Sunday, June 12, 2016

The First of Several Angles to the Orlando Tragedy: Terrorism

What can I say that hasn't already been said about the horrific tragedy that happened in Orlando early this morning?  For one thing, this was something that was always in the back of my mind whenever I went into a gay club, even from my early days of clubbing.  We all know there are a lot of sick people out there, and any one of us, in virtually any situation, in virtually any place, could face the very same horror those poor people experienced in the wee hours of this day, June 12th, 2016.  That is just a sad truth.  

Even though the terrible mass shooting that happened today made headlines as the deadliest such attack in our history, the incident was unique in that it is the first such tragedy that touched upon several issues, and depending on which spin-meister you listen to, the way you might see it is the way they spin it.  Whatever the case, this tragedy surely drew new and valid ire towards terrorism, but three other important societal problems surface here, and over the next few days I will be devoting some space here to discuss these issues as I see them.  

Life never has and never will be black and white.  We need to look at our society holistically and through all that gray matter in between in order to make any real progress so something like this never happens again.  Until then, I am afraid that these sorts of incidents will continue to happen.  

The Terrorist Angle

50 killed in shooting at Florida nightclub in possible act of Islamic terror - Fox

Orlando Shooting: 50 killed, shooter pledged ISIS allegiance - CNN

Islamic State linked to worst mass shooting in American history - USA Today

These were among the first headlines that I found while doing a search for 'Orlando shooting' in preparation for this post.  Notice any special groups of similar words that come up in these?  Islamic terror.  ISIS allegiance.  Islamic State.  Now, look up at the meme at the top of this post.  Curiously, the word 'gay' appears in none of these headlines, yet I'm pretty damned sure that, regardless if the attack was ordered by the ISIS supreme being himself or if it was perpetrated by Mr. Omar Mateen on his own, these 100-plus people who were killed or critically wounded in the shooting were targeted because they were gay.  

The headlines above each appeared on popular American news outlets, and links are provided for you to read them.  Another headline I found was on Al Jazeera, a, ahem, 'Muslim' news outlet scorned by most Americans from way back in the days of Al Qaeda.  It reads, Scores dead in gay nightclub shooting.  Now before any Muslim-phobes read into my angle here, the article does make mention of the terror connection, and I am not disagreeing that it shouldn't in any of these stories.  

The problem here is the placement and the angles of those headlines that seem to be purposefully trying to point our minds towards that aspect of this deadly massacre.  The topic of my Master's Thesis was 32 pages about how five huge media conglomerates purposefully drive the discussion, and though that paper was written about 15 years ago, I am sure it still holds true today, as evidenced by these headlines.  Ah, the masking of other, more troubling issues that come from within.  I speak of headlines because they, the media outlets, know that a great majority of we busy Americans get our news via the headlines, not the stories themselves, and thus are important in swaying the debate the way they want to.

Surely this incident could and should be classified as a terrorist attack.  The very definition of terrorism is the use of violence and intimidation in the pursuit of political aims (Google), and the attack in Orlando surely fits that description.  But this morning's events at Pulse Nightclub were much more than that.  When we hear the words terrorist attack, we automatically think Muslim radicals and our anger gets directed at them.  I wonder if the attacker was a white American that those words would have appeared in those headlines. Probably not!  We've been trained to equate the word Muslim with terror and that's just not right.  It only works to create Muslim-phobia and more problems.  Really!

This massacre earlier today was an attack on gays, fueled by religious radicalism.  Homophobia is rooted in the scriptures of many of the world's largest religions, most written thousands of years ago. Though this was one extreme result of homophobia, are the thousands upon thousands of bullying and gay-bashing incidents that happen every day any better?  

The murders were perpetrated with an assault rifle and a pistol.  One man given the opportunity to murder so many innocent and helpless people just like that.  And some see no problem with that because of an Amendment to our Constitution that was written under very different circumstances a very long time ago.  These people will fight and fight hard to defend that principle in the coming days and weeks despite the fact that this was the 16th mass shooting in the last eight years.  

Yeah, what happened at Pulse was a terrorist incident, but it is so much more than that.  All we can do right now is send some positive energy to those people who are still critically wounded and to the families of those who were slain so horrifically.  They were our brethren, gay brethren, fellow Americans, people just like you or me.  Rest in peace!

Stay tuned for more...   

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