And the beat goes on…
(VANCOUVER ISLAND) Fifty dead and counting. More than that number wounded. It’s all becoming horrifyingly familiar. The latest mass shooting in America, this time in Orlando, Florida is also one of the worst; as I write this, corpses are being bagged and tagged while wounded survivors are being transported and treated in hospitals around the city of Disney World. This time the venue was a nightclub with a largely gay clientele and reports are coming in that the incident was triggered by the sight of two gay men kissing. The shooter, however, was a second generation Afghani-American, so depend on this being put down as an act of Islamic terrorism.
There are so many infuriating aspects to this gruesome and tragic bloodletting that it’s difficult to know where to start, even though I should be able to write this piece on autopilot from so much experience with this kind of story; it is after all, not exactly a quotidian event, but certainly not as rare as earthquake or tsunami stories.
Let’s start with my anger at the fatuous Republican senators whose first instincts were to get in front of a microphone and burnish their Christian credentials by proclaiming the need to pray for the victims, their families, for the police officers, first responders, and everybody else in sight, on the scene, or within earshot. Every high level GOP official from Orrin Hatch to Mitch McConnell, all of whom have called for prayer, seem to have forgotten that they all took thousands upon thousands of dollars (Orrin Hatch: $97,848.00 from the NRA, Mitch McConnell: $922,000.00 from the NRA) in donations from gun lobbyists and then voted not to ban people on the FBI’s watch list from buying firearms. The shooter was on that list.
Of course they’ll now have to wait until the authorities have sifted through the remains and determined who among them was gay and which were straight so they can decide who gets posthumous prayer and who will be eulogised by preachers who will tell us that they now burn in hell eternally for their “choice”. They also seem to forget that they have spent the last decade or more demonising LGBT people and deliberately and cynically inciting hatred of LGBT people in the name of the very god they want us now to pray to. One has to wonder just how genuinely upset those hypocrites are simply because someone just did what they have been saying ought to have been done all along.
This brutal act of Grand Guignol violence is the natural result of a society that preaches hatred and intolerance and at the same time worships the possession and deployment of automatic weapons. Mix virtually unlimited access to firearms with constantly reinforced hatred, add religious justification and moral encouragement of violence from the country’s leadership candidates and you have a pretty gnarly cocktail. Who can pretend to be surprised when the inevitable happens?
Already Fox News has blamed this outrage on Obama; apparently by his politically correct refusal to demonise all Islam he has permitted this act of terrorism, even actively sponsored it. Never mind that there is no indication that this was an act of terrorism at all; never mind that their politicians’ ownership by the NRA permitted this citizen to purchase the murder weapons openly; never mind that the shooter was legally entitled to carry a concealed weapon into that nightclub; never mind that their encouragement of employing violence as a response to any discomfort was taken seriously; Obama wasn’t sufficiently bigoted…that’s the real problem.
Already the voices are ringing out to Hillary and to Bernie. Watch over the next few days as the right wing media will try to crucify them for “politicising” this tragedy. They will be asked to comment on the events, and, like any rational person, they will point to the need for radical changes to gun legislation; that will be shouted down as cynical political posturing; they will be shouted down and told that now is not the time for politics. Now is the time for prayer. A single more useless exercise could not even be imagined than prayer without concrete action. Nevertheless, concrete action is going to be criticised as politicisation while empty and hypocritical prayer will be seen as suitable. Others, myself included, will raise our voices and ask, if now is not the time for the politicisation of gun violence in America, when is it? The only time anyone even talks about it is in the wake of another slaughter.
This column is a short one simply because everything that can be said about this shooting has been said before; there is almost nothing new except the details. Another day, another angry gun-toting American shoots into a crowd. Not to be political about it or anything, but I guess that’s just the American way. Let us pray.