Tag Archives: hate crime

Five years after the Pulse massacre, what can we do?

49 people were murdered that night. Don’t forget them! https://people.com/crime/orlando-pulse-shooting-tributes-to-49-victims/

Mayor Dyer: Honor Pulse victims by making Orlando more inclusive

Biden Marks Pulse Anniversary: We Must Acknowledge Gun Violence’s Particular Impact On LGBTQ Community

Joe.My.God – My Pulse Memory: Their Phones Kept Ringing

Pulse Shooting Survivor Brandon Wolf on the Meaning of June 12

It’s the fifth anniversary of the worst mass killing of queer people in U.S. history. Before the 49 victims of the Pulse massacre, the worst single event had been the UpStairs Lounge arson attack on June 24, 1973 in New Orleans.

I see that certain news sites and deplorables are once again trying to push the narrative that this event not was a hate crime directed against queer people. I explained why they are wrong last year: Four years after the Pulse massacre and don’t feel the need to re-hash everything, other than to point out the the shooter’s own father was one of the people who thought the club had been picked because of how much his son hated queer people and that his son had ranted a lot the week before the shooting about how marriage equality was proof that American culture had embraced evil.

On this night five years ago, a lot of people were at Pulse celebrating Latinx Night as one of several Pride Month activities at the bar. They went out to have fun, to dance, to be with other queer people. To celebrate life. To celebrate Pride. To celebrate the concept that love is love.

Forty-nine of them never came home that night. I don’t personally know any of them, but when I am reminded of that night, I cry just as hard as a did when I was first reading news reports of the even the next morning. Because queer people are my tribe. Queer people are my community.

And the biggest fear I have had since realizing I was gay, is that some day a hater is going to kill me or someone I love because we’re queer.

Four years later, the Pulse massacre is still a gut punch.

Monday Update 12/30/2019: Racist loudmouths, racist enablers, and acts of terror

“If Jesus showed up and ran for president in 2020 on the platform that human empathy and compassion is more important than personal wealth, do you think Trump supporters would call him a libtard to his face or just behind his back?” — @littledeekay
“If Jesus showed up and ran for president in 2020 on the platform that human empathy and compassion is more important than personal wealth, do you think Trump supporters would call him a libtard to his face or just behind his back?” — @littledeekay
I had a very busy but very productive Saturday and Sunday. Not all of the household chores I wanted to get to before the end of my vacation got done… but I have a couple more days left. Because I had errands to run in several parts of the region and was driving around a lot, I didn’t have time to do a Weekend Update. And there were a few stories that either broke after I posted this week’s Friday Five or were new developments in stories previously included in a Friday Five or Weekend Update. And I have more than a few words to say about them.

Let’s jump in: I have earlier linked to stories about how Christianity Today, a conservative evangelical publication originally founded by Billy Graham had called for removing Trump from office because of his immoral policies. This led to a lot of other evangelical leaders to chime in to defend Trump. But it has also led a few more to come out and agree with Christianity today: Ex-editor of Christian publication says he had ‘no other choice’ but to quit after pro-Trump editorial.

WATCH: Trump-evangelicals split discussed by Rev. Dr. William Barber. This is a short clip from MSNBC in which Reverend Barber makes that point that the evangelical support for Trump and his racist, anti-worker, anti-immigrant, and pro-wealth policies have never been universal. He focuses primarily on the moneyed interests vs. the poor and struggling, but that’s not the whole issue.

Christianity Today’s split with Trump highlights deeper issue in white evangelical America. This article hits at several of the disputes going on among people who identify as evangelical Christian or were raises in those communities have been engaged in. A lot of younger people raised in those churches are turned off by their elders’ involvement in rightwing politics. They see those politics as violations of Jesus’ teachings about taking care of the poor, loving your neighbors and enemies alike, welcoming strangers, and so forth. The increased focus on anti-gay policies and anti-gay activisim has accellerated that attrition. As the article points out, we have at least one generation who has grown up with queer classmates and friends, or children of queer parents who no longer see queer people as abominations.

People are leaving those churches. The percentage of the U.S. who identify as evangelical as gone down. In 2006, white evangelical Christians made up 23% of the U.S. population, now they make up only 15%. However, a weird thing has been going on electorally in that same period. The percentage of voters who identified as white and evangelical made up about 23% of the electorate in 2006. By 2018 that had grown to 26%. What’s happening is that they have become more energized and determined to show up and vote. Often more energized than other segments of the population.

Evangelicals need to follow Christianity’s morals, not Trump’s. The headline is very true. But you know how else the headline could have been worded and it would be just as true for the last few decades? “Evangelicals need to follow Christianity’s morals, not the Republican Party’s.” And do not try to make a both sides argument on this. One party wants to fight poverty, take care of the sick (make sure people don’t die of preventable diseases), welcome immigrants, and other things which the Bible literally commands Christians to do, and the other party wants to do the exact opposite.

Moving on: 5 people stabbed at Hanukkah party in Rabbi’s home and Cuomo calls machete attack during Hanukkah celebration an ‘act of terrorism’ as other politicians react. Hate crimes are inherently terror attacks. The point is never just to wound or kill the person attacked, or if it’s a property crime to destroy the church/flag/religious symbol/et cetera. The purpose is to remind all members of the targeting group that they are not safe, that they are vulnerable to this sort of attack at any time. In other words, the point is to inspire fear in the targeted group (and often other minorities who are perceived to be allied or otherwise related). And what is terror? Why, it’s the state of extremely frightened or terrified.

There have been a lot of anti-semetic attacks in New York recently, and hate crimes of nearly every type have been on the rise since Trump was elected. It’s not just Trump, of course, but racists and other bigots felt empowered when he was elected. And why shouldn’t they? He keeps referring to them as very fine people?

Finally: The following news absolutely does not belong in the In Memoriam section of the next Friday Five, because this guy should not be memorialized: Foul-Mouthed Radio Host Don Imus Dead at 79 and Don Imus, Racist Radio Show Host, Dead At 79 – Imus was fired from CBS in 2007 after he referred to members of the Rutgers women’s basketball team as “nappy-headed hos” (among other slurs).

It took me a while to find articles with headlines that didn’t refer to him as a “controversial radio personality.” A controversy is a dispute or debate about a matter of opinion. It’s when two or more rival claims exist about a subject, each of which have reasonably equal arguments in their favor.

Being a foul-mouthed racist isn’t controversial, it’s vulgar, ignorant, and deplorable.

There are people who will jump on me and say we should not speak ill of the dead. They are incorrect. The original proverb people always misquote is Greek proverb is more correctly translated, “Of the dead, speak nothing but truth.” Don’t tell lies about the dead is what the admonishment means. And yeah, if you happen to be having a personal conversation with a grieving family member of a deplorable person who has recently died, it is rude to list off all of their relative’s flaws.

But public reporting about a public figure is a different matter. And Imus was racist, anti-semetic, and mispgynist. He used callous, mean, and intentionally offensive terminology to refer to many sorts of people. He sexually harassed many women employed in the stations where we worked. He pulled out his gun several times in the studio to threaten people who were on his show when they disagreed with him.

He wasn’t controversial, he was morally repugnant. And that’s more than enough time spent talking about him.

Weekend Update 7/13/2019: Powerful men sometimes face consequences, but what happened at New Republic?

This is a picture for the day Acosta was sworn in as Labor Secretary. Note the identical haircuts and dresses of the daughters (who are NOT twins) not to mention Mom’s clothes. Why does this picture make me think of the kind of super-strict “christian” family with dark secrets?
It’s Saturday morning and time for a news update. Once again, there have been some news stories that broke after I composed this week’s Friday Five upon which I don’t want to wait until next Friday to comment. And one of them is a doozy! So, let’s get to it!

First: Trump Labor chief Alex Acosta resigns due to Jeffrey Epstein case. I wish I’d posted on line on Thursday what I said to my husband when I saw a news stories in which Trump was reported to have said that there was “zero chance” he would fire Acosta over these allegations. Because the moment I read that I thought, “he’s going to be out by the end of the week!” In case you don’t know what this is about, a week ago Trump pal Jeffrey Epstein arrested for sex trafficking dozens of minors and Fund manager Jeffrey Epstein was charged with sex trafficking and conspiracy, accused by US prosecutors of paying girls as young as 14 for sex and using them to recruit others from 2002 to 2005. And not just trafficking: Wealthy financier charged with molesting dozens of girls under the age of 18.

“Prosecutors said the evidence against Epstein included a “vast trove” of hundreds or even thousands of lewd photographs of young women or girls, discovered in a weekend search of his New York City mansion. Authorities also found papers and phone records corroborating the alleged crimes, and a massage room still set up the way accusers said it appeared, prosecutors said.”

How does this involve Trump’s Labor Secretary? Well, 12 years ago Acosta was a U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Florida, and mega-rich Epstein was under investigation for very similar charges involving molesting 36 young girls. Acosta stepped in a negotiated a plea deal where Epstein plead guilty to two minor prostitution charges, and would be required to register as a sex offender. Immunity from prosecution was granted on all of the other charges for Epstein, four named co-conspirators, and “unnamed potential co-conspirators.” People have been criticising that deal for years, particularly as it was pointed out that around the same time, Acosta prosecuted much less high-profile defendants on similar charges and got much more serious prison time for them.

Acosta had a press conference earlier this week in which he argued that the case hadn’t been strong enough to win, and besides, state authorities were really to blame. Those officials had something to say: ‘Abhorrent’ and ‘Completely Wrong’: Former Florida Officials Push Back Against Acosta’s Account of Epstein Case.

Some conservative sites are arguing that the new case isn’t prosecutable because of the deal. There are a few problems with that. The original deal only covered the 36 victims mentioned in the deal, for one, and More than 12 new Jeffrey Epstein accusers come forward. So none of these cases would be covered by the prosecutorial immunity. Also, one of the conditions of the deal was not just the Epstein would register as a sex offender, but that as a sex offender he would report his movement to authorities: NYPD let convicted pedophile Jeffrey Epstein skip judge-ordered check-ins (when you’re rich, you can get away with anything). Which doesn’t automatically mean the deal is voided, but a judge can set aside such a deal on those grounds.

Also, the original plea agreement was approved by a judge (as all have to be), and at that hearing it is traditional that victims of the alleged crimes are given a chance to address the court concerning the deal. At the time, only a few of the victims did so, and Acosta’s office told the court that all of the other victims declined to comment. Several of those victims insist that they were not consulted and not given an opportunity to speak, and a Florida judge ruled earlier this year that the non-prosecution agreement violated the Crime Victims’ Rights Act because at least some witnesses were never consulted or informed that it had happened. The federal court where Epstein is currently being tried doesn’t have to abide by the state court’s ruling, but it can take it into account.

So, Acosta resigned yesterday. Good riddance. Though I don’t think that simply resigning and then retiring to a cushy consulting job in the vast alt-right media-and-consulting ecosystem is adequate punishment: How Alex Acosta Got Away With It for So Long – The only way the labor secretary could give Jeffrey Epstein that 2008 plea deal is by ignoring victims.

Every now and then, someone likes to accuse me of only going after bad behavior on one end of the political spectrum. Yesterday evening was an example of the other direction: The New Republic removes op-ed attack on Buttigieg; admits it was ‘inappropriate and invasive’. Yesterday, the New Republic, which is generally considered to be a left-leaning publication, published a op-ed by an out gay writer entitled, “My Mayor Pete Problem.” I saw lots of people commenting on it throughout the day, but didn’t get a chance to go read it until the evening.

It was special.

It literally read (and I said so on line before it was pulled) like a drunken rant you would hear in a gay bar in which someone was critiquing a gay politician and blending opinions about the politician’s personal life choice, speculation about his habits in bed, along with poorly sourced comments on the politicians actual policy positions. Since the essay has been taken down (and a rather lame editorial apology posted), you can’t go read it for yourself. But don’t take my word for it:

In the hard-to-believe essay, Peck repeatedly referred to the also openly gay Buttigieg as “Mary Pete.” …Among the many gratuitous personal insults to the mayor, Peck also compares him to a 15-year-old boy who’s wondering if he should sleep with a 50-year-old man, and speculates about Buttigieg’s sexual preferences in bed — in terms that are not appropriate to repeat in this publication.
—The New York Daily News

Beside the fact that this vulgar hit piece was represented as political commentary (and then after the firestorm of criticism, the editors pivoted to claiming it was satire), the other crime it committed is that it forced me to agree with the arch-conservative wingnuts at the Washington Examiner: Nasty, horribly written New Republic op-ed attacks Mayor Pete as the gay Uncle Tom (Note, this is a donotlink.it link).

When the same publication that frequently insists that IQ is hereditary which therefore justifies some of their racist editorials recognizes that something you’ve published is homophobic, you have really screwed up!

Someone at the New Republic needs to get fired over this.

And here are a collection of awful headlines that I want to clear out and not even think about for next Friday:

Florida principal wrong to equivocate on Nazi Germany atrocities – The Holocaust happened. Period. End of story. At least he was fired.

A Detroit man is facing a first-degree murder charge after allegedly using Grindr to track down gay people and shoot them. Arrested.

Feds Bust Christian Missionary For Molesting Orphans. Arrested. Please, oh please don’t let anyone like Acosta near this case!

Finally, while I don’t feel right trying to end this on a positive note, I will end it with just a bit of schadenfreude:

Anti-Gay Former GOP Rep. William Dannemeyer Dies At 89, Called For Firing And Quarantining People With HIV. When he was still in congress he claimed that queer men infected with HIV “emitted spores” that could infect pregnant women—and that was hardly the craziest thing he ever said. Anyway, here’s hoping his soul is mounted on a nice rotisserie in hell.

One guy cried wolf—it doesn’t mean that wolves don’t exist

(click to embiggen)
I don’t want this story to take over tomorrow’s Friday Five, and I have a bit to say about the Smollett story. Joe Jervis, who runs the Joe.My.God blog, has stated many times his policy that he doesn’t link to reports about hate crimes unless one of three conditions have been met: 1) there has been an arrest of a suspected perpetrator, 2) there is video of at least part of the crime available, 3) there are uninvolved eyewitness accounts. In the years since articulating the criteria, he has made exceptions to the rule only when the national mainstream media was reporting it. Which everyone was shortly after actor and singer Jussie Smollett first reported being attacked by two men three weeks ago.

My first take when I saw the story being shared on twitter was, “I guess he isn’t famous enough to have an entourage with him all the time…” And because the same people who were insistent that Brett Kavanaugh was the victim in his Senate confirmation hearings were immediately claiming it was a hoax, I thought, “I need more details, but I think this falls under the ‘believe victims until proven otherwise’ rule.”

When I found a story with details, I have to admit I was a little bit confused. I had assumed from the initial headlines, that he must have been out at a known gay nightclub, maybe on his way to his car or something. I mean, I know who he is because I watched the first few seasons of Empire and was happy they had more than one queer character in the cast, but I didn’t think that he was famous enough that the typical white Trump-supporting Fox-news-watching bigot would know who he was. Right? I mean, yeah, if guys like that saw men coming out of a gay club they might harass them, and maybe a black dude would be more likely to draw their attention, but I don’t imagine many MAGA-hat-wearing white guys are familiar with the secondary cast of a prime time melodrama that is entirely about an African-American family who own a hip hop recording studio, you know?

However… the story was linked on the Joe.My.God blog, and I knew about Joe’s policy. I had also read a story where a spokesman for the Chicago police denied that they were considering this a hoax. So I included a link in that week’s Friday Five and waited to see if there were more developments.

And, boy have there been developments! Jussie Smollett paid $3,500 to stage his attack, hoping to promote his career, Chicago police allege.

Now, I still believe that on a personal basis, ‘believe victims’ when the report these things is a good rule of thumb. Statistics indicate that less than 2% of reports of this kind of assault are later proved to be fake. Yet, the vast majority of victims who do come forward are disbelieved and often harassed and threatened for doing so.

The biggest tragedy of this is not, as some people are trying to conclude, that people in MAGA hats are being unfairly harangued. The tragedy is that this case will be held up as reason to disbelieve and impede investigations into real hate crimes. Not all hate crimes managed to get caught in viral videos, like the recent assault in Salt Lake City: Salt Lake City Police Seek Help Identifying Man Filmed In Assault After Asking If Victim Is Gay.

This is especially troubling now. Between 2006 and 2016 there had been a steady decline in hate crimes in America. There was a sudden surge right after election day 2016. The FBI described 2017’s figures as a “significant jump” over the previous year, and all indications are that 2018 continued the trend. So moving forward there will likely be more victims of real hate crimes, but people will be more skeptical of any reported hate crimes.

There’s another aspect about this that bothers me. Smollett is being charged with a felony for falsely reporting the crime and wasting police resources. But I want to know why Pool Patrol Paul wasn’t charged for falsely reporting a black family was trespassing? Why wasn’t BBQ Becky charge with making a false report when she called police on a black family using a public park? Or Golf Cart Gail, or that Starbucks manager, or the Nordstrom manager, and many, many other white people who called the cops claiming a black person had committed a crime when no crime had happened? I mean, sure the unrelated Pool Patrol Paula faced criminal charges–but she was filmed assaulting one of the black teen-agers she chased from her community’s pool and the assaulted the cops that came to question her.

But all those other white people last year made false reports to the police—but oddly, none of them were arrested and forced to put up bail.

Smollett seems to be the boy who cried wolf. And yes, he should face consequences for what he did. But there is an important part of the story of The Boy Who Cried Wolf that few people think about. He keeps yelling that wolves are attacking the town flock when the aren’t, because he enjoys seeing everyone come running. In the original Greek version of the fable, when the townsfolk stop believing the boy, the wolves show up and eat all the sheep with impunity. This doesn’t just hurt the boy, it hurts the entire village, as the sheep were part of the villager’s livelihood. The moral of the fable isn’t the wolves don’t exist.

Similarly, it isn’t just Smollett that is facing consequences. Unfortunately, any other person of color or queer person who is a victim of hate crimes going forward is going to find that they’re painted with the same hoax brush.

Orlando Pulse Shooting must be remembered for the anti-queer hate crime that it was

Photo by Monivette Cordeiro, Orlando Weekly.
Photo by Monivette Cordeiro, Orlando Weekly.
Nine months ago today an angry man walked into Pulse, a queer nightclub in Orlando, and murdered 49 people. According to the FBI and his own family, during the weeks and months leading up to the attack, he had become more noticeably outraged every time he saw gay men in public together. He plotted the crime carefully. He set up fake profiles on gay hook-up apps and used conversations there to find out which night clubs would have the biggest crowd. It was a carefully crafted anti-queer hate crime.

A crime that is still being prosecuted: Orlando Nightclub Shooter’s Widow Is Denied Release On Bail.

I’ve written before about why this particular crime hit so hard for queer people in general, and me in particular. I’ve also written about why it is unacceptable to argue there is nothing that we can do about this kind of crime: They used to insist that drunk driving couldn’t be reduced, either. I’ve also written about why we shouldn’t ignore the anti-LGBT hate crime aspect of this act of terror, and why the people who do so are perpetuating and enabling the hate that caused it.

And I’m not the only one: Call the Orlando shooting what it was: a homophobic hate crime, not ‘an attack on us all’.

I didn’t let myself write about the shooting on the 7th- or 8th-month’s mind1 date of the shooting because the lingering depression from election night made it too easy for me to leap into slathering rages over things. I had a very difficult time writing a post at the 6-month mark because of it. But there are reasons we shouldn’t forget: Gov. Rick Scott Honored Pulse But Never Mentioned LGBT People – Florida’s governor described the shooting as terrorism and never noted it targeted queer people.

I’ve gotten into the spiral of argument with some people that all hate crimes are crimes intended to cause terror, so it is technically correct to call it a terrorist act. And while that is true, it sidesteps the issue of just who was the crime intended to terrorize? We know that the gunman was targeting queer men. We know that because of all the angry outraged rants his family and colleagues have revealed during questioning. We know because he told his wife that he wanted to kill fags (she knew what he was planning, which is why she’s under arrest). We know because of the conversations he had on hookup apps where he would engage in conversation with gay men and ask which clubs were the hottest—where can he go to find the biggest crowds, the most popular places for gay men to have a good time?

He did not commit this crime to terrorize straight Americans. He was out to kill as many queer men as he could, and to put the fear of death into all queer people not to be out. That’s the point of this crime: to make queer people hide, go back into the closet, stop being out and open and unashamed of who we love. And if you don’t refer to this crime as an anti-queer or anti-gay or anti-LGBT crime, then you are doing exactly what the gunman wanted: you are erasing us from public life and discourse.

And if you get insistent and defensive about failing to mention that it was a anti-queer crime? That tells us, beyond any shadow of a doubt, that on some level, you agree with the gunman.

That’s not me calling you a bigot. That’s you being a bigot.

If you don’t like to think of yourself as a bigot, then you need to do something about that. A really good first step is to admit that being uncomfortable denouncing a crime as an anti-queer/anti-gay/anti-lesbian/anti-LGBT/anti-trans crime is a symptom of some level of prejudice. Which you need to let go of. Start calling this shooting what it was: a hate crime aimed at the LGBT community.

Victims killed in Pulse in Orlando this last weekend.
Victims killed in Pulse in Orlando June 6, 2016. (Click to embiggen) (Facebook/AP/Reuters/Rex)
Yes, 49 people were killed in Orlando that night. 49 queer Americans were gunned down. 49 queer people who just wanted to be out and happy and not have to hide who they were instead were murdered. 49 queer people were murdered by a man who was outraged at the idea of two men kissing in public. Remember them. Don’t erase their identities. Don’t erase their killer’s anti-gay hatred. Don’t ignore the toxic homophobia the pervades American society and fed the gunman’s hatred. Don’t help the killer erase us. Don’t.


1. “Month’s mind” a practice in some traditions where family and friends gather about a month after someone’s death to celebrate that person’s life2.

2. Yes, I’m pedantic enough that I don’t like using the word “anniversary” to refer to periods of time of less than a year. I know people have been doing it verbally since at least the 1960s, and in writing since the 1980s, and I’m not normally a staunch prescriptionist regarding dictionary definitions, but this one still bugs me a little. Most of the terms that have been proposed to substitute (mensiversary, lunaversay, and uncianniversary) for this monthly commemorations strike me as silly. But knowing that there is an older, if obscure liturgical term, that I can pronounce it easily, I’m going to give it a try.

Six months out, Pulse shooting still hurts

“Every time you let a homophobic or transphobic joke or slur pass, you tell the speaker that you condone their speech, and you help perpetuate a culture in which hatred of LGBTQIA people is acceptable and in which violence against LGBTQIA people is inevitable.” — MakeMeASammich.Org
“Every time you let a homophobic or transphobic joke or slur pass, you tell the speaker that you condone their speech, and you help perpetuate a culture in which hatred of LGBTQIA people is acceptable and in which violence against LGBTQIA people is inevitable. ” — MakeMeASammich.Org
Six months ago today an angry man walked into Pulse, a queer nightclub in Orlando, and murdered 49 people. According to the FBI and his own family, during the weeks and months leading up to the attack, he had become more noticeably outraged every time he saw gay men in public together. He plotted the crime carefully. He set up fake profiles on gay hook-up apps and used conversations there to find out which night clubs would have the biggest crowd. It was a carefully crafted anti-queer hate crime.

49 Pulse victims remembered in Orlando 6 months after massacre.

A moment of silence at 2:02 a.m., the exact time the gunman started shooting inside the gay nightclub.

I’ve written before about why this particular crime hits so hard for queer people in general, and me in particular. I’ve also written about why we shouldn’t ignore the hate crime aspect of this act of terror, and why the people who do so are perpetuating and enabling the hate that caused it. I’ve also written about why it is unacceptable to argue there is nothing that we can do about this kind of crime: They used to insist that drunk driving couldn’t be reduced, either.

All of those things are still true. And with hate crimes on the rise since November 8, even more heart wrenching.

Please take to heart the words in the graphic I included at the top of this post: “Every time you let a homophobic or transphobic joke or slur pass, you tell the speaker that you condone their speech, and you help perpetuate a culture in which hatred of LGBTQIA people is acceptable and in which violence against LGBTQIA people is inevitable.” That’s not an exaggeration. If our very existence is nothing more than a joke, that implies our lives and deaths don’t matter. Those attacks and dismissals perpetuate the lie that we deserve pain and suffering. They perpetuate the lie that we shouldn’t exist. They perpetuate the lie that our love isn’t real.

And all of those lies add up to one message that some angry people are all too ready to take to heart: that beating us, shooting us, and killing us isn’t really a crime.

Five months later, Pulse shooting still a gut punch

“Our hearts are broken, but our pulse is strong.”
“Our hearts are broken, but our pulse is strong.”
Five months ago, an angry homophobe walked into an Orlando, Florida gay night club and murdered 49 people, wounding 53 more. It was a Saturday night during Queer Pride month, and it was specifically Latinx Night at that club. It was a planned hate crime. According to the FBI’s reconstruction (and the testimony of the killer’s father), the homophobic killer had decided to buy an assault rifle to kill as many queers as he could after seeing two men kissing in public. In the days before the massacre, the killer had staked out the location several times. He picked the target by setting up a fake profile on a gay hook-up app, chatting up men, and asking them what the busiest clubs were (he never met up with any of the men). Then yesterday, just before the five-month anniversary of the massacre: Newly Released Police Body Cam Video of Orlando Shooting.

Five months later, thinking about the shooting still feels like a punch in my gut. I’m a queer man who has been out of the closet for a quarter of a century. But I grew up in redneck communities during the 60s and 70s. Any time I am out in public with my husband and we show any affection, I experience a moment of fear. I check to see who is around. I am never able to be completely in the moment because a part of me is staying alert to any and all strangers around us and preparing in case they react badly. It’s a dread calculation I find myself making whenever we are out, even with friends: is it all right if I call him “honey,” or will we get harassed? Can I safely say, “I love you,” or will we get threatened?

And it isn’t just me being paranoid. There was a specific incident years ago when my husband was threatened with violence after we exchanged a quick kiss when I dropped him off at a bus stop, for instance. There have been numerous incidents throughout my life where strangers called out slurs and made threats because I was a guy wearing earrings, or purple, or sometimes I don’t know how the person decided I was a faggot, but they did.

For the last few years before this my level of dread had decreased, just a little bit. It was still there, just not quite as bad. Especially when we were in familiar places.

And then the Pulse shooting happened. It is a reminder that even our queer places aren’t safe. And the reaction afterward, as people tried to say that it wasn’t an anti-gay crime. The very same people who have been fighting to take away what rights we have trying to erase the evidence of the anti-gay motives of the killer—to try to say we weren’t targeted because of who we love—reminded me that plenty of people who don’t think of themselves as homophobic are more than willing to ignore blatant crimes against us if it suits them.

When a couple of people who I had long thought were friends were angry at me for being angry, that also reminded me that I can’t always know who will have our back.

So I’m not getting over it. I have absolutely no intention to get over it. If you tell me I should get over it, that just means you either don’t understand how real the threat to queer people remains, or you don’t care.

It took me a while to find the link to the story that didn’t include the actual video on auto-play. The first link, up at the top of this post is that link. They have some pictures, and a link to the video, but no video. Most of the other stories include the video. Like this one: Warning! The following link to the Orlando Sentinel includes some of the actual body cam footage and it plays automatically: Deputies release body cam footage from inside Pulse.

And seeing those threatening letters and such being given to gay and lesbian couples from Trump supporters telling them that they’re going to burn in hell and worse? Yeah, that isn’t helping, either.

They used to insist that drunk driving couldn’t be reduced, either

BryanFuller_2016-Jun-12It didn’t take long after people started reacting on social media to the news the at least 50 people were killed in an Orlando, Florida gay nightclub (and at least 53 were seriously injured) by a lone gunman before the arguing started. I made the mistake of sharing a comment about one very specific gun law that actually would have applied to this gunman’s purchase of the weapons used in the crime just a week or so ago, and commenting about who blocked the bill. And I was immediately accused of calling for the total ban of all guns everywhere, and reminded how badly prohibition worked with alcohol and drugs.

It’s a common argument. There are some problems with it. And those problems are most easily illustrated by looking at the topic of drunk driving. See, I’m old enough to remember when people actually argued that nothing at all could be done to reduce the number of deaths due to drunk driving. People have a fundamental right to imbibe alcohol, it was argued. People will find a way to get alcohol, look what happened during prohibition! The only person at fault is the “nut behind the wheel,” it was asserted, and no law is going to deter an irresponsible person! Just as no law or policy or other external force could prevent stupidity.

Editorials were written making the argument that while the traffic fatalities that resulted from the misuse of alcohol were tragic, no meaningful solution could be enacted—certainly not through the law!

I know, because I wrote one or two such editorials.

The first scientific paper drawing a connection between alcohol use and motor vehicle collisions was published way back in 1904 (it’s a little weird to realize that automobiles have been around that long). A much more rigorous study conducted in Sweden in 1932 is generally regarded as the first to definitively show that alcohol impaired drivers were more likely to have accidents leading to significant property damage, injury, or death than sober ones. But even as more studies piled up, the “nut behind the wheel” argument still prevented anything more than token laws that in many states treated driving while intoxicated about as severely as failure to use a turn signal.

In the mid-sixties several events managed to crack the public’s obstinance enough to recognize that automotive design and road design also significantly contributed to traffic fatalities. Congress created the National Highway Safety Bureau (later renamed the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration) and gave it the mission to research the causes of highway fatalities and recommend solutions. Most of Congress and the public expected the Bureau only to bring back recommendations for safety regulations of the vehicles and roads, but the science made it clear that more would be required.

During the 70s, due to recommendations from the Bureau, a series of regulations were enacted improving both the safety of the cars and the roads. There was also a concerted effort to educate the public on two areas: seat belt use, and not driving after drinking. Various studies later found that the education campaigns alone didn’t have much effect. The improvements in vehicle construction and changes to road design did not reduce the number of fatalities annually, though the rate of fatalities as a percentage of total number of miles driven annually did go down. Population growth meant the more people were driving, therefore more miles total driven each year. Bottom line: the first decade of safety improvements had only a minimal effect.

Between 1982 and 1997 is when things took off. Congress made a lot of federal highway money dependent on states enacting more uniform laws about such things as the blood alcohol level that qualified as legally impaired, minimum age for legally purchasing alcohol, and bringing real penalties to bear for the drivers who were caught. Education and treatment programs were mandated, and regulations about the sale and serving of alcohol to individuals were enacted. All of these actions, along with activism and education campaigns from groups like Mothers Against Drunk Driving, combined to do what the PSA campaigns of the 70s alone couldn’t do: the public’s attitude about drunk driving (as measured in surveys) changed, and (more importantly) the number of alcohol-related crash fatalities went down about 10% by 1990.

This prompted the non-profits and government agencies working on the issue to set a goal of reducing the number by another 20% by the year 2000—a goal we hit in 1997! Something that we said we couldn’t possibly do, and for all the same reasons that we are currently told are why absolutely nothing can be done about mass shootings and gun violence in America.

Is a total reduction of alcohol-related crash fatalities by 30% a complete elimination of the drunk driving problem? No. But if we could have fewer multiple-victim shootings next year instead of more, that would be a good start.

I am not proposing a ban on all gun sales. I never have. I’m a former NRA member, myself, for goodness sake! And no serious proposals I have seen have called for that, nor for anything even close to that. The big problem we have right now is that the moment any of us say anything about trying any of the measures which have already been demonstrated to work, people start howling at us about prohibition.

I was told yesterday that the 50 queer latinx lives snuffed out in Orlando yesterday were less important than the right of a dealer to sell an assault rifle to someone on the FBI’s terrorist watch list. I was told that me being angry about an industry lobbying group blocking even one reform bill that would have applied exactly to yesterday’s murder case was rude. I was told that pointing out that the NRA is more concerned with protecting the profits of the gun manufacturing industry than promoting responsible gun ownership was rude.

When I was challenged, I did get rude, yes. Fifty queer people were murdered yesterday in what was actually a quite preventable crime, and I’m not allowed to ask that maybe a measure supported by 90% of the population in the country should be given a try?

Fifty queer people were murdered, and yes, I’m taking it a little more personally than some of the earlier shootings. Maybe it’s a failing on my part that I didn’t get as angry before. But just because I’m taking it personally does not mean that I don’t have a point. We can tweak regulations and close loopholes without destroying freedom—we did it to reduce drunk driving, we can do it to reduce gun violence. Just because there isn’t a single, elegant solution doesn’t mean that we can’t do anything.

But we have to be allowed to actually try.

Weekend Update – 6/20/2015

DeMarko_Gage_2015-Jun-18I know how easy it is to obsess over a horrific story like this. But the nine people who were murdered in a hateful act of racist terrorism in a historic church this week deserve to be remembered. And we can’t solve problems like racism if we don’t confront the problem.

Charleston shooting victim Tywanza Sanders ‘died trying to protect his elderly aunt.’

Why South Carolina’s Confederate flag isn’t at half-staff after church shooting.

NRA Dude Identifies Real Charleston Shooter. Surprise, It Was The Black Pastor!

Black People Aren’t Making Things Up: The Science Behind ‘Racial Battle Fatigue’.

Relatives of victims offer forgiveness at bond hearing for suspected Charleston gunman.

BarackObama_2015-Jun-19Charleston church shooting massacre: Who are the victims?

Republican State Representative Will Introduce Bill To Remove Confederate Flag From South Carolina Capitol.

Anything But Race: Right-Wing Pundits In Denial Mode Following Charleston Shooting.

Southern Baptist’s Russell Moore: It’s time to take down the Confederate flag.

It’s the thought that counts

Raymond Burr sits in a wheelchair, examining a gun.
Raymond Burr as Chief of Detectives, Robert T. Ironside.
Reboots/remakes are tricky things. The current BBC re-imagining of Sherlock Holmes starring Benedict Cumberbatch is altogether awesome, for instance. The remake of the classic Spencer Tracey Father of the Bride with Steve Martin was also pretty darn awesome.

The recent remakes of V and True Grit, on the other hand…

So NBC has launched a remake of the ’70s detective series, Ironside, and they cast Blair Underwood in a role based very loosely on the character originated by Raymond Burr. I’ve watched the pilot, and it wasn’t awful. I’m not even sure I would call it bad. But mediocre certainly springs to mind. Supporting characters completely lacking in anything resembling a personality does as well.

Sometimes series (whether books or television) take a while to find their footing, so I’m going to probably give it a few more episodes. But by the time I finished watching the pilot, I needed something to cleanse my brain, and by chance I’ve had the TiVo recording re-runs of another Raymond Burr iconic series, Perry Mason. It was truly a joy to watch a 1962 episode.

One of the things I loved about the classic Mason television series, as well as the books, was how often Mason would quote specific principles of law. For instance, in the episode I watched that night, Della Street, Mason’s secretary, has been accused of aiding and abetting a felony murder which may have been committed by an old friend. Mason points out to the officer that in order for her to be found guilty, they have to prove that she knew her friend had committed a felony before she acted, that she willingly assisted the friend, and that both she and the friend were doing what they were doing with the intent to avoid arrest for the crime.

Which is true of many of our laws. What you’re thinking and why you’re doing what you are doing determine whether the act is a crime. It is seldom just the action, but also the intent. This is a legal principle that has been with us since at least the times of the Ancient Sumerians…

Continue reading It’s the thought that counts