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Of Mass Shootings, Mobs, Media, and Piety
Waking up to overcast skies, pouring rain, thunder and lightning would have made me very happy if it wasn’t for the horrific news coming in over the satellite channels. A gunman in Orlando, Florida walked into a gay night club called Pulse yesterday and opened fire with automatic assault weapons, leaving (as of this morning) 50 dead and at least that many injured – some of them critically.
While I shake in my bones and try to prevent myself from weeping, reactions around the world – in the media, online and off, and on social networking platforms like Facebook are following the expected set pattern. The shooter – dead from SWAT fire – was one Omar Mateen, a 29 year old New York born Muslim of Afghan descent. He called 911 just before he started shooting and claimed allegiance to ISIS/DAESH.
As expected, all the real issues are becoming sidelined, and the entire thing has been reduced to “Islamic terrorism”. So, now two camps will form – online and off – amongst people I know. One camp will, justifiably try to prevent the conversation devolving into Islamophobia. And the other group (the more right leaning one) will try to tell everyone who will listen how Islam is the cause for all the world’s problems. Knowing how this will go, the gunman’s family – his father and his ex wife – are already talking about his anger issues, his history of personal violence, his hateful nature.
What I am seeing is something else. I see Hate crimes, I see uncontrolled arms and ammunitions in the hand of anyone and everyone, I see mob mentality and religious indoctrination, I see increasing hate and bigotry. And this is not one single incident. Let’s think about it for a minute. Taking the current media narrative at face value, this is the worst mass shooting in US history, where a clearly “not normal” man has killed 50 (possibly more if any of the injured die), and injured 53. He has shattered so many lives in just a couple of hours. What are the dynamics here? There is a hater, and a marginalized, much maligned, much demonized community that ALL religions (yes all) see as unnatural and sinful. So, to begin with this is an indoctrination inspired hate crime against a very specific community. Indoctrination not of “Islam” as it will e played out in some arenas, but of any organized religion on the planet.
Baptists churches are coming out celebrating the shooting with messages like “God sent the shooter” – never mind that he belongs to that hated community of Moslems who themselves are assumed to be terrorists by default, never mind that he may have had ties to, or at least owed allegiance to that devil the ISIS. There are hundreds of thousands of people celebrating in tweets how someone is finally “killing the perverts instead of innocent people”. Closer to home, I can easily think of many, many people who feel the same way. When the Paris attacks happened, or the Charlie Hebdo attack, social media was a mass of “je suis” and French tricolor display pictures. Not so this time.
I can count – easily – how many people are showing any kind of sadness, support, and solidarity. These are all the usual suspects – out LGBT people, some left leaning, rights based activists, allies, people who identify and pride themselves on being seen as progressive and iconoclastic. The rest, all those people with red white and blue display pics so recently, prefer to ignore the issue – after all it was only a few “gays” who died. Showing solidarity with something like this might be such a problem. What will people think, it’s an uncomfortable issue, my religious beliefs say it’s a sin anyway, it is unnatural, etc etc. Hate crimes are not just shootings.
And then there are the ones secretly or not so secretly glad. And this includes all the religious fundamentalists of ALL religions. This includes pious people who don’t see themselves as dangerous fundamentalists but still believe they have the right to judge and marginalize and hate people because some invisible divine being tells them to. This includes the Christian bombers of abortion clinics, the Christian anti LGBT groups, the Hindu cow brigade, the anti decriminalization of IPC 377 brigade, the Imams, the Nations and peoples killing and imprisoning and torturing people for alternative sexual and gender identities, the moral police, the khaps, my neighbours, relatives, what have you. The common denominator is RELIGION.
Not A religion, not some specific “terrorist” faith that is the demon of choice for all the violence in world today, but ALL organized religions. EVERY SINGLE systematic, organized, perpetuated religion on the planet indoctrinates hate, indoctrinates bigotry, indoctrinates US versus THEM, indoctrinates punishment and hellfire for THEM, oppresses, creates sick, distorted, angry, disturbed minds. Add to that the ease of access to automatic weapons, and it is a miracle there isn’t one mass shooting a day. Sure, guns don’t kill people, people kill people, but if this guy had a knife, instead of an automatic weapon, think of the difference in the headlines. If this angry, behaviourally problematic guy prone to violence had not been told all his life – by his god/clergy/religion (insert the name of ANY religion here) – that gay is wrong and gay people are sinners fit only for hell, think of the difference in the headlines.
No, this is not an issue of Islam. It is an issue of religion, guns, and hate crimes. It is an issue of religion fostered mob mentalities; it is an issue of the biased coverage of media; it is an issue of people incapable of seeing human beings and human tragedy without the lens of “them” getting in the way; it is an issue of how piety screws up basic human values; it is an issue of how human beings are anything but humane.