After Orlando, What?
I feel compelled to write about the horrors of the past few days, yet so few of my thoughts are coherent. So much of the worst the world has to offer is spewing out. I find myself obsessing on the deaths in Orlando that bookended the tragedy at the Pulse nightclub: a young singer shot to death after a concert by an obsessed fan, and a toddler attacked and killed by an alligator in--of all places in the world where children should be absolutely safe--Disney World. And now, an ocean away from Orlando, a Member of Parliament who championed the rights of refugees has been murdered by a thug who shouted "Britain First!" as he shot and stabbed her.
Is that all there is to learn from this? That you're just as dead if you're killed in Leeds as if you are killed in Orlando? And you're just as dead if an alligator kills you as if a madman does?
So we have another homegrown killer--one who belongs in the company not of Mohammed Atta, but of Tim McVeigh, Adam Lanza and Dylan Klebold. Omar Mateen's motives are still being pieced together, but the story at first glance sounds familiar: a self-hating gay who couldn't stand seeing other gay people whose lives had meaning and joy, and who chose to wrap his heinous acts in the cloak of religion. I'm sure Dan White and Fred Phelps are welcoming Omar into their fetid little corner of Hell right now.
To judge from the statements of some so-called Christians, you would think Mateen was some sort of saint. Roger Jimenez, the pastor of a church in Sacramento, certainly seems to think so; in a sermon, Jimenez said he felt safer knowing that fifty pedophiles were dead--compounding his hatred with the lie that gays are predators against children.
And Bryan Fischer, president of the so-called American Family Association, said Anderson Cooper and other gay reporters should be disqualified from reporting about the Orlando massacre because of their lack of objectivity. Oh--and should New Yorkers have been banned from reporting on 9/11? (On the other hand, Chick-Fil-A--which has contributed in the past to the American Family Association--donated free food to people in Orlando who gave blood to the shooting victims. To quote a famous gay man, the truth is rarely plain and never simple.)
We have seen President Obama appear calm and statesmanlike in response to the shootings, and Hillary Clinton do the same. We have seen Donald Trump repeat his call for a total ban on Muslim immigration, and add a call to force American citizens to spy on their neighbors on threat of prison. Colonel Drumpf of the Stasi. (I wonder what Trump and his shock troops would do to Imran Yousuf, the Muslim ex-Marine credited with saving as many as 70 people at the Pulse nightclub.)
The mass shootings get closer and closer. One of my sisters is a retired Red Cross nurse in Oregon. She regularly led blood drives throughout the state, and one place where she often went for blood drives was Umpqua Community College in Roseburg, where a gunman killed 10 people in October 2015. She was already retired, and I don't think there was a blood drive that day. Still...
I do not see how any sane person could oppose the renewal of a total ban on the sale and ownership of assault weapons. I thought Sandy Hook would have brought back the ban, but I did not count on the mendacity of the National Rifle Association and the venality of Congress. I realize the situation is complicated. I grew up in a village where any student who wanted the first day of deer season as a vacation day got it. There were many families in that area for whom shooting a deer made an enormous difference as to what kind of winter they would have. Wayne LaPierre has built his fortune on the idea that if assault weapons are banned one day, deer rifles will be banned the next. I will make myself clear: I have no objection to hunting for meat, and I do not seek to ban anyone's deer rifles. I just do not want my family, my friends and my neighbors to be hunted.
It is ironic that the funeral for the most famous Muslim in American history--a man known not only as a champion boxer but also as a champion of peace, famous for his many public and private acts of charity--occurred so soon before the Orlando shooting. He said that public service is the rent you pay for living in the world. It is good to remember that. It is also good to remember what a famous Christian, the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., once said: "I have decided to stick with love. Hate is too great a burden to bear."