I suppose, as a chronicler of sorts, the definitive historian of my own experience, I should commit to page some thoughts regarding Orlando and the new record of death that has been graffitied in bullet holes and blood across the walls of the Pulse Club.
What is there really to say about the act itself? It is a terrible thing foisted by a terrible person upon unsuspecting people. It has been nearly 1200 days since the Sandy Hook shooting, maybe we were overdue for a reminder of the staggering capacity for cruelty some of us have when given access to sufficient means to act upon it.
In any event, I really have very little to say about the shooting in isolation. But what is unique about this event is the odd nexus it sits atop. A Homosexual Muslim man became radicalized by an extremist sect within his religion. Once he was plyed into martyrdom, of all of the available targets, he felt that a culling of homosexuals was the best use of his final act. He was able to carry out a massacre of such magnitude only due to having access to highly proficient weapons of war. So what do we call this? Is this a gun control issue? Is this a hate crime against the Gay community? Is this a terrorist attack on the US by an enemy agent? Is this a lone wolf attack by a religious radical?
The answer is yes. Yes to all of the above. Which makes the conversation complicated. But one thing I want specifically to address, at least in this article, is the question of the man’s sanity.
It seems to be universally true that anytime a horrible attack is carried out, people who share the ideology of the attacker claim the attacker to be insane, to be damaged, to be in some fashion broken or defective and therefor not a valid representation of the ideology they share. It really does not matter what the ideology is, be it a racial, nationalist, religious, or political, when someone commits terrible acts in that ideology’s name, they are decalred immediately to not be a “true” follower of that ideology.
Of course exactly how and why the word of those who make that proclamation should be taken as any more authoritative on the true nature of the ideology than that of the killer is never really explained. After all, the killer was clearly willing to stake more on the sincerity of their belief than the average follower, was he not?
I submit to you that nobody of a sane mind and a humane ideology massacres a bunch of gay people, or blows up an abortion clinic, or files planes into buildings, or assaults the transgendered, or stones impious women, or allows children to die of treatable illnesses rather than take them to doctors.
I submit that to do any of these things requires either an insane mind, or a system of toxic beliefs.
Now are there crazy people out there? Sure. But not everyone who kills and Infidel, assaults and abortion clinic, prays their child to death, or accosts people trying to make a BM in peace, is crazy. Plenty of these people are perfectly sane, dare I say terrifyingly sane. These people of a sound mind who have been lead to believe that it is the divine will of the great authority that they oppose these things deemed evil, and really, once you get past accepting that there is such a thing as a great divine authority, is simply following what you believe that authority wants from you really such a stretch?
But of course everyone in the world is convinced their God isn’t like that and doesn’t want those things, right up until the day they become convinced he does. And even if that day never comes, even if you (the moderate religious person) yourself never become convinced that your God actually literally means all of those terrible things he is declared to have ordered, all of those harmful and gross and vain and petty and violent and prejudicial and damaging things….every single day you worship and endorse that God in spite of those things, every day you justify or ignore those things and go on preaching the word of said divinity, is one more day you are influencing others to follow that will. All it takes is for one of them to interpret that will a little differently that you might, a little more literally than you might, and you have tragedy.
Maybe the blood is not all over your hands….but certainly you get at least a few splattered drops….
Maybe if the Orlando shooter had never been taught that there was such a thing as an unquestionable and perfect divine will, then when a piece of radical ISIS propaganda reached him, proclaiming to represent the true message of that divine will, he would not have been susceptible to such a message.
Is religion the whole story here? No, clearly not. But it’s an important part of the story, and one ecumenicism should not convince us to ignore. And to the moderately religious out there, those who would never commit violence in the name of God themselves…..are you convinced and comfortable that all of those you help convince to follow the will of God are as oppose to violence as you are?
Worth a thought.