Op-Ed: Orlando and our lives

“Pulse.” “Orlando.”  “Omar Mateen.”

Angry yet? Heartbroken?

Brandon Davis, PoliticKING

What if I say “gay,” “terrorist,” “radical”…? Stirred up? How about, “gun control,” “Trump,” or “Islam?”  They are words that hold a lot of weight, and even more emotion.  And they should.  America is a land of freedom, and some people just can’t seem to handle that.  Some of those people wield guns and force, others wield cowardly twitter accounts, but no matter the method, when someone tries to force their ideology, you can trust they are wrong already.  A wise person teaches without force, they compel influence without oppression.

I don’t have answers to this week’s pain.  I don’t have solutions for the myriad of problems created by small minds with agendas.  Change isn’t becoming easier, but it is becoming obvious, and as we move forward we should hope for intelligent decision-making.

We’ve spent the week hurting.  Trying to figure out what to name violence and enemies, arguing over legislation, and politicizing murder.

Here’s what I see:  This killer had serious personal issues, but questionable ties to terrorist organizations.  He was likely a self loathing, gay Muslim who only latched onto the idea of ISIS because it is in the news and adds impact to his dramatic actions.  This is not to say that his desire to link with the apocalyptic fantasies of the daesh called ISIS doesn’t play some role here.  But, if Mateen was closeted and acting out in large part for his own hatred, then the violence done was motivated by reasons other than political jihad.

So, let’s talk about how potently homophobia in particular factored into the Orlando killings. In countries around the world, to be gay is to be in mortal danger.  To embrace love is to court death.  But, in America, we are free.  We are a liberated people, who can love who and how we want, which scares some people.  Even some who are born and raised on our own soil.

This is important because if politicians can trick people into thinking this was some kind of generic Islamic assault on the West, then they can run the terrorists-are-coming-for-you script that has worked so well for them politically in the past.  To admit that it might have been Omar Mateen’s anti-gay beliefs that motivated this would be political poison.  Nonetheless, multiple people from the Orlando area are stepping up to say that he was a regular at Pulse and had interacted on gay dating apps like Grindr and Jack’d.

So, a picture starts to build of someone who was acting on his sexual resentments rather than a well-articulated devotion to the ISIS caliphate.  Omar Mateen may not have even understood the difference between ISIS, al-Qaeda and Hezbollah according to the Washington Post.  So how dedicated to terrorism was he exactly?

Nevertheless, these threats are an attack on all Americans.  Not just because of who we dance, drink, or sleep with, but because of our bedrock belief that we should not be subservient to any one ideology or religion.  This offends and inflames the extremists of the world. 

Orlando has also made us revisit another topic: gun control.  Now, not much really happened after a congresswoman was shot in the head at an official event.  Nothing really after 20 innocent children were gunned down in their elementary school classrooms.  And it didn’t change after terrorists fired on a holiday party at an agency that provided services for people with disabilities in Southern California. Now, after the deadliest mass shooting in American history, basic gun control legislation is still likely not to pass in Congress.

A lot of gun laws are proposed in the aftermath of an attack.  At least that's what new research shows.The results, however, might not be what you were expecting.  In states where a mass shooting happened, 15 percent more gun-related bills were introduced in their legislatures.  Those lead by Democrats, or divided between parties, did not see significant increases in gun laws.  But, in states with Republican controlled legislatures, after a mass shooting, the number of laws passed to loosen gun restrictions rose by 75 percent.  75.  In other words, in places where mass shootings lead to any legislative changes at all, it tends to be in the direction of guns becoming more easily available, like lowering the minimum age to buy a handgun to 18 from 21 or eliminating a waiting period for a gun purchase.

This research was compiled by three Harvard Business School professors, where they examined the aftermath of 167 mass shootings with 1,428 victims (dead and injured) in the U.S from 1989 to 2014.  They analyzed 20,409 gun policy proposals and 3,199 laws passed.

A death from a mass shooting generates 66 times as much gun-related legislation as do routine deaths from robbery or domestic disputes.  Gun advocates and many conservative politicians have argued that more widespread availability of firearms is key to stopping mass shootings.  Not sure how that's working so far...

Timing has a lot to do with things, too. “Many legislatures are not even in session when shootings happen,” said Christopher Poliquin, one of the Harvard researchers.  “Florida is currently out of session and won’t reconvene until March 2017 unless there is a special session.  Will the people who are angry about easy access to guns still be angry next March?”  Good question, given our shortsighted approach to change, and our desire to move on past the horrific events of a tragedy like Orlando.  One wonders how many more shootings could occur in another year’s time.  Given statistics, we don’t have to guess.  On average, more than one a day.  That is how often shootings that left four or more people wounded or dead occurred in the United States this year, according to compilations of episodes derived from news reports.

We are a society that, at our best, tries to assimilate and celebrate diverse points of view, and systems of belief.  Diverse ways to love.  It’s time for our politicians to find their voices.  This is a sobering reminder that attacks on any American, regardless of race, ethnicity, religion, or sexual orientation, is an attack on all of us.  They are attacks on the fundamental values of equality and dignity that define us as a country.  We are targeted because we as a society love broadly.  America is a spectrum that includes every hue, and some people, namely those who cant accept themselves, can’t accept our culture.


The views and opinions expressed herein are those of the author's alone and do not necessarily reflect the views of Ora Media, LLC, its affiliates, or its employees.

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