Earlier this week, as I was preparing for bed and doing a final check of Twitter, I saw a tweet referencing a possible mass shooting at a LGBT nightclub in Florida. By the time I got up the next morning the possibility had been confirmed as the single largest massacre in American since 9/11, with 50 LGBT people confirmed dead and a further 53 in hospital being treated for their wounds.
As can be expected, the universe of social media split instantly. There were those sending love and prayers, those cheering in pleasure and those crying out for more gun control. And while, as an Australian, I have almost zero understanding of America’s fascination with guns let alone the desire to own a weapon designed for war, I felt the call for gun control missed the point. It resembled nothing much more than a chorus of voices howling into the wind.
Gun control is a topic that brings out a lot of heat. Those who support gun control are vilified in the media for wanting to remove a person’s rights. Those who don’t support gun control make certain everyone and their dogs know the only way anyone will remove their guns is over their bullet ridden corpses.
Let’s be frank here; if the Sandy Hook shooting that claimed the lives of 28 people – including 20 children aged between 6 & 7 – didn’t bring about substantial changes to America’s gun ownership laws, the deaths of 50 LGBT people won’t either.
But Gun Control is a band aid. Whenever one of these attacks occurs the call for gun control is renewed, only to be forgotten until the next senseless mass killing. The Pulse Massacre is not about gun control. Gun’s were the weapon of choice, but they were not the reason Mateen walked into a gay club, during Pride, and opened fire.
I saw a post on Facebook this morning complaining about how the Pulse Massacre had led to a conversation about gun control and not about what it should have been; radical Islam. Again, this is missing the point. While the politics of hate in many Western countries is pointing the finger at the scourge from across the seas, and while politicians holler into microphones about how these people are coming to kill us all in your beds, the point is that Islam is not the reason Mateen walking into Pulse and killed 50 people either.
Since his death at the scene of the Pulse shooting there has been a lot written about Mateen. An allegedly secret life of; attending gay bars, hooking up on gay chat apps. People have come forward saying he was known at Pulse, had been attending the club regularly for years, sitting in the corner and getting belligerent and drunk.
Whether or not he was a closeted homosexual will only be known for sure, once the investigation is complete but the media appears to be coming to the conclusion he was, indeed a closeted gay man.
And again, that fails to fully reach the point. And the point is this. It wasn’t guns, or Islam,or being closeted in isolation that brought such terror and pain down upon the patrons of Pulse and the worldwide LGBT community. It was hate.
Whether it was hate at what he perceived as his own weakness in being attracted to men or whether it was the hate he learned from his father, his Imam, or by hearing Pastors on social media, what ultimately led to the massacre during Pride was birthed and formed in hate.
You only need to see the articles and tweets that have come since the attack (amongst the tens of thousands of tweets sharing love) to see hate has it’s place as the foundation of the attack. And it is hate that needs to be addressed as vigilantly and vigorously as gun control.
No religion in the world is free of this stain. The LGBT community has been cannon fodder for hate for generations, it’s nothing new. It’s a sad indication of our time that for a lot of LGBT people the words of hate roll off our backs as we go about our daily lives. I’ve lost count of the amount of times I’ve been called a faggot, or a poofter, or a freak. It goes with the job, so to speak.
But when religious and political leaders point their fingers toward the LGBT community and scream fire and damnation, the followers adopt this hate into their hearts. When people are murdered simply for being who they are, the true depth of that hate is displayed for the world to see.
It is the Presidential voting season in America at the moment. The Republican nominee, Donald Trump, has spent his campaign waging a war of hate against practically every group he can find. He’s going to build a wall (that the Mexican Government is going to pay for) to stop illegal immigrants crossing the border. He’s going to ban Muslims from being able to enter the United States. He’s going to overturn the Supreme Court decision on Marriage Equality and remove protections against LGBT bias in employment. He is running – as did former Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott – a campaign based on the politics of hate.
An Us V Them mentality that tears at the very liberties and freedoms he screams he’s protecting. Tony Abbott did the same thing with his 3-word-slogan driven campaign back in 2013. Stop The Boats was a big call for him. He was going to stop the boats! He was going to stop the refugees! Because they were coming under cover of darkness to kill us all in our beds.
That they were running from wars caused by the very religious fanatics he feared the most was irrelevant. That by stopping the boats put Australia in direct conflict with the UN Charter on Refugees which clearly said it was not illegal for people to seek asylum, even if they came by boat.
Suddenly journalists in Australia stopped being able to undertake research or think for themselves. Overnight, seeking asylum in Australia was illegal. The people on the boats were all illegal terrorists. All of them.
Without any recourse to have their claims checked or researched. Peter Dutton, our Minister for Border Security announced that ‘… no one who came by boat would ever be allowed to settle in Australia..”. Not because their claims had been found to be invalid, they weren’t given the right to have their claims checked. Blanket ban. No.
The politics of hate has devoured my country. It has seeped into every corner of the nation. The politics of fear and hate and sound bytes.
After the Irish Referendum on Marriage Equality the Australian movement regained power, pushing the Government to act. Facing a Party Room revolt, Tony Abbott declared that Australian’s should vote on the human rights of their LGBT siblings. He declared that at some point, there would be a costly Plebiscite to determine if the Australian people supported their LGBT countrymen and woman having the same basic protections and legal rights as their heterosexual brethren.
The aside here is: A Plebiscite is not legally binding. It means nothing at all. If the Yes vote wins it has no legal baring on whether or not a future Government will indeed pass Marriage Equality. It was, and remains, a dog whistle.
“We’ll give the people the vote, eventually, so quit demanding until then.” So to speak.
After the Liberal Spill in 2015, expectations were the new Prime Minister, who had been a staunch supporter of Marriage Equality and had publicly stated the Plebiscite to be a bad idea, would overturn the idea of a Plebiscite and simply move to have the Government vote. To say the LGBT people were shocked when he changed his mind and declared a Plebiscite was the only way to go, would be an understatement. We were betrayed by a man who held himself up as our ally.
While no date has been set for the Plebiscite the anti-gay rhetoric from a variety of factions has already begun. Just hours after the Orlando attack, a senate candidate for the Family First party tweeted the following:
After the backlash that followed, he tweeted it was in response to another tweet, however a community in pain and burning with anger felt the timing (and wording) tasteless given the events in Orlando were only just being made public.
The fact that so many people use the ‘won’t somebody think of the children’ argument when talking about the LGBT community or it’s rights is one of the underlying concepts of the politics of the hate.
The boogey man (in this case, covered in glitter) is coming to break your family apart.
An American pastor whose video is currently going viral and who I will not post in here said of the Pulse massacre there was no reason to mourn as it was just 50 dead pedophiles.
Not 50 dead young people, the sons and daughters, brothers and sisters, aunts and uncles of families who were now torn apart. Just 50 dead pedophiles.
The only thing this can be contributed to, is hate. It is not homophobia. I don’t believe in the term homophobia. It’s a whitewash of what it really is. Phobia means afraid. Homophobic people are not afraid. They’re using the term as an excuse for their hate.
No one religion has their hands clean in this situation. That Mateen was a Muslim is irrelevant. The man arrested heading to LA Pride with 25 pounds of explosives and God only knows how many loaded guns wasn’t a Muslim. He was a white christian from Indiana. Had he not been caught, his actions would have made Mateen’s pale in comparison.
Mateen was not an immigrant, he was American born and bred. His father, in attempts to justify his son’s actions has blamed everyone but his son (including the club) for what happened.
He hasn’t looked at himself, nor the lessons he taught Mateen as a small boy. He has used religion and the affront Mateen felt when two gay men kissed in front of him and his son some time ago as a reason, but it is not a reason.
Whatever his belief structure, Mateen was taught to hate the LGBT community, and if he himself was gay, that hate became internalised until it found an outward expression. The massacre at Pulse was born of hate.
Until we as a people mature and develop beyond adopting the basic common denominator as our excuse, we will never rise above this sort of action. As long as media and politicians continue to use hate to whip crowds into a frenzy, to draw the line between Us and Then, we will forever be caught in the same cycle of pain, of fear and of death.
While I am not a psychic I can say with absolute clarity, this will happen again.
Next time it may be a Mosque, or it may be a Church. It may be another High School or a public spectacle like the Olympics or Christmas, but it will happen again. And once again the world will comment, the people will cry for gun control, or point a finger at the ‘foreigner’ and the cycle will continue.
Religion aside, we are all part of one race. The human race. And I can’t help think that we’re heading for a war of mutual extinction with hate as its core.