I have tried writing this a couple of times today. I don’t like to rush to judgement on shootings and attacks, especially when the killer has an middle eastern sounding name. I don’t know if this attack in Orlando is related to extremist terrorists outside of the United States, such as Daesh (ISIS). I frankly don’t care. It is clear that this shooting was an act of hate and homophobia. It is clear that it is related to fear (on the part of the shooter) of people who are different. It is clear that people who were out having a good time were killed because of who they love.
It also appears to be yet another example of ridiculous gun laws – or lack thereof – in the US. It seems that this killer was on the radar of law enforcement officials and had been investigated previously over concerns he might be connected to terrorist groups and yet… AND YET he was able to get his hands on an assault rifle designed to kill a bunch of people at once. That is stupid. It is apparently the same weapon used in other mass shootings in the US – if the internet is to be believed.
It makes me angry and frustrated and it makes me shrug my shoulders because while this attack is terrible – especially for those wounded and the families and friends of all the victims – it is not likely going to change anything. Sure it is the worst mass shooting in US history, but if American lawmakers chose not to do anything to change the rules after a couple dozen kids were killed in their elementary school, why would they do any differently when 50 adults are killed? This is a shocking attack and yet it isn’t. It isn’t unexpected that the US would experience another mass killing. It isn’t unexpected that Americans continue to die through gun violence when it is so easy to get a gun.
It is Pride Month here in Canada and it is during this month that we celebrate love, in all its forms. We celebrate the hard-won freedoms of the LGBTQ community. We celebrate the diversity of people across the spectrum of sexual-orientation. Today also reminds us of the hate and anger and intolerance that continues to exist. In spite of equal marriage being legal throughout Canada and the US. In spite of same-sex couples marrying and parenting. In spite of the Canadian Government moving to protect the rights of trans* people in Canada, the hate and fear and intolerance continues to exist. In many states in the US the hate and fear is state-sanctioned through laws like the stupid bathroom laws and laws giving businesses the right to discriminated against people who happen to love people of the same sex or who just don’t express their sexuality like straight people do.
While it may be demonstrated that this particular murderer has ties to extremists who claim to be muslims, make no mistake, this attack was a direct extension of the fear, intolerance and hate expressed by people of all faiths. When guns are so readily accessible it does not take a great leap to move from hate speech to killing. When one expresses hatred of other people, just because they are different, regardless of whether that hatred is based on gender, skin colour, religion or sexual-orientation, the people expressing that hate are seeking to diminish the other. They are treating those that they hate as less worthy of respect and rights and ultimately as less human. If you don’t see your neighbour or the person on the other side of the street as equal to you in status it doesn’t take much to move from taunting online, to shouting about bathroom stalls in a legislature to standing outside a funeral with placards condemning the dead to lynch mobs and executions of the people you hate.
In an election cycle where the likely Republican presidential nominee is spouting hate from the podium and through his tweets and where law-makers or trying to stop people from going to the bathroom, is it any wonder that some guy picks up a gun and shoots 100 people because he saw two men kissing?
We are not immune in Canada. The hate and intolerance exists here too. We don’t tend to see the state working on taking away rights from people, but there are still laws and systems in place that institutionalize our racism, sexism and hetrosexism.
We can all do better. We must take this shooting as a reminder that we need to do better. We need to stand up when politicians speak hate, whether it is a racist like Donald Trump blaming Mexicans and Muslims for America’s troubles or the Conservative Party of Canada promoting a snitch line for ‘barbaric cultural practices.’ We need to stand up in our homes and communities when people express their fears and dislike of trans* people. We need to push back and challenge those views that reduce the targets of hate to something other than equal humans.
My thoughts are with those who lost family and friends today, all those who were injured physically and psychologically in this shooting and to the whole LGBTQ community who are feeling this attack and loss so deeply.
We are here for you.