22 June 2016: The country we have become

How is it possible that suffering that is neither my own nor of my concern should immediately affect me as though it were my own, and with such force that it moves me to action? – Arthur Schopenhauer, On the Foundation of Morality


In the aftermath of the massacre of gay, lesbian and other patrons of the Pulse nightclub, memories, horrific ones, flooded to mind: Columbine, Sandy Hook, Platte River. Matthew Shephard tied to a tree, crucified not for the forgiveness of sins, but for choosing to live his life as he was: beautiful, open and free. The innocents. Children, youth, young and vibrant adults in the fullness of their lives. Victims of the America we’ve become.

Forty-nine this time. This time, Marco Rubio noted, was Orlando’s turn. Where next? Buffalo, NY? Bozeman, MT? Who’s next?

I’ve written about mass shootings of targeted groups—African American worshipers, women seeking reproductive services—being the consequences of hateful oratory and thought. This one this strikes home. It’s personal. As I wrote once, “I am not a woman, and I am not black. But I am gay.”

And a teacher, still. Almost to a one, the victims were youthful. Images of former students. Dave Sanders, one of Columbine’s heroes. The teachers at Sandy Hook who gave their lives in an attempt to shield their charges. That’s what teachers do.

Same-sex marriage now being the law of the land does not wipe the slate of homophobic debasement. LGBT people have been bullied and harassed, mocked and demeaned, beaten and tortured, persecuted and executed since the rise of monotheistic, dogmatic religion. By labeling us as sinners and what we do as sin, those religions, primarily Christianity and Islam, set the stage and provide the framework for such.

Queen Elizabeth of World War II fame, whom we recall as the Queen Mum, said after the Luftwaffe bombed Buckingham Palace, “I am glad we have been bombed. Now we can look the East End in the eye.” Of course, neither she nor the king nor her children were casualties.

Were it possible that the Pulse Massacre had not happened, but one thing is for sure: The LGBT community can now truly look at other targeted and persecuted groups in the eye. We can identify with those living each day, each moment in fear: young black men while driving a vehicle, immigrants without documentation, Native Americans confined to reservations, women accessing a Planned Parenthood facility, those of color gathering in the name of prayer and seeing a white man enter.

This is the America we’ve become.

As mass-shooter expert Dave Cullen explains in his 2012 report, there are three categories: psychopaths, who “kill for their own amusement”; psychotics, who “are driven to slaughter to extinguish their torment”; and severe depressives, who feel “unrelenting despair, hopeless and helpless.”

There is no evidence Omar Mateen was an Islamic terrorist. Evidence does suggest, however, he was a repressed, self-loathing homosexual, filled with anger from having been indoctrinated and permanently scarred by religious fundamentalism. Psychotic or depressive. Mateen fits both profiles.

Mateen targeted a very specific group: LGBT people. Deeply conflicted, bereft of confidence in his masculinity, and furious at his carefree peers shorn of such self-debasement, he vented his rage upon them. His last-minute, inconsistent pledging allegiance to Islamist terrorists conveniently served as his cover.

“Love they neighbor as thyself,” the Golden Rule prods us. But if one loathes himself, what then?

In seven words, Muhammed Ali succinctly summarized his refusal to be drafted to fight in Vietnam. “No Viet Cong ever called me nigger,” he proclaimed. That statement not only cut to the quick about the war and its purpose; it also incisively cut to heart of racism in America. One word says and does it all.

Unless and until one has been called faggot or dyke or had queer sneered to, or has been punched, felt the tip of a knife, or shot simply for being who he/she is, one cannot truly know what it’s like to be gay in America, or a person of color, or an immigrant.

Contrary to declarations from political and news leaders, from left to right, the Pulse Massacre had nothing to do with the world out there. It had, though, everything to do with the world within, the America we’ve become.

To be continued.

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