undocumented people and saw that they just wanted to do right for their families. It came when my cousin came out and I just wanted him to be happy and secure for his whole life. It happened when I got tired of being talked over and leered at and disregarded because of my gender.
I developed compassion because I was shown compassion and I think that’s what America needs.