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First Thoughts on the Orlando Shootings

June 12, 2016

Love yourself, and if you hate someone else, ask what about yourself you are not coming to terms with that’s causing you to direct it to that other person.

It seems not right to post about anything except today’s deadliest mass shooting in U.S. history.

I usually offer a hearty Whatever to Gay Pride Month. I’m not really a joiner, so I eschew mass celebrations of all sorts. With June not even half over, that may change this year.

I have been insulated from the most virulent strains of homophobia. I don’t act out in public (pun sorta intended) to the point that I draw a target on my back. Most homophobes in today’s society are simply OK with being allowed to live in their little straight fantasy world, and I don’t do much to burst their bubble.

I also live in Atlanta, where people barely even blink at cross-dressing these days. Awful opinions, stereotypes, and prejudices lurk beneath the surface, but you’re asking for trouble in this city if you confront someone directly for being LGBTQ. There’s just too many of us, and too many of our friends.

The Orlando shootings, though, demonstrate clearly that we can still be targets. The coming days and weeks will bring more clarity, but for someone with the sheer will to wound and kill one-third of the people inside a packed nightclub, it hardly seems coincidental that he picked a gay club.

This is my point of engagement with the shootings, but more generally, this speaks to issues of national security and gun control. The gun nuts are already so heavily on the offensive that I have zero hope of this incident moving the needle.

Whenever Islamic extremism is involved, it nullifies any gun control argument to the always-right right. The focus shifts from our stupid-stupid-stupid laxness on gun ownership to how the Obama administration is soft on terror, or worse, is in cahoots with them. (That whole bin Laden takedown—it was a distraction, apparently.)

Also, in a bizarre reversal of logic, gun nuts have managed to frame the conversations around mass shootings so that the more people are killed, the less anyone can mention gun control. “See how the liberals are trying to turn such a terrible tragedy into an opportunity to advance their agenda?” When the agenda is to stop people from getting killed, then yes, there may be a warranted correlation there.

My final point is one that is speculative and controversial, even inside my own head. The takeaway is the same, whether you buy into this point or not, but bear with my thought journey.

Self-hatred is an awful thing, and what we hate in others is what we hate in ourselves. Homophobes are often if not usually afraid of their own same-sex attractions (psychological studies appear to bear this out, but to be fair, studies can be biased in their methodology, execution, and interpretation). The shooter had to have some serious demons to manifest so much hatred in the form of 50 deaths and over 50 injuries. Had he truly loved himself, he wouldn’t have had such an issue with others and how they live.

Conservative terror mongers (defined by me as those who cannot find it in themselves to understate the existential threat to the “American way” that foreign, fundamentalist, extremist Muslim terrorists pose, even to the point of fabricating fan fiction about ISIS cells invading from Mexico) are so deathly afraid of these exact terrorists because they identify with them.

Both groups are pleading with the mainstream society to listen to their message of impending doom for their way of life. Both are using increasingly shrill and outlandish methods and proposing increasingly violent and baffling solutions (border wall, anyone?) to maintain the status quo, rooted in a fundamentalist interpretation of their faith.

To be clear, Republicans are not anywhere close to ISIS on this spectrum of lunacy. I wouldn’t dare slander them in that way. What I’m saying is that they see the similarities, and it freaks them out. The only way to get that awful thing out of their heads is to obliterate the mirroring behavior, to exterminate the extremists.

You (as in you reading this) must learn to love and accept yourself as you are. It’s trite, it’s eye-rolling, it’s new-agey. But in this month of gay pride, in the aftermath of the Orlando shootings, in the ramifications for all of the people involved, it all comes back to this.

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