Not yet three full days have passed since a monster in human skin walked into Pulse Orlando Night Club & Ultra Lounge with an AR-15 and laughed as he slaughtered forty-nine and maimed fifty-three innocent people he/it never even met. The number of people whose lives will never be the same because of this atrocity is incalculable.
In the immediate aftermath the media was, as always, frothing at the corners of the mouth over how “sensational” this story is, and in the absence of facts, wasted a lot of time creating a nonsense discussion about whether the killings were the result of a hate-crime or a terrorist attack. As if the two types of mass-murder were somehow mutually exclusive. That distinction, obviously, is of little or no consequence to the victims’ loved ones and less to the LGBTQ community at large. Whatever label is applied to an act of despicable evil makes no difference.
No victim’s parents are concerned with labels. Not this soon. Not while they can’t close their eyes without seeing the day they held their babies for the first time mixed with the memories of the last words spoken between them. Were they important words or small-talk? Did they remember to say ‘I love you’ before parting or hanging up? Why didn’t they say it more? None of us ever says it enough.
The facts we’ve since been given indicate the monster behind the trigger was connected in some way to ISIS; Al-Qaeda’s insane younger brother with a penchant for making extremely slick, highly-produced (if a bit Goth and repetitive) YouTube videos usually featuring a beheading. This connection to ISIS would seem to make this shooting the worst terrorist attack on American soil since 9/11.
Make no mistake, this is still very much a hate crime. The monster didn’t select Pulse at random. Nothing offends the 6th and 7th century mentality of a Muslim extremist like a gay bar. Nothing makes a more tempting target for the homophobic Musilm extremist than a gay bar with few exits, an unobstructed line of sight, and few places for infidels to take cover. It’s always important for a coward to be certain of their absolute tactical advantage before they ambush their completely unsuspecting prey.
As disgusting and unacceptable as it may be, it appears clear we have our answer to the question of why this happened. The same as the Charlie Hebdo shooting. The same as the Boston Marathon bombing. The same as the Brussels subway bombing. Madness and religious fanaticism have, as ever, combined to take human lives.
Predictably, social media has largely entangled itself with the usual post-shooting debates which always arise and inevitably end in blocked family members and friends. “More Gun Control!” “Ban Assault Weapons!” “Less Gun Control!” “Ban Gun-Free Zones!” If the deaths of scores of children at Sandy Hook Elementary School did not motivate our government to enact any sort of new gun policies it seems unlikely the Pulse shooting will.
Given what we know so far, none of the above arguments are appropriate, relevant, or necessary. This being an election year (sort of), the spokespeople for the egomaniacs and business criminals we’re expected to take for leaders and vote for in November would like nothing more than to use this tragedy for their own ends. As the weeks wear on and the election nears, this will no doubt be the case.
The truth is our politicians could never pass a bill that would fix what’s broken. You will never get to the heart of it with a hashtag and it makes not a bit of difference who wears a black and rainbow ribbon. Worse, no matter who wins power in the Fall, they will be powerless to stop the next shooting or bombing or whatever horror comes. They will be powerless to stop the next hundred such horrors.
Sadly, the hate, ignorance, and superstition that drives these things is so deeply ingrained in the hearts of so many (both foreign and home-grown fanatics) that only the united action of every single one of us will stand a chance of beating it. Sitting back and pointing fingers after the fact or, worse, looking to the government for salvation is not an option. You must actively involve yourself in snuffing the flame of hatred. You do this by teaching your children, by example, about respect for all humanity. Teach them to confront ignorance and to never allow hate to poison their hearts.
If we do not find a way to root the problem out at the source, then America is truly in its last days. We will allow intolerance and hatred to eat us from the inside out. Fear will rule, and govern our every decision. This cannot be so long as there are those willing to stand up against it.
Frankly, if we don’t act now there will be nothing left of freedom to save. Only bones and carrion will remain of our Nation. As long as we stand divided, America is destined to become food for crows. The solution is up to all of us and nobody can sit this out. It’s OUR future.