It hasn’t been a good week. You wouldn’t think much could be worse than a hate-motivated mass shooting against LGBTQ people who had gathered just to be themselves; but the killer also claimed to have been driven by an ideology of hate, inspired by a small segment of religion that hates people for not thinking the same things they do. And it isn’t just ISIS that does that, because there are large swathes of American Christianity and American Politics that say the same thing. So it was a bad start to the week.
And then something worse happened: while many people were still wrestling with how to think and feel and support each other and understand this attack, while many people were wondering if they were safe or if their friends were safe, a lot of people started saying horrible things. These people started saying things steeped in judgment, scorn, and self-righteousness. They buried the dead under a series of disproven talking points, and they buried the living right along with them.
They responded to hate by normalizing it.
The honest mourning and drive to act that I see in so many represents the best of America. Unfortunately, there is another big part of America that would like you to think hatred is mental illness, not a part of the ideology they spread; that terrorism is the problem, but not the elements of our culture that enable it; that protecting our loved ones is important, but that last-minute single combat is the only acceptable way of doing so.
I try to listen to all sides of things as much as I can. But I can’t listen to those people right now. As much as they are claiming that “liberals make everything about guns,” they are the ones making guns sacred objects. They are the ones insisting that no limits are acceptable, that having no limits is more important than protecting the lives of our friends and families.
I’ve personally been on the fence about gun control for a long time. I favor the same common-sense regulations that many of Americans do, but this past week has pushed my position, because the people on one side of this are arguing for reasonable limits, and the people on the other side seem willing to sacrifice others for their personal preferences.
And I’ve seen that before, that attitude that what one person wants is more important than what someone else needs. It shows up in a lot of places. It shows up when religious people think they should be able to restrict which bathroom people get to use, and keep LGBTQ people from being who they are. It shows up when white people think their preferences are more important than black people’s lives. It shows up in men who think women should dress for their approval, be sexually available on call, and sit down and shut up the rest of the time.
That attitude disgusts me.
That attitude is the foundation of discrimination and prejudice.
And that is the attitude gun-law obstructionists are displaying, and reveling in. That is, in fact, their core argument.
That is the same core argument that says because my religion disapproves of LGBTQ people, they should have none of the social liberties and freedoms we afford to full citizens. That we can and should restrict those liberties and freedoms until we coerce LGBTQ people into being different people. That is what hate looks like when it is exercised by the powerful.
This attack is hate, overlapping on so many levels.
So the first thing we need to do is mourn, because there are people here who lost their lives and we can and must remember them. There are families here who need our love and support. There are friends and family who are a little more fearful and need to know we are still here.
And then we need to act. Because while the things we can do to prevent this are each insufficient alone, that is no argument for neglecting them. We live in a country where if a terrorist makes a weapon out of an airplane, we lock the cockpits and double security and say “they will never get an airplane again.” And when a terrorist makes a weapon out of his shoe, we make everyone take off their shoes and say “they will never get a show bomb through security again.” And when a terrorist makes a weapon out of liquid, we tell everyone they cannot bring liquids through the airport. And when a terrorist makes a weapon out of a pressure cooker, we restrict the sale of pressure cookers and say “we need to know who is getting these and why.”
But when a man buys a weapon in a store, we say “that’s a shame, but there’s nothing we can do?”
When a man makes a weapon out of hate, we say “that’s a isolated incident that should definitely not force us to change our minds about anything?”
We have neglected hate too long, and so all the blood is on us.
Image Credit: Nams82