Before you read: I choose to not include the names of any hateful criminal in this post who chooses to kill people simply because they represent something they do not agree with. They are nothing to me for this very reason and so shall remain nameless here.
It’s Monday morning in London. It is humid and rain threatens to wash out the city once more. I had a good weekend. I took the Warrior and Li on a spa weekend and got myself beaten up by the hydrotherapy pool, ordered room service and watched Euro 2016 kick off with my mum’s home team, France, winning (somewhat unconvincingly) against Romania.
We also celebrated the Queen’s 90th birthday. Prince George and Princess Charlotte stole the show and everybody awwwww’ed over them and how adorable they were. It was nice.
And then, sometime in the evening yesterday, I checked Twitter. And what I felt was a mixture of horror, devastation, sadness and the kind of fury I only reserve for those who hurt my family.
I went to bed angry and upset. I woke up and checked the news on my phone to see that the horror had only continued to grow the more detailed the news became. The mass shooting at Pulse Nightclub in Orlando, Florida is an atrocity the likes of which I don’t think I will forget. And none of us should.
This whole thing is complicated. You could bring forward any number of arguments for bringing an to end these seemingly endless mass shootings in the U.S. This isn’t to say that these acts of terrorism (because that is what they are – terrorism) don’t happen in other countries. Of course they do. You could argue that the level of gun control in the U.S. is so utterly poor that one has to wonder just how many people need to die for the country’s government to make it harder for psychopaths to get hold of any kind of weaponry.
I don’t think it’s harsh to call these criminals psychopaths either. Just how much does a person have to hate a group of people they have never met to seek them out and open fire on them? Just last year, another criminal opened fire on a Planned Parenthood in Colorado, killing three people. It recently emerged that his stance was that he was protecting other unborn foetuses.
Whatever your opinion on abortion, on the LGBTQI community, on religion, on women, on race and ethnicity, you are entitled to have them. What you are not entitled to do, what is not your right, is to kill anyone who either disagrees with your opinion, or who lives their life within one, some, or all of these communities. How people live their lives is none of your business. Just like it is nobody’s business that you hate specific communities. That is, until you decide to kill them. Then it is everyone’s business that you are a hateful fucking person who deserves nothing but our disdain.
I have always felt drawn to the LGBTQ community. I went to my first Pride Parade at 19. My Masters dissertation and my Undergraduate dissertation both focused on Gay Literature and Queer Theory. I read books (both fiction and academic) that are almost exclusively within the LGBTQ genre. TV and film? I’m there watching it. There is some sort of affinity there that I have never figured out. I have never questioned it. Why should I when it brings me so much joy?
I find the actions of the media’s coverage of these tragedies repugnant. There have been several news outlets reporting that the shooter in Orlando pledged his allegiance to Daesh.* Others say he didn’t. In the kind of world we live in where extremism is at the forefront of many people’s minds, the media have a responsibility to check their facts before printing such things. I am not saying that they are wrong. How could I know that he did or he didn’t? But reporting something like this where the facts are already blurred is totally irresponsible. How many Muslims in the country, and indeed all over the world, will be feeling the consequences of this shooting? LGBT Muslims are already so isolated from their faith and culture just for being who they are. The media have not considered the serious repercussions Queer Muslims will now encounter. What do they care? It’s more important to be sensational than to provide factual coverage. It’s more important for them to shock than to inform.
Immediately after news hit of the Orlando shooting, Donald Trump tweeted this:
Just look at how many times this tweet has been retweeted in a matter of hours? This man. This idiot has since tweeted several completely outrageous tweets about how Islam is to blame for the shooting. How Muslims are a total danger to Americans because one man shot and killed 50 people. Were all Christians to blame for the Colorado shooting then? By Trump’s own (stupid) logic all Christians are extremists and are a threat to the nation. In fact, anyone who disagrees with abortion is a terrorist. No? Just Muslims then Mr Trump? And to think, this man could very well be the next President of the United States! He continues to use fear to promote his own stance on everything and to get people to believe that he is right. And it’s working. What is this if not an act of terrorism in itself by Trump?
Which brings me (somewhat loosely) to politics. It’s unbelievable to me how callous some politicians can be. Yes, these tragedies should be a wake up call to everyone that gun control is a serious issue in the country. But something like this should be met with sympathy, genuine heartfelt sorrow and mourning. And when the dust has settled, when the shock and fear has died down, only then should politics become something to be used to teach. Teach. Not terrorise.
Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders should be ashamed of the way they have responded to the Orlando tragedy. 50 people are dead for goodness sake. For Trump it was Islam. For Sanders, it was gun control. He later released a statement expressing support for the LGBT community but went on to say; “[a]t this point we do not know whether this was an act of terrorism, a terrible hate crime against gay people or the act of a very sick person…”And herein lies the problem. The Orlando shooting was all three. Yes, it was a hate crime against gay people and the entire community. Yes it was the act of a sick person. And yes, yes it was an act of terrorism! Anyone, anyone who goes on a killing spree is a terrorist, regardless of race, religion, sexuality etc. They are a terrorist. The Colorado shooting was terrorism. The Orlando shooting was terrorism.
Regardless, Trump and Sanders, you should have put aside your political rhetoric for just a few moments and thought about the victims in the first instance. Of the lives they will now never live. Of the dreams they will never fulfil. Of the parents who have lost a part of themselves. Of the friends, siblings, husbands, wives, partners, who have to reconcile their loss with going on somehow. How can you not think of them before you spew your politics all over their devastation? What kind of person does that make you? Imagine one of your own children had gone out for the evening and didn’t come home because someone chose to not like them for who they are and what they represent, and decided to shoot them dead. Would you want anyone, let alone someone with a huge following telling everyone that they could have prevented it if people would just vote them in as President? Sanders and Trump might as well have stood over the bodies of the dead and held a political rally. For all that they are, they have demonstrated exactly how truly unfeeling and cruel people they can be, despite any official statements of condolence that followed. Their first reactions should have been one that would have been worthy of a human being as well as a President. Basic human decency should be the first reaction when it comes to a tragedy like this. Not of your how you can use it to leverage your politics.
But for all of this tragedy, the disappointment of the media and of those running for President, there has been some light within the darkness. For all of this pain and suffering, the hashtag #lovewins continues to fill my social media feed. I’ve seen pictures of people lining up at blood banks to donate blood to the victims. There were vigils held across the world, to mourn the dead and to support a community under attack. Tears have been shed. LA Pride went on and showed us all how incredibly humans can band together no matter their sexuality, race or religion and sent a big fuck you to anyone who hates them for who they are. What happened in Orlando was the result of one man unleashing all of his hate upon those who were innocent. I choose to believe he is in hell and will pay for what he did. He doesn’t even deserve our contempt. Instead, I’ll focus all of my energy into looking into my own heart and praying for the dead and for those who lost someone to this idiot who thought his opinions mattered to anyone. Because the human capacity for kindness can obliterate hate.
Yes. It really does.
*It has since been reported that Daesh have claimed responsibility for this but I have left this post untouched as my point about the media, I feel still stands. The manner of reporting is irresponsible and dangerous.