Let's break down the BS, shall we?
A quick scan of yesterday's headlines about the tragic shooting at popular Orlando hotspot Pulse was enough to send one on a flash back to somewhere around, say, September 11, 2001.
It wasn't until the very bottom of the 3rd page of my Google search results that any word related to homophobic motivation or hate crime made it to a headline, and god forbid anyone still bring up the topic of the shooters mental health.
To me, the most revealing result was this headline from the NY Post:
The first reports of statements by his father, Seddique Mateen, were in the form of his statements that his son was motivated by anger over witnessing two men kissing in Miami.
“We were in Downtown Miami, Bayside, people were playing music. And he saw two men kissing each other in front of his wife and kid and he got very angry. They were kissing each other and touching each other and he said, ‘Look at that. In front of my son they are doing that,'" which he quickly followed with, “This has nothing to do with religion.”
According to the Gawker article — which refers to Omar Mateen as an "ISIS-inspired gay club shooter" — the man's father is, for lack of a more comprehensive term, a real piece of work. On Monday, the elder Mateen posted a video to Facebook, saying, “God will punish those involved in homosexuality.” Shortly thereafter he gave an interview in which he offered an apology “for what my son did ... I am as sad and mad as you guys are … What he did was against humanity.”
Seddique Mateen apparently has a serious love of public attention.
He hosts a YouTube channel, runs a Facebook page, and claims to have "his own intelligence agency and close ties to Congress," while a translator from CBS said Mateen Sr. is "delusional," and "thinks he runs a government in exile and will soon take the power in Kabul in a revolution.”
Sounds mentally unstable, right? All snarkiness aside, my guess is yes. Quite literally.
I have been hearing and reading comments all day about the media's portrayal of this incident, politician's responses to the incident, conspiracy theories about the incident. People are devastated, confused, angry, disgusted, and afraid — both with the shooting, and with each other's responses and opinions about it.
I get it. All of it.
It's just that too many have already been lost and too much is still at stake for us not to untangle the web of issues we simply must address moving forward.
There are at least these five extremely complex dynamics involved, none of which should be ignored.
1. This was a hate crime, and most likely one with self-hate at the root.
An article in Gawker says that while his father was quoted saying that Omar had "been angered by the sight of two men kissing ... Mateen was also a regular at the club and exchanged messages with at least one gay man on a gay dating app."
We may not have the full story, but Mateen quite clearly chose Pulse, a popular gay nightclub he visited regularly for at least the past three years, because he was targeting a key object of his father's loudly vocalized hate, as well as his own self-hate, internal conflict and attempted denial.
2. The depth, degree, and target of hatred was based on religious and ideological points of view.
The majority of fundamentalist religions preach against homosexuality, labeling it a sin and prohibiting sexual activities outside of the heteronormative construct of a traditional male-female marriage.
Any child experiencing homosexual feelings while growing up in a household in which religious, ideological hatred of gay men and women is clearly and angrily discussed on a regular basis is understandably going to feel excruciating internal conflict and anger. This appears to be the case in the Mateen household — on steroids.
Slight digression: A friend of mine posted this fictional article headline on Facebook last night.
"Local Atheist Frustrated By Lack Of Deities Urging Him To Kill."
Pretty funny, right? And pretty telling.
3. This was an act of terrorism.
There is no universally agreed upon definition of terrorism, which is the reason so many of us struggle to understand when a specific incident like this should be called a terrorist act. That said, these are the four general criteria most frequently used to assess whether or not an act can be considered terrorism:
- It is the use of violence or threat of violence in order to purport a political, religious, or ideological change.
- It can only be committed by non-state actors or undercover personnel serving on behalf of their respective governments.
- It reaches more than the immediate target victims and is also directed at targets consisting of a larger spectrum of society.
- It is both mala prohibita (i.e., crime that is made illegal by legislation) and mala in se (i.e., crime that is immoral or wrong in themselves).
The shooting at Pulse, in my non-expert opinion, easily checks all four boxes.
4. There is a high likelihood that this family has a disposition towards mental illness of some form.
While I am not qualified to make a diagnosis and wouldn't even want to try, as mentioned above, Omar Mateen's father shows many signs of mental instability.
A 2013 study conducted by the National Institute of Mental Health showed that several mental illnesses are far more likely to be passed on genetics — and therefore passed on through heredity — than we previously thought. The NIHM said, "Researchers funded in part by the National Institutes of Health found that the overlap was highest between schizophrenia and bipolar disorder; moderate for bipolar disorder and depression and for ADHD and depression; and low between schizophrenia and autism. Overall, common genetic variation accounted for 17-28 percent of risk for the illnesses."
According to study co-leader Naomi Wray, PhD, “Since our study only looked at common gene variants, the total genetic overlap between the disorders is likely higher.”
Many oppose blaming mass shootings on mental illness, both because mental illness itself is difficult to define, as well as because they worry, rightfully, that this "gives the public the false impression that most people with mental illness are dangerous, when in fact a vast majority will never commit violence."
But that is also precisely my point. And I am almost there ...
5. The shooter was somehow able to legally procure an assault rifle, despite all of the above.
Mateen used an AR-15-type assault rifle in the attack, which he most likely obtained legally, given that "In the state of Florida, anyone over the age of 18 can buy an AR-15 as no state permit is required."
According to The Telegraph, "The National Rifle Association has defended the mass sale of assault rifles, insisting they are useful for wild hunting and 'home defence.'"
Maybe, maybe not. I know some perfectly awesome people who own guns and rifles. Fine.
But no permit required? No background check? No mental wellness exam? No nothing but hitting the magical age of 18? Really????
Any one of these five issues in isolation are complex enough to warrant their own Congressional committees be formed. But, IMHO, that is exactly the greatest challenge facing us all.
Because NONE of these issues, in isolation, were at the heart of Omar Mateen's horrific act. ALL of them were.
The vast majority of people with a mental illness will never commit such violence, just as the vast majority of PEOPLE will never commit such violence.
Not everyone who hates, or feels self-hatred, kills others.
Only some who believe in religious teaching that homosexuality is wrong commit heinous crimes.
Not everyone who commits a hate crime is a terrorist.
An extremely small percentage of people with diagnosable mental illness ever commit an act of violence, of any kind.
Guns don't kill people, people kill people. It's trite, but it's true.
It is when these weighty issues collide and press long and hard enough on someone's fragile stability that the perfect storm cloud breaks into the kind of tragic explosion that destroyed far too many beautiful lives in Orlando this past weekend.
There is simply too much at stake for us to continue to bicker over our own interests in each of these five areas out of fear of losing what we each prioritize as individuals.
Einstein's ever popular definition of insanity — "Doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results" — is more relevant now than ever before.
The responsibility falls on us all.