From all around the planet, many readers of this site have sent kind and loving words to me regarding the Orlando massacre.
Thanks to each and all of you for your condolence and support to the survivors, families and friends of the victims of the Orlando mass shooting, extending also to sending comforting words and thoughts to all of us who are shocked & mourning, in Orlando, in Florida, throughout the US, and everywhere else, comforting words and thoughts to all who are either in the LGBTQ community, &/or the Latin community, &/or the Muslim community, or who are advocates, families, friends, defenders and supporters of LGBTQs, Latinos, Muslims, and all peace-loving people here and everywhere.
On occasions such as this of horrific massive destruction and injury of innocent human life and human dignity, all peace-loving people of goodwill are honorary Americans, are honorary Floridians, Orlandans; we are all honorary LGBTQs, we are all honorary Latinos, we are all honorary Muslims, for we are all victims and mourners, we are all wounded human beings, shocked and bleeding human beings. We are all members of the beloved community of this one same planet, we are all one family.
My earlier, initial post in response to the Orlando massacre was made early in the morning, immediately after hearing/reading a somewhat garbled, speculative initial report on the attack. Yesterday, I wrote down some further responses:
As of today, June 13, 2016, 163 days have passed since the beginning of this year on January 1st.
As of today, the 164th day of this year, there already have been 176 mass shootings in the USA.
These 176 mass shooting crimes do not include the hundreds of additional daily single shootings throughout the land which in each case have at most killed or wounded only one person per incident. Then of course there are several more daily shooting attempts in which fortunately no one is killed or wounded.
These 176 instances taking place so far this year were mass shootings-and-killings.
They are mass murders by mentally ill, hate-filled individuals, or rarely by couples or even on very rare occasions by small clusters of individuals, all using guns—typically “military combat type” automatic assault rifles, almost always legally purchased, in the US,—to carry out their bizarre, deeply twisted impulses of violent hatred against other humans, against the world, against life itself, and ultimately against themselves.
Yesterday, 51 innocent precious persons were shot and killed and another 53 innocent precious persons were shot and wounded in the mass shooting of Gay Pride celebrators, a majority of them young Puerto Rican males, gathered at a popular a gay nightclub in Orlando. Murdered and wounded by a lone gunman who, in his insanity of hate and paranoia and emotional isolation and deep illness, reportedly claimed to be acting in (apparently independent, self-initiated) “support” of the evil ISIS army of hate and genocide which has mushroomed in the context of our own evil endless American campaign of wars of invasion, occupation and genocide against the people of various Middle Eastern and Central Asian countries with Muslim majorities. Countries whose national oil resources our government and military leaders have repeatedly admitted to wishing to rob and control for our own consumption and to maintain and expand our own military and economic supremacy and domination around the world!
We admit to carrying out decades of “foreign policy” involving the mass murder and oppression of millions of innocent civilians in Iraq, Afghanistan, and other sovereign nations, for our own greed and power-control, and then we act as if we are shocked and dismayed, surprised and scandalized that crazed individuals seek to attack and kill Americans at home and that entire armies of fanatically crazed misguided religious and patriotic nationalists seek to resist American domination of their own homelands. And of course, I don’t mean to suggest here that ISIS, al-Queda and other such groups and their followers and imitators are misguided or crazed because they seek to resist American domination of these peoples’ homelands! Resistance to American or other foreign control of parts of one’s own native region is the least crazy misguided horrific thing ISIS does, obviously. Patriotism is one thing, mass murder, torture, etc such as is perpetrated BOTH by the US AND by ISIS is another thing. I can’t imagine that the innocent victims of either oppressive military force care all that much who is murdering or torturing them or why.
Yesterday, in America, 50 innocents killed / 50+ wounded.
The day before yesterday, 10 persons were killed and 12 wounded in various mass shootings across the United States
(5 / 0 killed/wounded in Roswell NM, 3 / 2 in Los Angeles, 1 / 3 in Charlotte NC, 1 / 3 in Stockton CA, and 0 / 4 in Webster MN).
Ten killed one day, 51 killed the next; ten killed the day before yesterday, 51 killed yesterday, in mass shootings in which no one specific individual was targeted in advance.
Obviously these killings and woundings by gunmen are acts of criminal insanity, even though in yesterday’s killings, the murderer’s insanity was perhaps (?) also colored and fueled further by homophobia/hetero-supremacism (?), by ethnic/cultural/racial phobia and supremacism (?), and by apparently (?) self-claimed fanatical religious supremacism and desire for revenge against American and allied Western invasion, occupation, oppression and genocide against various Muslim majority countries including Afghanistan, the country where the shooter’s parents happened to be born.
As of the end of 2013, of the 67 shooters in the most recent mass shootings in the US occurring by that date, 65 (all but 2) were known to suffer from pre-existing mental illness; 55 of those 67 shooters had legally obtained the automatic assault guns they used in their mass shootings.
Solidarity, empathy, and creative empathic self-identification with others…
I’ve never been to Florida, but I have friends there and friends who are from there. Some of my Native American ancestors were from Florida.
I’m not a member of the LGBTQ community, though I have close beloved family members who are members of the community, life-long friends and always new friends and acquaintances, as well as colleagues and neighbors, who are LGBTQ members, fellow human beings who happen to be LGBTQ, the way some of us happen to be straight.
I’m not a member of the Hispanic/Latino community, though I have close beloved family members who are, and of course many of my friends and colleagues and neighbors happen to be Hispanic. I do have some rather distant if direct family ancestry from Spain and Portugal, but my love for and solidarity with the Latin community is not based on that remote ancestry though I like to think the two things help enrich the value of each for me.
(And because only “full-blooded, natural-born” Native Americans [American Indians] are non-immigrant Americans by parental heritage as well as by birth,…I love and self-identify with both my Native and my immigrant American heritage and larger national family.)
Because the insane criminal who conceived and carried out this massacre, though born and raised an American, was of Afghani heritage, and also apparently chose to self-identify as a Muslim, Muslims in America and elsewhere are being once again scapegoated, denounced, condemned and attacked as complicit in this sick young man’s horrific crime. Therefore, although Muslims, as far as we know, were not specifically targeted by this madman as victims of his murder rampage, they are being victimized by some other Americans because of his hate crime against his fellow Americans who happen to be gay &/or Latino. No doubt it will come to light also that some of his murdered and/or wounded victims were also of Muslim heritage and Muslim self-identity. Like himself, some may also have parents who were born in Afghanistan but came to the US to seek a better life.
Apparently this mentally ill hate-filled person had earlier planned to carry out a mass murder attack at Disneyworld in Florida, then later changed the time and location of his crime plan to Latin Night during Gay Pride Week at the Pulse nightclub. Was he motivated primarily by a possible hatred toward gays? Or primarily toward Puerto Ricans and other Latinos? Or primarily toward (his fellow) Americans? and/or toward the many random non-Americans who likely would have been visiting Disneyworld on any and every given day? Did he really care, or even think about whether some of his victims may be fellow Muslims &/or of Afghan heritage? Did he really care that most of his eventual victims would be LGBTQ? that most would be Latino? Or were these possibly somewhat-arbitrary or at least secondary elements in his deeply deranged mind and intenstion?
Yes, it is said that, earlier, he had been “offended” by once recently seeing two gay men kiss. And yes, he apparently/reportedly wished to announce his deranged crime as being done in presumably-independent support of the insane criminality (and [misapplied] patriotic nationalism) of ISIS. But does any of this cohere? It certainly doesn’t lessen the tragedy.
To blame innocent Muslim persons, whether American Muslims or other persons, for this young man’s insane crime is to make partly the same kind of irrationally wrongful “connection” he may have made of “blaming” and wishing to destroy random clusters and “categories” of individuals (in this case gays, and/or Latinos and/or Americans) for his own internal suffering and anguish and deluded irrational hatred and anger.
To wish to kill a random crowd of innocent persons at Disneyworld who would doubtless contain some Muslims and many non-Americans, and/or a somewhat less random, more specifically “pre-selected” crowd attending a celebration of Latin Night during Pride Week at a popular LGBTQ nightclub who would doubtless contain some Muslims, some non-Americans, and some non-LGTBQs, is clearly the wish of an irrational insanely hate-filled human being who has been utterly derailed by mental illness. If he was wishing to target a certain kind or category of persons (Americans, Gays, Puerto Ricans, whomever), he was also indifferent to also harming at the same time whatever other kinds and categories of innocent persons may be present at the time and place of his rampage. I’m not implying that he would be any less insane and hateful and inhumane had he chosen his target with more deliberate selectivity! But I am trying to point out that even if his plans contained selective targets of his hate, the indifference also contained in his actions indicate the triumph of irrationality/insanity over selective planning. The planning itself was insane, of course, and the carrying out of the killings of course was also insane.
For other Americans (and non-Americans) to lash out with hate crimes of verbal abuse &/or violent & lethal force against Muslims here &/or abroad in reaction to this sick individual’s hate crimes is simply to perpetuate, to partake of, and to spread his madness and his damage, his paranoia and destructive scapegoating.
Some crazy American reactionaries, racist, religious, and homophobic bigots and haters are not only blaming Muslims for his crime, but blaming LGBTQs and their families and supporters for his attack! Predictably, some are blaming law-makers for “allowing gay nightclubs,” for “legalizing [constitutionally-protected!] marriage equality”! Some of course are calling for the same sort of theocratic oppression the shooter may have wished for, but calling, in their case, for the banning of freedom and human rights of LGBTQ persons and Muslim persons here in America in the name of fanatical Christian fundamentalism, much the way ISIS and their Saudi and other backers call for and impose the banning and murder of LGBTQ persons and of some or all non-Muslim persons within their spheres of control in the name of fanatical Islamic fundamentalism.
Hateful murderous fundamentalist theocracies, whether Christian, Muslim, Jewish, or otherwise, are virtually the same whenever and wherever they occur, whatever religion they bastardize and impose. Don’t let this happen in the US! Don’t let plans for (further) theocratic take-over such as that insanely threatened and attempted by the Republican (and other) Christian Right fanatics gain the upper hand of control over our government and our society.
Violent anti-LGBTQ as well as anti-Muslim, anti-immigrant, anti-Hispanic, and anti-government scapegoating, of course, while woefully and darkly “comically”/ sardonically predictable (slathered as it instantly was with more of the same foaming at the mouth hate-speech and tweet-screech from Generalissimo Drumpf!), is at once horrific and shameful, creepily ludicrous and frightening beyond words. Please be sure to vote for love and against hate at the polls this coming election.
I am not a Muslim, but I have many friends and acquaintances, colleagues and neighbors who are Muslim. I also have some quite distant if direct family ancestors who were Muslims. Though I am not Muslim (indeed not a member of any one religious community nor the descendant of only one ancestral/cultural heritage), nevertheless I love and value and respect and care about Muslims as much as I do members of any other religious community (and members of no religious communities!); just as, though I am not gay, I love and value and respect and care about fellow human beings who happen to be LGBTQs; and just as, though I am not Latino, I love and value and respect and care about human beings who happen to be Latinos; and just as, though I am not a Orlandan or Floridian, I love and value and respect and care about those who are Orlandan and Floridian by birth &/or by choice; and just as I love and care about those fellow humans who happen to be Afghani and/or American by birth &/or by choice. Etc.!
The man who committed the murders in Orlando didn’t choose to be born American, nor did he choose to be born of Afghan American parents, or of parents who are Muslim by heritage &/or by choice. He didn’t choose to be born into a Muslim family, he didn’t choose to grow up finding himself orientated (presumably?) to be straight or (quite possible bi or gay, or just confused and conflicted), and he didn’t choose to be mentally ill!
He was obviously mentally ill before he decided to carry out the massacre. This fact was obvious to some persons who had been close to him, such as his ex-wife who he apparently repeatedly beat and abused, even if his mental illness may not have been obvious to the future shooter himself. Nonetheless, because he was mentally ill, and in that illness was consumed by anger, hate, and self-loathing, however legitimately-grounded his opposition to US military invasions-occupations-and-slaughters of other countries, he did choose to buy military assault weapons shortly before using them to kill and injure a hundred innocent persons.
And some one or more other persons, shopkeepers here in America, chose to legally sell him these guns and ammo made for mass killings, even though he obviously was not buying these deadly items on behalf of an authorized military unit or police department. And he was able to freely purchase these deadly items even though he was known to be mentally ill, domestically violent, had made public threats of terrorist violence, and had been investigated two or three times by the FBI for possible organized terrorist connections &/0r intentions.
If he had purchased even more ammunition, and if the police had not arrived as quickly as they did and been able to intervene as skillfully and luckily as they did, even far more than a hundred persons may easily have been shot and killed before he was finished. As it is, because of the ease with which he was able to purchase such guns and extensive ammo, he was able to continue mowing down dozens upon dozens of fellow human beings in prolonged rapid fire and yet more reloaded rapid fire and yet more reloaded rapid fire. According to reports, there were an estimated 350 or so persons in the club when he entered with his guns. Who knows how many more of those 350 persons he may have murdered if he’d brought even more ammo.
We may never be able to protect ourselves entirely from crazed hate-killers. But we can certainly take measures to make it extremely difficult to acquire assault weapons or other firearms. And we can take measures to work against and to overcome and prevent social-wide culture-bound and religiously-supported ignorance, hate, and bigotry. And we can take measures to better treat and reduce and prevent mental illness.
The innocent public in this country is just as vulnerable to mass murders by such lone gunmen who are insane and have legally purchased automatic mass killing weapons and ammunition as we are vulnerable to mass murder attacks by groups of organized terrorists. Mass shootings by crazed loner lunatics wielding automatic assault rifle machineguns occur more than once a day now in our national community. More have occurred in Florida it seems than in any other state, but these killing rampages occur virtually everywhere in America now. More than once a day now. Today it was LGBTQs and Latinos (and others celebrating with them) who were the victims. On previous days it has been African Americans; Jews; women & their medical care-providers; educators & students, etc, etc…
If you are attending a prayer service in a traditionally African American church, you may be shot by a crazed white supremacist; if you are attending a Pride event or Latin Night celebration, or are visiting Disneyworld, you may be shot by a crazed self-appointed “ISIS supporter” who is also predictably a homophobe &/or a racist (or by a crazed homophobe &/or racist who may or may not also be an ISIS supporter); if you are visiting or working at a women’s health clinic you may be shot by a crazed Christian fanatic minister or follower who is also a murderous misogynist who thinks he is carrying out the wishes of Jesus. If you are on any college or school campus anywhere you may be shot by any crazy person whatsoever. These mentally ill individuals are extremely likely to come armed with mass killing machines legally purchased from the same or similar gunshop on the same or similar corner, on virtually any corner in any town in the land.
These rapid-firing mass killing machineguns are being avidly marketed, sold and massively purchased everywhere in our nation these days. Weapons manufacturers and profiteer billionaires are behind the National Rifle Association’s dark money lobby corrupting and bribing our elected representatives in Congress into blocking any and all proposals to restrict the sale of combat assault weapons to any and every individual, however mentally ill or known to be determined to terrorize the world with massive shootings and killings.
The rightwing spreads and embraces ridiculous doomsday conspiracy rumors that the government (the supposed “radical Muslim [& Communist!] pro-Jihadists government of President Obama”[sic] !) is plotting to take away the guns these nuts think all Americans have a right to buy and possess and carry around in public. They even spread and embrace conspiracy rumors that the mass assault-gun killings erupting across the nation are deliberate [faked, black flag) attempts by the federal government to scare the public into turning over their guns to government confiscation, rendering everyone defenseless to a further totalitarian regime entrenchment/takeover by the “radical anti-American, anti-white, anti-Christian Democratic Party” !!
Actually, the shootings, media coverage of the shootings, and the anti-government rumors, together seem clearly to be contributing to the ever-burgeoning gun sales spiking across the country. If these daily slaughters of American citizens by gun rampagers are attempts by the federal government (sic!) to frighten the public into turning over their millions of guns and ban further assault rife sales, they are having the opposite effect. The weapons-profiteers, the NRA, the hundreds of armed Christian right-and-white supremacist militias must be crowing and guffawing with murderous glee over this deadly false belief they have perpetrated! Horribly, many of their idiot foot-soldiers & their neighbors really believe the farcical narrative. The weapons-profiteers and their pro-gun lobby couldn’t have hoped for a bigger better source of increasing sales than the pandemic of shootings growing daily. For they make an additional bundle of cash every time some innocent American is shot dead in their own neighborhood church, school, nightclub, etc. leading to yet further purchases of massive firepower guns by frightened citizens looking to protect themselves.
Each time there’s another massacre in the US, additional gun sales go through the roof.
Assault weapons are present everywhere throughout our society, easily and readily available to virtually any person no matter how predisposed to violent mental illness, to hate, to criminal intent, predisposed to racial/ethnic &/or religious or homophobic bigotry and violence, to hatred of others, be they gays, women, Mexicans, immigrants, Muslims, African Americans, or others walking through a park or praying in a church, mosque, temple, be they anyone anywhere, dancing in a club, working in a community health center, attending a class in a school or university, attending a sports event, or eating in a restaurant.
We know that the majority of these mass shooters are not Muslim, are not immigrants, are not persons of color. We know that the majority are young white American male “loners” on multiple medications, likely to be fascinated by some irrational fanatical hate ideology or another. We know that the majority are known to have mental illness and are known to have expressed irrational anger and hatred toward entire groups, often large groups, within our population—government employees, women, classmates, gays, immigrants, Jews, Muslims, police officers, homeless persons, military personnel, African Americans, doctors and patients, Mexicans and other Hispanics, teachers and students, Amish school children, neighbors, fellow workers, the list goes on and on.
We know that many of these shootings are directed, at least in part, toward the shooters’ own family members—spouses and children and parents, current or former fellow classmates or teachers, or co-workers or employers.
We know that the majority of these shooters legally purchase multiple assault weapons and often stockpile large numbers of these and other guns and requisite ammo caches.
We know that many emulate and heroicize previous crazed shooters, collecting and saving news items about such mentally disturbed criminals and their insane crimes.
We know that many of these shooters are known before hand to suffer from various forms of intense psychological/social isolation, paranoia, and other irrational persecution and self-aggrandizing syndromes, are subject to increasing attraction to irrational violent hate-groups and their insane ideologies and propagandas, be they primarily political, racial, religious, sexist, homophobic, or whatever.
We know that many of them are under the long-term influence of doctor-prescribed &/or self-medicated/abused pharmaceutical chemical cocktails of powerful psychotropic and often woefully understudied drugs. We know that many of these dubious “medicines” have strong, wide-spread side-effect risks of causing suicidal and violently oppressive depression and highly delusional often violent manic “highs.” It is obvious in some cases that these shooters’ brains are literally already permanently chemically-fried by these horrifically dangerous medications.
We know that many of these shooters express and communicate their own irrational violent viewpoints and often their murderous intentions & schemes before hand, sometimes repeatedly, for months or weeks or even years before their shooting rampages eventually take place.
We know that in many cases family members, friends, neighbors or others were aware of the shooters’ activities in purchasing and stockpiling assault weapons. But as it is not illegal to purchase single or numerous weapons of this sort, there is little or nothing police or other authorities feel they can do to protect our national community from such activities by our most disturbed, most unstable, most dangerously mentally ill members.
And yes, some very few of these shooters self-identify as radical fanatic jihadist Muslims, even though some of their innocent victims sometimes include Muslims.
And some others among these shooters carry out their attacks on innocent victims out of a self-declared hatred of all Muslims, even though some or many of their innocent victims are sometimes non-Muslims.
Decisions to plan and carry-out pre-meditated murder of individuals and specific groups of persons whether perceived as belonging to some particular category or other–gay, Muslim, Jewish, African American, Hispanic, American, foreign, whatever, or simply as members of the human race in general–are obviously not only crimes of hate, and terror, but are crimes of intense mental illness.
To help by teaching and learning…
Some of us express, in part, our love and care for members of the above mentioned groups, and for all people, through making efforts to provide useful, accurate, supportive education about LGBTQs, Latinos, Muslims, and others, and about their human and civil rights. We are engaged in formal academic and extended public education programs to help inform both our fellow Americans and the public elsewhere in the world about these groups of our fellow humans, informing ourselves and others about the members of these groups, and about ourselves, as fellow human beings.
This educational information process extends ideally, and sometimes in practice, to persons who self-identify as Muslims (or Christians, or Jews, etc) yet who do not always understand, experience, &/or live and act with love for all fellow humans and all other fellow creatures as Islam and the other religions admonish and aspire for us all to do.
I often find that students who attend my university courses in which I provide information on these subjects will go out of their way to thank me for helping them come to a better, more supportive understanding of the nature and dignity and rights of others.
Quite often some of my Muslim students express such gratitude for helping them gain a better appreciation of the positive, loving aspects of Islam, of the positive aspects of Jews and Judaism, of Christians and Christianity, of Hispanics and Hispanic culture and religion, &/or of LGBTQs and their community.
Just as often Christian, Jewish, Hindu, secular, and other students, straight and gay, express similar gratitude for similarly learning to be more accepting, compassionate, and universally friendly based on better educational information about these and various other groups, including often those groups these students themselves already self-identify with.
Much of the prejudicial bias many of these students first bring to my courses is based utterly on a simple lack of better, more extensive information, and lack of encouragement & support from their family, their culture, their religious leaders and their peers, and lack of a safe open forum for engaging in critical thinking and open frank discussion. Bias against people of “other” religious worldviews and practices, of “other” ethnic and regional backgrounds, of “other” sexual identities and orientations, etc., is a socially-learned behavior and a socially-learned mind-set, it is not innate or inherent in any human being. Toddlers are free from all such prejudice. They begin to imbibe it only from their elders in the context of their own family and cultural and religious social settings.
Such socially-transmitted mis-learning can be unlearned. Dangerous and limiting ignorance can be replaced by greater knowledge and with it a greater security and goodwill, a greater inner peace and an overflow of friendliness and love based on that personal direct experience of greater inner peace and security. Deeper mental health issues are a somewhat different matter, but negative social bias is something that typically can be overcome, often very easily and quickly, through an effective learning experience, an effective educational process. At least when other, deeper forms of mental illness are not also present. For some individuals, deep-seated socially-learned prejudice requires many years of continued re-education and supportive interpersonal experience and self-disciplined practice. As public educators our work is never done.
Some of you who have written to me in response to this latest massacre have been students in my courses over the years, wishing to thank me again for the gift to you of my teaching. Other readers are simply aware and appreciative of my educational (&/or other personal) activities in fighting ignorance and prejudice. You are all quite welcome. Your kind and loving words to me via this web site and other channels of communication are very much appreciated at this time in particular. As I mentioned above, on this occasion, and so many others like it, time and time again, we are all victims together, we are all grieving together as one human family of peace and goodwill for all other members of our beloved planetary community.
Needless to say, my heart goes out to all those directly harmed and impacted by this latest unspeakable crime against life, against humanity, against our love and concern for each other. Love is stronger than death. It is even stronger than mass murder. It is stronger than hate and fear and ignorance and anger. But that love must be put into action, and when necessary into political action, courageous, unrelenting dedicated political action.
I continue as always to have great hope for much needed improvement in our human family with regard to all these issues. We need to better educate ourselves about each other and about individual and community mental health and mental illness and about war and violence, about peace and love, freedom and equality, mutual security and mutual sharing and assistance. We need to appreciate & celebrate our common humanity together with one another across differences. We need to appreciate & celebrate our beautiful healthy differences within the context of our shared beautiful humanity as a planetary community, as a beloved family.
Let’s do it!
below: Cenk’s initial reactions – one American political news journalist’s personal response:
AND: The Guardian (UK) on American gun violence: 1,000 mass shootings in 1,000 days