Over fifty killed and another fifty injured in a firefight begun, sustained and led by American Islamic extremist Omar Mateen. The young Mateen had been interviewed by the FBI several times. The belief is stated that he did not have ties to foreign Islamist extremists but his family is from Afghanistan and NBC News has reported that the father Seddique Mateen openly lobbies for the Taliban. So perhaps a more nuanced statement about his connections abroad should be made. There seems to be a basic agreement in the family that homosexuals deserve to be put to death although the father does not see it as lawful for people to perform that act of execution — leaving it to God. the CBS link to a relevant story is here and I heard similar reports on other networks. In addition the young man bought weapons very recently. His ex wife brings up the mental illness idea but one has to question what that means, but he does seem to have been a controlling wife-beater to some degree. The gay bar on the other hand seems to have been entirely unprepared for an Islamist attack of a military terrorist nature. perhaps that is incorrect but that is how it seems.
The Americans and visitors to America were attacked this morning by a man who called 911 to pledge support and loyalty to the leader of ISIS. This call to emergency services was made in the wee hours of Sunday morning. The bloody ordeal went on until a final firefight with police sometime after five in the morning. Experience has taught me that not all links will be readable over time and I cannot check them all but a pretty good summary of the event should link here.
My first post on this event came shortly after I woke and was on Facebook. I wrote,
“Taking a moment to acknowledge the deaths of dozens of Americans and other people in America killed while celebrating a Saturday night out. The families and friends affected by this and also the wounded are also in my prayers. It would feel good to say that politics has no place here. It would be comforting to say that real issues related to homosexuality, to the obligation of nightlife to have more security now than in the past, to the views of American Muslims, to the policing of districts where clubs are located, to the disputes about guns and even more disagreeable to the electoral implications of these deaths –to hold that these issues didn’t matter. But all that and more matters.
These are trying times…”
The President of the United States in his initial press conference largely minimized the Islamist nature of this incident. The Press Conference with the White House Press Corps was not his first response however and some of the tweets and actions that came out earlier are mentioned below. Many issues will emerge over time. The effort to respond reasonably will be opposed on all sides directly and indirectly. A reasonable response in my view would examine honestly all the weakness this attack reveals. It would deal not only with the many who have lined up to give blood for the victims but the many who are offended by federal bathroom laws, Gay Pride Parades in front of their children and would prefer not to live near a nightclub like the Pulse. Most of those people would not hesitate to condemn this act and take real measures to prevent it. The gun control debate might include ind reasonably requiring high power assault weapons in a vault near security guards at sites very attractive to known terrorist organizations, might license accountable community militia groups, might acknowledge the fiasco that gun free zones occasion. A reasonable conversation might also realize that people call those with deadly records mentally ill in a way that has almost no definable meaning. But after all the reason was brought to bear then perhaps real restrictions on trading, transporting, storing and using assault weapons could be put in place. When not at the shooting range, at the community armory or in your annually inspected home vault your assault gun might be at risk of seizure and you might risk a fine. I don’t consider this country a safe place not because I expect to be shot today but because the social fabric is constantly being degraded. Few are interested in the hard work of repairing it.
As the names and stories of the dead emerge the understanding of the events will evolve as well. For me their deaths came on an anniversary of another death. Here is a link from the television station on Channel Four in Jacksonville which begins to disclose the names — but this is a step in a long journey. I would have discussed these events with that old friend almost exactly my age. His country and mine have changed and continue to change. But that will not lessen the tensions underlying the many faces of this tragedy. President Obama will continue to behave in a way which will evoke a very belated response from a very limited legitimate opposition press as seen in the New York Post story linked here. The journalist cites Obama as saying that ” We”not Islamic terrorism are at fault for the Orlando massacre. Social networks were abuzz but not as much as after some events. I think that the truth is people are unable to write as freely about the incident because it involved a gay nightclub. They may not like the current LGBT agenda and the may not be crazy in love with Gay nightclub scenes on morning television. They do not know how to deal with these realities without mentioning them if they post their sincere outrage at the attack and sincere condolences. Apparently the club was largely a Hispanic clientele, and had the double empathy issues of current animosity by some towards the LGBT community and by others to the Hispanic community. But fencing things around with so many verbal protocols that one’s critics cannot feel safe to join you in opposing a common enemy seems risky to me. Remember this man drove a distance to kill people indoors. He was not being forced to deal with any particular assault to his religion directly.
My brother, whom I always called my half-brother and whom I did not know until I was in graduate school and who had a separate legal set of parents who adopted him was named Paul. He was a homosexual who died of AIDS and was living with me and my family after falling out of whatever support system the LGBT community in San Francisco had to offer. I called a friend and former fraternity brother in the LGBT AIDS assistance community to get help for him and corresponded with several others and with Paul when he first came there to us and nobody helped. However, my experience with programs helping in this country is that they usually have not responded to any request I made but did do many things I did not think worth doing. Those are painful memories for me. That set of memories does not make me an expert on the pain and loss these families are suffering. I tried to help Paul and we were fairly close at the end but he never even admitted to me that he was gay. It just remained a wide open secret between us. My mother gave him up for adoption before I was born. When I met him he was married to a woman from the Middle East and had a stepson named Jameel. I was married in those days as well. Families and sexuality are both complicated things. Death also comes for us all. But the horror of a mass slaying like this goes beyond death. Nothing can compare to the loss and horror of those personally connected to the tragedy and tragedies like this.. That is true even if like me you do not put a gay bar at the same level as a church or an elementary school. I do not put it at the same level. There is no reason to ask someone like me to make it a shrine. The deaths of their loved ones doubtless make it sacred to the bereaved. But the public nature of the place is otherwise. The issues of hate crimes, terrorism, murder, national security and civic injury ought to be enough to bother all of us — we do not need to have a belief that the space itself was a sacred one. But it was a privileged space. It was a gathering place for people who are different to do things not everyone will like or approve of them doing. It seems that whether one is opposed to the ambitious LGBT agenda or not one could support the idea of a safe, politically conscious place for adults to gather without disturbing neighborhoods. Many in the building would doubtless want to do all kinds of things in my neighborhood I would not like. But as an American I can still see a need for them to protect their basic civil rights even if we disagree about some of the boundaries, a place to congregate and a place to create a cultural of communication and sexual interchange within boundaries they define for themselves as proper which I do not have to witness. Driving a long way to shoot up a gay bar is more than a hate crime it is a small step in the direction of the extermination of gay people. In scale it is trivial but in type it is a kind of sexual act of genocide. It is of course not trivial to those who had a loved one exterminated.
. The families, friends, first responders and others have been traumatized to varying degrees and the wounded of course intensely injured. The President deserves some credit for trying to strike a tone of human compassion and his response is outlined below. White House Tweets at intervals varying from pauses of a couple of minutes or less to pauses of a few hours included attached materials and video summing up the President’s actions and words. There are other accounts involved and the White House retweeted itself and yet one can map out a response from the following principal tweets.
- “In the face of hate and violence, we will love one another. We will not give into fear.” —
- “We stand with the people of
#Orlando who have endured a terrible attack on their city.” — @POTUS
“As Americans, we are united in grief, in outrage, and in resolve to defend our people.” —
@POTUS on #Orlando
@POTUS orders U.S. flags flown at half-staff to honor the victims of the attack in Orlando: http://go.wh.gov/ab6dbt
Attacks on any American—regardless of race, ethnicity, religion, or sexual orientation—is an attack on all of us.
This is an especially heartbreaking day for all our friends—our fellow Americans—who are LGBT
The policy does not seem to reflect an ongoing series of attacks from Radical Islamists. It would make me feel better to focus only on the facts of the massacre as a massacre but terrorism is always political. Here are some of the political victims I can think of so far as the process is being led by the White House. From the point of view of Americans who like Obama was fond of saying “cling to their religion and their guns” this seems to be a chance to expose them to three prongs of pressure. They feel the hostility for Americans from ISIS and the family’s Taliban connections. They feel the hostility from the White House stirring up criticism of all those not fanatic cheerleaders for the LGBT agenda. They feel what they cannot help but believe will be greater tensions from LGBT leadership who follow Obama’s lead in seeing this as a social hate crime and not part of an Islamist Jihad. For the conservative Muslim who wants a better future as a loyal American — this has to be a bad day. For homosexuals and others who are sexually aligned to the LGBT but while they want to have safe nightclubs do not seek a culture war or value its purported triumphs this is a bad day. For Hispanics who see countless ways this incident pushes out the kinds of connections they have spent a lifetime building with others this is also a bad day. For those
Today is the first anniversary of a friend’s death. I am inescapably aware of how the United States we grew up in has become a place where Islamists frequently express themselves by killing people gathering places.
We must pray, vote, think, write and be brave. But I make no claim that the path we are on is a promising one. Nor do I believe positive change is a foregone conclusion. The promise of America has been made simplistic and almost ridiculous in my view but it does have a promise and we can come to understand it. We can face the fact that crises like these play far too large of a role in shaping any national dialog we do have. I just published a post about national conversation and this is the link to it here. I will also mention its title: https://franksummers3ba.com/2016/06/09/presidential-politics-and-the-current-american-mindset/
I have some empathy with those who wish to keep political comments for the future although I do not do so here. I end with a quote from a politically active Facebook friend younger than myself, named Rick Fisher:
I am a conservative republican. I believe a person who is gay has a right to go to a nightclub without fear of being shot, just like everyone else. I believe a person who is Muslim has every right to be in this country, to live and work here just like everyone else. And I believe there is nothing wrong with expressing sympathy and sorrow first for the families of those who lost a live one due to an act of such extreme hatred I cannot comprehend.
Like everyone else I have several thoughts about the horrific tragedy that occurred last night in Orlando. Those thoughts will be shared in due time. But not today. Today we pray for the fillies of the deceased, and for the well-being and recovery of those who survived a battlefield they rightfully didn’t expect to enter.
So where do I get the incentive to do this analysis as I slide into the silent dark perhaps? I get it from the commitments I have made over the years. From those who sought out my advice and published my stuff. From those of you I do not know who still read these posts. I also get it from inside as well. I do not know if I will return to this subject directly but sadly it is a subject that is tied to many others across this blog.