One year ago, today, a gunman opened fire at a popular gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida. It was determined that 29-year-old Omar Mateen of Port Saint Lucie, Florida opened fire at the Pulse nightclub around 2:00 a.m.
Afterwards he left the club and exchanged shots with a policeman outside. Then Mateen went back in and took hostages. A SWAT team entered the club at 5:00 a.m. to rescue the hostages. This ended up as a shootout that eventually resulted in the death of Mateen.
When the violence finally concluded, 50 people, including the perpetrator died and another 53 were seriously wounded. The Federal Bureau of Investigation labeled the attack as an act of terrorism.
Investigators had earlier looked into supposed ties that Mateen may have had with an American suicide bomber. The FBI closed that investigation when they determined contact between the two men was minimal and that Mateen did not pose an actual threat at that time. Mateen, an American born, New York native had purchased a handgun and a long gun within a week of the Pulse massacre.
In the aftermath of the attack, there was plenty of Monday morning armchair quarterback commentary. Much of it centered on preventing or minimizing injuries and deaths in such attacks. When all is said and done there is little that anyone can do against a person who has planned and is determined to commit a violent crime. Attacks happen where people do not ever expect danger.
Even if some of the people in a venue like the Pulse nightclub had been armed, nobody knows if fewer or greater numbers of people would have been killed. Besides that, people don’t go out for a night on the town to relax and have fun and carry guns while doing so. The mix is just wrong.
If Omar Mateen’s purpose had been to create an atmosphere of terror in the LGBT community, he succeeded for a little while. We are a community of people who are accustomed to threats, bullying, and overt violence, so the emotion of terror soon morphed into a community-wide feeling of solidarity.
In recent history, there have been several acts of hate motivated attacks on our gathering places in the US. We can go back to June 24, 1973 when an arsonist set fire to the “Upstairs Lounge” in New Orleans’ French quarter. 32 people lost their lives in that incident.
On February 21, 1997, Eric Rudolph set off a nail-laden explosive at the “Otherside Lounge” an LGBT venue in Atlanta Georgia. Five people were wounded. Rudolph said he was striking back at a society that allows homosexuality.
Among the other serious attacks was one that took place on New Year’s Eve of 2013. Musab Masmari poured gasoline in a stairway at a gay nightclub in Seattle, Washington during a celebration where some 750 party goers were bringing in the next year. Fortunately, the fire was quickly extinguished and nobody was harmed. Masamari confided that he did it because he believed “what these people are doing is wrong”. He was later sentenced to ten-years in federal prison.
The thing that people who think they can act as judge, jury, and executioner of those they don’t like, is that violence against a community galvanizes the targeted community. The world does not view terrorists as heroes, or martyrs for some perceived moral cause. The world rightly sees them as criminals.
Our community and most of the world at large, sees the mass shooting at Orlando as a terrible crime. This is how we also see the oppression and deadly violence in such places as Uganda, Nigeria, Indonesia, and Chechnya as homophobic criminal activity.
Hateful, dogmatic people will exist in society into the forseeable future. They must learn that they will not prevail in the end. Love and compassion will overcome the evil they espouse.
The Blue Jay of Happiness quotes the writer and poet Aberjhani. “There is nothing sane, merciful, heroic, devout, redemptive, wise, holy, loving, peaceful, joyous, righteous, gracious, remotely spiritual, or worthy of praise where mass murder is concerned. We have been in this world long enough to know that by now and to understand that nonviolent conflict resolution informed by mutual compassion is the far better option.”