The other day, I listened to Kate Bush in the car on my commute to and from work, specifically tracks from The Whole Story. This album has a special place in my heart and history. I first heard it, and listened to it obsessively, when I came out 28 years ago. So I will forever connect it to that time in my life when doors opened, eyes widened, perspectives grew, and just so much in my life began to make a great deal more sense.
Many at the Pulse in Orlando, Florida were at a similar point in their lives, their doors opening, their eyes widening, their perspectives growing. A madman ended all that. And now nothing makes sense at all, for their love ones, for the LGBTQ community, for decent citizens everywhere. Nothing can explain the hurt, pain, panic, anguish, or frightful rage that wells inside as a result of this meaningless, senseless attack.
The Pulse had been a safe space for its mostly Latina/o denizens. Folks found themselves and each other in a supportive atmosphere of sweaty dance floors and hot music. It sounded a lot like the Catch One, the legendary black gay club in LA, where the children went after coming out into the life.
It angers me beyond words that so sacred a space has been violated. I applaud the Pulse’s resolve to reopen.
Who did this? Some facts about Omar Mateen have come out quickly. He was born in New York City. He was a domestic abuser who beat his first wife so severely that her family staged an intervention to rescue her. With her family’s support, she divorced the man. His former coworkers say that he had an explosive temper, that he flew off at the slightest provocation. And apparently, the FBI had suspicions about him and investigated him twice. Yet this man was able to legally purchase guns, including a high-powered assault rifle. What does that say about us, as a society, that we allow someone like that to buy firearms?
Later more information emerged. He apparently went to the Pulse several times, as a patron. On a couple of visits, he got thrown out for rowdy behavior. And he cruised guys with dating apps. In other words, he lived in the cyber-closet. These creepy details now paint a picture of a man in conflict with himself. Just before starting his rampage, he called 9-1-1 to say that he belonged to ISIS. The terrorist group quickly claimed him as their one of their own.
Bullshit. The Orlando Killer was at best an accidental jihadist. He had no other agenda but hatred, self-hatred. His last-minute attachment to ISIS was the act of a soulless person searching for identity. Rather than face the truth about his sexuality, he chose the identity of a mass murderer, a demonstration of his lack of character. The murderer’s young victims, some just coming out and discovering themselves, had a greater sense of self than he ever would. So often those with the greatest self-awareness (Harvey Milk) are murdered by those who have no self-awareness at all (Dan White).
Idiots that say that homophobia had nothing to do with the killings are themselves blinded by their own homophobia. Homophobia had everything to do with this attack, all the more so because this guy hated himself for being queer.
The most violent homophobes are always the self-haters. Roy Cohn went to his grave swearing that he wasn’t gay (he was) and that he didn’t have AIDS (he did). His self-hatred led him to destroy many lives though his fanatical persecution of gays in civil and military service. Both Cohn and the Orlando Killer destroyed themselves with their self-hatred. It just pisses me off, though, that the killer took so many with him.
So there are two important lessons from this tragedy. First, homophobia kills. Homophobia causes the derange to harass, bash, and kill LGBTQ people. Society enforces homophobia by saying nothing when the harassing, bashing, and killing happens. Silence still equals death. Do not compound this vile man’s acts by denying its true character. The Orlando Killer hated himself and could only reconcile his hatred through violence. Proper intervention somewhere in his life may have steered him towards a different path. Judging from the misguided statements made by his father, he clearly did not have a lot of good examples growing up.
The second lesson is one I’ve talked about before, one that may have talked about for years. Guns. How the fuck was this man able to get a goddamn assault rifle? Well, for one, the assault rifle ban expired in 2004. Thanks, George W. Bush. Second, the common sense gun laws, which even a majority of gun owners support, have yet to materialize. Once again, the blood of the dead stain the hands of the NRA and the cowardly politicians who do their bidding.
We can learn these lessons, or keep ignoring them and allow people to die. If we chose the latter path, then I don’t want to hear anyone saying “you have my prayers and sympathy” the next time something horrific like this happens. Because the words will ring hollow. I’m with Samantha Bee.
Love does not win unless we start loving each other enough to fix our fucking problems.
– From “Full Frontal w/Samantha Bee,” Monday, June 13, 2016
Amen, Samantha, amen.
© 2016, gar. All rights reserved.