Almost a week has passed since a man armed with an assault military weapon killed forty-nine people at the gay nightclub Pulse in Orlando, Florida. As the investigation continues into the gunman’s life and motivations, speeches and declarations have been made by some in the religious community that condemn the victims. Then there were the comments coming from politicians that solely reflect their political aspirations to becoming elected or reelected.
Then there were some people who presented historical and cultural insights that clarified the roots of the hate and violence that are the genesis of this massacre.
Stuart Milk, the nephew of San Francisco’s Harvey Milk, the first openly gay elected city official who was gunned down in 1978, was one of those voices that gave perspective on what happened in Orlando:
“It’s the elements of our visibility, the elements of violence that are perpetrated against LGBT people, the use of guns in the U.S. to assassinate and to - and to commit violence on minority communities, and even the element that was mentioned today, which is of no surprise to LGBT activists around the world, that this individual may have himself been dealing with his own sexuality. And we have seen time and time again that those who come from cultures and who come from societal nonacceptance of LGBT people, that oftentimes they react angrily, and that internal torment gets expressed externally through either verbal or physical abuse and, in extreme cases, something like what we saw happen to a community that I happen to be very close to. The Harvey Milk Foundation plays a significant role in the Orlando community. It’s a community that I have seen absolutely blossom in their acceptance of not just LGBT people, but of diversity in general.”
Bob Weir, legendary guitarist for the Grateful Dead, was receiving the Les Paul Spirit Award with some of his fellow Grateful Dead bandmates on June 12 at the Bonnaroo Music and Arts Festival in Manchester, Tennessee. Weir spoke with a “heavy heart” and emphasized the parallels between hating homophobe and the radical beliefs of ISIS:
“As we know, there was a massacre win Florida, not far from here. I’d like to point out that last week, a distinguished representative from the State of Georgia went on the floor of the House of Representatives of our country and started quoting bible verses in which he basically promoted, or at least rationalized, death to gay people as a reward for the way they were born. This morning, the Lieutenant Governor of Texas said that, ‘Well, they’re reaping what they’ve sown.’ Now, I wanna ask a questionL how different are these peoples’ world views of the people with ISIS? It’s the same hatred. They pull these hatreds out of different books, but it’s the same hatred and I’d just like to point that out.”
And finally, this statement from Richard Trumka, the head of the AFL-CIO, America’s federation of labor unions spoke out on the dangers of succumbing to fear and hatred:
“We in the labor movement are not afraid. We are resolved to do everything in our power to make sure this never happens again. The truth as we know it is both devastating and infuriating. Forty-nine souls were lost in a cowardly act of violence. These are our brothers, sisters and friends.
For the LGBTQ community, clubs like Pulse are a space where people can feel safe and be their true selves. Sunday’s horrific act is a reminder of how fragile that safety can be. While we have made undeniable progress toward equality, too many in our country still face derision, discrimination and violence. These flames of hatred have been fanned by those in public life who want to marginalize an entire group of people for political gain. It’s despicable and it must stop.
But this was more than just an attack on the LGBTQ community. The victims were overwhelmingly young and Latino. Sunday’s massacre was an assault on everything our movement stands for: equality, justice, solidarity and inclusion.”
When we categorize what happened in Orlando as simply an “act of terror” without addressing the past - and current - physical and verbal attacks on the LGBTQ community, we are doing ourselves a critical disservice. Without examining the historical roots of gun violence, people’s reliance on guns to settle disputes, securing the excuse that this was solely an act of terror by an ISIS ideologue, we have not changed our toxic script for yet more violence and division.
Published by Nancy Snyder