Today has been a day of grief. I was getting ready for a birthday brunch when I got a push notification from the New York Times stating, “A shooting at an Orlando nightclub has left ‘mass casualties,’ the police said.” I glanced down briefly, with my mascara wand in hand. Awful, I thought to myself, awful. And then I locked my phone screen and continued getting ready.
Why is this important? Because I am so ashamed of my own actions. I read a news headline reading “mass casualties” and continued on with my day. It wasn’t until after my brunch when I checked my phone that I took the time to read the news story and the ones that followed.
You know how sometimes you see people covering their mouths, eyes wide, grasping for words? That was me. I couldn’t comprehend what had happened. If you haven’t read the news, then the short of it is this: a single gunman entered an Orlando Nightclub called Pulse and opened fire on the club-goers. At present count, the casualties are 50 dead and many injured.
My reaction when actually taking the time to read the news articles was disbelief. As developments spouted from mainstream news media outlets in the United States and splashed their way across my Facebook and other Internet browsers, I felt more and more that I had to cross-check the facts. The Mic is saying this. The New York Times is saying this. CNN, FOX News, and MSNBC are obviously saying that. Frustrated, I headed to news sources I trusted. What was the BBC saying? And Le Monde?
You see, I was reading several things about this attack. 1) The attack was an act of hate performed by a severely homophobic man. Several news outlets had even interviewed the gunman’s father who allegedly confirmed that it was a hate-driven attack, not a religiously-motivated attack. Then I heard 2) ISIS was taking responsibility for the attack and applauding the actions of the gunman. So what to believe? Perhaps these two things go hand-in-hand. Perhaps they were confounding factors leading to this final tragedy.
What I did not appreciate were the immediate reactions many news outlets circled. Well, his name is “Omar Mateen.” He’s got dark skin. He’s obviously Muslim. Obviously, this was a terrorist attack. Obviously, obviously, obviously. Really, though? Is it actually that obvious? Because to me, it seems so unclear.
Perhaps we’re at the stage of the news cycle where there are actual facts, but the “facts” I was reading earlier in the day seemed to be grandiose statements based on assumptions. And this is the issue. This is the prejudice. Remember a few weeks ago at UCLA, when a man walked on campus, shot his professor, and then shot himself? Remember when people said, “Well, obviously. He was Muslim.” Really? Was it obvious though?
Why is it that a mass attack like this (while yes, quite obviously a terror attack) immediately gets associated with Muslims and ISIS? Do people not realize the extent of gun violence in the United States? Do they not realize how many people die each day because of gun violence? Do they realize how many people committing these murderous acts are NOT Muslim? Sure, criticize me for defending Muslims– You think I’m Muslim? I’m not.
I’m agnostic, actually. And I don’t understand a world in which a God– any God, be it Allah, Yahweh, God God, the Flying Spaghetti Monster– can incite violence like this. Perhaps in a few hours or a few days, evidence will become unearthed that does actually link Omar Mateen to ISIS. And if that’s the case, then fine, we have a problem. But, for the love of the gods you all claim to hold so dear, let’s not jump to conclusions. Let’s not be complete morons like Donald Trump and use tragedies as PR stunts. Why don’t we revert to a society where journalists did their goddamn jobs and worried less about how many views or clicks they’re getting? Remember that show Newsroom? Why can’t we have news channel trying to present the truth?
Because here’s the truths that I can confidently state and none of them seem to be reported on:
- This shooting was a tragedy. But it was one of many that occur in the United States. The United States has a goddamn problem. If you can’t see that, you are blind. If you think the “government is out to take my guns and my freedom,” you are deluded and ignorant. There is a problem, and people are dying. Heaven forbid someone you love is the next victim. If gun violence is not actually addressed– if we continue to spew the same bullshit rhetoric about our hearts, thoughts, and prayers going out to the families and loved ones of victims– and that’s it, then we perpetuate this violent cycle.
- Love is love. I don’t care if you fall in love with a tree.As long as you are not hurting me or others, love who you love. So, if it turns out that this was a homophobic hate crime, then the joke is on Omar Mateen and the people that support his actions. You cannot diminish love. Love is resilient and those that seek to exterminate it will always, always lose.
- Mainstream media need to get their acts together. Some of us seek truth, not sensationalism. That was great in the early 20th century. This is the 21st century. Make it right.
- Americans are being desensitized when it comes to gun violence. We see it happen so often that we shrug our shoulders and say, “What can you do?” Or like I shamefully did this morning, we lock our phone screens and choose to remain blissfully unaware. That is dangerous.
What is obvious here is that this entire post was written in a state of rage and heartbreak. My heart breaks for my country– for she is falling apart at the seams. And my heart is angry for the fact that nobody seems to want to make her right again. But as I prepare to go to sleep, may I say that my thoughts are with the families, friends, and loved ones of the victims of the Pulse Shooting. Even thousands of miles away, I grieve with you and I pray for better days. To the LGBT community– keep your chins up and stay proud. We’re with ya.