It’s been a while since I did a post using a bunch of the memes, cartoons, and similar graphics that have been accumulating on my hard disk without finding their way into a blog post.
I also have a few stories that I don’t want to wait until Friday to comment on.
Ed Buck Guilty of All Charges Against Him, Will Likely Die in Prison This guy got away with preying on homeless men for far too long. The short version: rich white bastard who donated lots of money to local elected officials over the years, had a fetish about watching black men take a lot of drugs until they passed out, then he fucked them. Two that we know of died in his apartment, and based on the videos he took (and assuming that he was doing it for years before recording it became so easy), he’s probably responsible for a lot more. Anyway, yeah, I hope he rots in prison.
"Trump Man" Guilty In Serial Pooping Spree – Ohioan, 70, targeted gay neighbors for ten years Besides the fact that he was only sentenced toe 20 days and to write a letter of apology, his letter is obviously a big lie. Why is that? Well, he insists in the letter that he didn’t target these neighbors for harassment because they were gay. No, it was because they were Biden supporters and he’s a "Trump Man." Other than the little fact that Biden only became the Democratic nominee a year ago, and Trump wasn’t running president until a bit over five years ago — but this guy has been doing this to his neighbors for at least 10 years. Long before he could have become a Trump man. He’s a liar and a homophobe, and I wish the judge would hold him in contempt for the letter…
Because I almost always compose my Friday Five on Thursday evening, I debated whether to just find a story related to today’s fourth anniversary of that massacre to include, or do a separate post. I decided that I would have time to finish a post during my lunch break, and that there might be one or two stories posted this morning that would be worth linking to.
Well, that worked out a bit differently than I expected.
“Four years ago today, 49 people were murdered in the single deadliest attack on the LGBTQ+ and Latinx communities in U.S. history. What should have been a night of celebration was overtaken by hatred and bigotry.”
Four years ago today, a guy armed with assault rifles shot up a gay nightclub in Orlando, taking people hostage and taunting authorities online and over the phone, engaged in a barricaded stand-off (with hostages), until he was finally killed by the police. There were so many bodies on the floor, that EMTs and cops had to ask people who were still alive to raise their hands. Four years later there is still some debate about the motives of the shooter, I’ll get to that later. Whatever the motives, victims were at a queer nightclub celebrating Latinx Night during Pride when the shooting started. As noted in the article above, the single deadliest attack on the queer and Latinx communities in U.S. history.
So what is the current occupant of the White House doing to mark this solemn occasion on this, the second Friday of Pride Month. Well:
As a large number of people have already noted, the cruelty is the point. The alleged president of the United States was elected on the most homophobic election platform ever adopted by any political party in U.S. history, so it shouldn’t come as a surprise. But just because we expect this sort of hateful cruelty doesn’t make it any less painful or infuriating.
The sooner we get these evil goons out of office, the better.
The last few years when I have mentioned or linked or reblogged news stories on the anniversary, some randos have felt the need to slide into my mentions or try to post a comment explaining that this wasn’t actually a hate crime against queer people. And I want to talk about that.
While in the immediate aftermath of the shooting there was a lot of reporting that pointed to all kinds of motives, there was also an immediate push from Fox news and Republicans to insist that it wasn’t a hate crime. It took more than a few months for the FBI to interview witnesses and to investigate the mountain of tips that came in. Most of the evidence pointed to in those first days trying to tie the shooter to Islamic terrorist groups and so forth were debunked by the following fall. Just as all but one of the people who claimed to have proof that he was a closeted gay man were also proven to be cases of mistaken identity. Which shouldn’t be a surprise, because the pictures of the shooter that were circulated to the public were of a frankly very generic dark-skinned man.
More than a year after the shooting, federal agents arrested the shooter’s widow and charged her with conspiracy, claiming she had been part of the planning of the crime. In statements made to obtain the warrant, and during the bail hearing, the feds argued that it was definitely an Islamic anti-American plot and had nothing to do with queer people. However, during her trial, the prosecution slowly was forced to admit that all of those things they had asserted were false.
It’s hardly surprising that the jury acquitted her.
The case was so ludicrously weak that lots of news people were asking why the administration pursued it at all. My personal (admittedly cynical) theory is that then Attorney General Sessions, and Vice President Pence, and other vehemently anti-gay members of the administration needed to get that story out there to overshadow the fact that a gay club was the target of the attack.
Since that case collapsed, there are two pieces of evidence left to support the claim that homophobia had little if anything to do with the choice of the target. One is that based on his internet searches and the tracking of his cell phone that night, it appears that three different nightclubs (including Pulse) were under consideration for attack, and the other two weren’t specifically gay clubs. The other piece is that the statements he made on social media and to police were all generic anti-American statements and references to places America has bombed.
Let’s look at a different hate crime altogether to get a little perspective. In the mid-90s federal agents sent in an undercover agent to one of the White Supremacist compounds in Idaho because they had evidence indicating some people there had purchased illegal weapons. The undercover agent discovered that the White Supremacists were plotting to bomb some targets in Seattle. He got himself put onto the team. Groups left the compounds and traveled by different routes, each carrying only some of the ingredients necessary to make three bombs. The checked into a motel, and while some members of the group went out to investigate their chosen targets, others assembled the bombs.
The three targets were: a Jewish synagogue, a gay nightclub, and a Korean Baptist Church. The plan was to plant all three bombs, each with a timer set to go off at times when each of the three places were expected to be very crowded (Friday evening shabbat service, Saturday night at the night club, and Sunday morning church service). Federal agents arrested them all a couple of days before the bombs were to be planted.
Two of the three targets the White Supremacists chose for that (thankfully) foiled operation were not a gay nightclub. Does that mean that homophobia had nothing to do with their choices of targets? Of course not!
There’s more. At the trials of the White Supremacists, one of the pieces of evidence introduced was a statement that they had intended to release to the press after the last bomb went off, taking responsibility for the crime. The statement was filled with anti-American sentiments and referenced a couple of infamous shoot-outs between federal agents and anti-government groups. The statement didn’t have specific anti-Semitic, racist, nor homophobic language—just generic slurs against undesirables. Does that mean that racism, homophobia, and anti-Semitism had nothing do do with their choices of targets? Again, of course not!
Maybe the shooter really was so stupid that he didn’t realize it was a gay club. Even with all the rainbow flags and other things on display inside and outside the club. Maybe it is an insanely improbable coincidence that he had been ranting about the evils of gay people to his father, other family members, and acquaintances in the days before the shooting. It’s possible.
But more likely: he was a man filled with a lot of hate for a lot of things he saw as wrong with America. And one of those things was clearly the existence of queer people and the fact that we were allowed at least some rights. Just because he happened to also hate a bunch of other groups and ideas that didn’t happen to be clearly connected to that gay nightclub that night doesn’t mean that it wasn’t still a hate crime directed at queer and latinx people.
It was bad enough that mainstream U.S. media didn’t start covering the story of the exploding FedEx packages being delivered in Austin, Texas until a white person was injured. Black man killed? No big deal. Black teen-ager killed (and another black woman injured by the bomb that killed the kid)? Again, no big deal. Even after the third bomb went off, injuring a hispanic woman, what did the FBI do? They issued a request for the bomber to call them.
The asked the bomber to please call them.
Two people killed by bombs in unexpected packages in less than two weeks, with local police saying they didn’t believe the attacks were random, and the FBI just says, “Well, maybe if we ask nicely the guy will turn himself in.” The Unabomber only killed three people with his bombs (over the course of 17 years), but he warranted the “largest manhunt in FBI history”?
I realize that it they might have been doing more than that behind the scenes, but given how several federal officials said they saw no link to terrorism and otherwise made very dismissive comments, I suspect not.
And now the bomber blew himself up after a short police chase (we don’t know if he killed himself on purpose or if his next explosive went off accidentally). And authorities are making more, “There’s no more threat” in the same breath that they admit they haven’t figured out if he had accomplices, nor how he picked his victims.
And headlines and subheads are mentioning how neighbors described the bomber as a nice guy.
First of all, several of those stories also quote friends reporting that he was “rough around the edges” and that he “would be intimidating and dominate every conversation.”
Apparently headline writing editors and such don’t understand some simple facts:
Nice guys don’t intentionally kill people with bombs
Nice guys don’t put on disguises to go into FedEx centers and mail bombs that are intended to kill the unsuspecting recepients
Nice guys don’t intimidate their way into dominating every conversation
Nice guys don’t post angry bigoted screeds about gay people being evil abominations
Nice guys don’t post angry screeds about women who get abortions or who take birth control
Nice guys don’t post angry screeds that some women deserve to be raped and argue that guys who commit rape shouldn’t be labeled sex offenders for the rest of their lives
And journalists, don’t say that you’re trying to be fair, or give both sides. He was a cowardly, hateful killer. There aren’t two legitimate sides to these incidents. There are victims, and there is the killer who was obviously a bad guy.
Also, stop with the “why did he do it” laments. He was angry. He was hateful. The bombs alone prove that. When you dig into the bigoted rants he posted online, the friends who describe his bullying behavior, and so forth—all of that corroborates the initial characterization as an angry, hateful, bad guy.
In one of the stories I read, the friend who described him as intimidating and dominating every conversation during High School, opined that since then he must have “succumbed to some sort of hate.” No, buddy, that intimidation and other behaviors you describe were clear signs of anger already there.
I understand why people often wind up describing the mass shooters and other killers of this type as a nice guy. Some don’t want to speak ill of the dead. Some don’t want to hurt the feelings of the family of the killer. Some are trying to absolve themselves of not having seen him for the danger he was. We don’t want to believe someone we know is a monster. Particularly when they are someone we are obligated to spend time with (we’re students at the same school, we are co-workers, we are related to them, we are friends with someone related to him, et cetera) we will make excuses and tell ourselves he’s just “rough around the edges” but under that we’re sure he’s capable of being a nice guy.
Now, I’m not saying that every angry high school boy is going to grow up to be a multiple murderer. Some of us discover the source of all the anger and learn to be better people.
That’s right, I said us.
I don’t claim to know all the sources of this guy’s anger, but part of me was cringing when reading that description of him dominating conversations by intimidating the other people in it—because I did that a lot. And it’s a form of interaction I can easily fall into to this day. I was lucky enough to first get out of the toxic environment caused by my abusive father when my parents divorce while I was a teen, but I didn’t understand for a long time that I was still carrying all the toxicity around. I was in my early twenties when a good friend was brave enough to call me out as being a verbal bully. Making me see for the first time just how much of the abuse I had internalized. It was a couple years after that before I was ready to admit that another source of my anger (and self-loathing) was being a closeted queer man. And it was during my coming out process that I was able to identify just how toxic the evangelical churches I was raised in were. It wasn’t just my abusive dad who filled me with all that poison.
Which gets me to one of the articles that pissed me off most: the New York Times describes the killer’s family as a tight-knit, godly one. That description, plus knowing he was homeschooled—plus those anti-gay, anti-abortion (complete with the usual slut-shaming plus ignorance of biology), pro-rape posts tells me what kind of religious background he came from, and therefore at least one source of that hate.
We don’t have to ask why. We already know, it’s just mainstream America doesn’t want to admit how much hate and anger is being cultivated in this country. It isn’t about the foreign so-called extremist groups recruiting. Because we aren’t willing to recognize the extent to which fundamentalist Christian churches are engaged in manufacturing these angry young men.
Edit to add: I found more information about some of his angry rants on line, so I updated the bullet list above.
One year ago, on June 12, 2016, a killer snuck a gun into a busy gay night club on Latino night and opened fire, killing 49 people and wounding many others. In the immediate aftermath Republican politicians expressed sympathy for the victims, insist that even though a gay club was targeted during Pride month that it wasn’t actually an anti-gay hate crime, and then days later voted down gay rights protections. Those politicians weren’t the only ones to try to claim that the act wasn’t an anti-gay crime. We’ve had people gin up evidence (which has been thoroughly debunked) that the killer was secretly gay himself. We’ve had people and politicians try to claim the killer was part of an organized Islamic terrorist organization, and that has been thoroughly debunked as well.
The killer’s own father said that his son had been ranting for weeks about how angry he was to see gay men kissing each other in public. He spent weeks using a fake profile on a gay hook-up app quizzing gay men to determine which gay club would have the biggest crowd and which night of the week it would be busiest. It was an anti-gay hate crime. That doesn’t mean it wasn’t also terrorism, because that’s what all hate crimes are: the intent is to instill terror in the targeted community by singling out individuals for bashing or worse.
I wrote shortly after the massacre to explain why this crime hit me so hard even though I live on the other side of the continent and don’t personally know anyone killed. My whole life I’ve lived with the fear and knowledge that there are people who hate queers enough to attack me and kill me, but I haven’t often had to think of that hatred being a danger to those around me. The killer’s father isn’t the only one who talked about what had enraged his son. Others who knew the killer have talked about his increasingly angry outbursts about gay people. Seeing two men kiss made him go kill 49 people in a busy gay nightclub during Pride month.
It’s one thing to know that bigots hate me enough to kill me. It’s much worse to be shown that some hate me enough to commit a massacre.
And it’s upsetting to know that some people who claim to be friends—and relatives who have said they love me—are unable or unwilling to understand that this killer’s actions are a symptom of society’s messed up attitudes about queer people and about guns.
That is what people who claim this is just one lone nut, or that it isn’t really about queer people, or that there is nothing society can do that will make these crimes less likely to happen are actually saying.
Mostly, please just recognize that this was a hate crime, fueled by our society’s abhorrence of gay people and helped by our irrational obsession with prioritizing gun rights over human rights. It wasn’t an act of anti-american terrorism. It wasn’t merely the actions of one disturbed individual. It is a symptom of very American dysfunction. It is a hate crime, and all hate crimes are meant to instill terror in the hearts of the targeted community. If you are a straight person who still insists this wasn’t an anti-gay hate crime, please answer this question honestly: was this crime a gut punch of terror for you? Was it?
I have been relieved that most of the coverage of this crime focused on the victims. Too often the coverage of mass shootings focus so much on the perpetrator that it’s as if he’s a hero, instead of a despicable excuse for a human being. I think I have managed, despite writing about this incident many times, never mention to the name of the killer. Instead, we need to honor the memories of those slain: Orlando nightclub shooting: Read about the victims.
Edited to Add: Several people have written very eloquently about the day:
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.
Whether you believe that Trump is going to try to do any of the many contradictory, sometimes unConstitutional, things he promised, one thing is very clear: Congressional Republicans will repeal the Affordable Care Act, and they have a whole mess of other social programs they want to cut. That means at least 20,000,000 people will lose their health insurance. Conservative estimates are that from the loss of the Affordable Care Act alone, at least 10,000 people who would have otherwise lived will die each year because of inadequate health care. And other cuts will make that even worse.
Trump and the Republicans have vowed to roll back protections for queer people, especially trans people. They’ve also vowed to fight efforts to raise the minimum wage, cut funding for health care, roll back work safety laws, and many other things which will result in an increase in injuries, financial stress, and preventable illnesses—ultimately leading to even more deaths.
Since Trump’s campaign gained momentum, there has been a slight increase in hate crimes. If the Brexit vote in the United Kingdom is any indication, there is going to be an even bigger increase in hate crimes now that certain people feel their views are validated by this vote. Oh, and the Republicans want to repeal hate crime laws and/or cut back on federal agencies tracking and investigation of hate crimes. So more people injured and yes, even killed.
I can keep going, but you should be getting the idea by now.
Stop saying that it’s going to be all right or that we’re going to get through this. Especially stop saying it if you are straight, cisgender, male, and/or white, because while maybe you will get through the next few years, you’re also not at risk to the same degree as many of the rest of us.
While we’re at it, if you’re one of the people lecturing others to remain calm, and not to place blame, and so forth? Again, stop. Just stop. Many of us are literally in danger of losing our livelihoods, various legal rights, and much more. We are allowed to blame people who have put us in this danger.
Some of us are in a fight for our lives, now. Yes, I fully intend to fight for my rights, but that means kicking up a fuss. That means confronting people. That means doing the opposite of calming down or making nice.
If you’re dismayed by this election; if you’re sitting there in shock because you can’t believe your fellow Americans can be this shortsighted, that they would embrace (or at least enable) hate? Welcome to our world.
As a queer man I’ve been feeling that dread, despair, and the knot of anxiety in my gut off and on my whole life. Not every moment. For example, just four years ago I was feeling the exact opposite when a majority of voters in my state voted for marriage equality. But that punch of bewildered injustice and a fundamental sense of vulnerability happens. It happened on June 12 this year as news of the mass shooting at a queer nightclub in Orlando spread across the world. It happens when legislatures pass and governors sign anti-queer laws and laws that ban queer rights ordinances and all the rest.
I wish I could tell you it gets better. I completely understand the impulse to tell each other that we’ll get through this, I do. I wish I didn’t know the facts that some of us actually won’t. I wish I could believe that if we just calm down and make nice that we’ll get through this and be better people for it.
Yes, if we stick together and hold each other and watch out for each other and fight with whatever tools we find we’re left with, some—maybe even most—who endure this will find new strength. But there is going to be a lot of pain and disappointment and loss along the way. Real loss.
I buried too many friends in the 80s and 90s because of homophobia and a smug indifference because “it’s just faggots” and “they brought it on themselves.” When Trump talks about losers, for instance, when he says that he prefers heroes who don’t get captured during war time he’s expressing that same hatred and indifference, just aimed at a wider audience. And if he and his followers can direct it at decorated veterans and the parents of soldiers killed in combat, that means they’ll just as soon direct it at you, too. Whoever you are.
I’m not offering comfort. I can’t, right now, even see the dim distant possibility of a glimmer of hope. And that’s saying something, because usually my optimism is almost pathological.
And I’m not asking for comfort. Neither am I asking to be left alone. I’m asking for a pledge that you will stand up against this, too. We can’t rely on hope. We must rely on each other.
Three 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. The homophobe had spent time in the days before the massacre staking out the location. He had created a fake profile on a gay hook up app before that for the express purpose (based on the recovered chats) of finding out what the busiest gay nightclubs were in his community1. It was a planned hate crime.
The homophobe decided to buy an assault rifle to kill as many queers as he could after seeing two men kissing in public. The shooter’s own father was shocked at how angry his son had become when he saw that.
Three months later, reading about this still feels like a punch in my gut. I’m an out queer man who grew up in redneck communities during the 60s and 70s. I have always had the moment of fear any time I am out in public with my husband any time we show any affection. I have a specific incident where I know my husband was threatened with violence after we exchanged a quick kiss when I dropped him off at a bus stop years ago. It’s a dread calculation I find myself making whenever we are out 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?
Thanks to this shooting, there’s now a new layer of fear and anxiety on that. Not just that I and my husband might be in danger, but that our actions might set off another bigot who will go murder a bunch of queer people.
Some people will ask, “It’s been three months; are you still upset about this?” And yes, people will actually ask. I know this because the day after the massacre happened people who I used to think were my friends were angry at me for being upset about the shooting.
There’s other kinds of fall-out still happening: State slaps $150,000 fine on security firm that employed Orlando Pulse shooter. The company isn’t being fined for anything directly related to the massacre. No, while authorities (and journalists) were investigating, the psychological evaluation he had undergone to get his security job was publicized. And people tried to contact the doctor whose name was on the evaluation. The problem was, she had stopped practicing more than a decade ago, had moved out of state, and hadn’t performed any evaluations for the employer since. At least 1500 employees were incorrectly listed has having been examined by the retired doctor during those ten years.
The state agency that investigated believes that all of those people were evaluated and passed, just that the wrong doctor was listed on their records. Over a thousand times. Over the course of ten years. Isn’t that reassuring?
I mean, a single psych eval doesn’t guarantee anything, particularly one done years before. And if I’m going to be disturbed about problems in the case, it would be the shooter’s history of domestic violence. One might ask how people get jobs where they are given badges and weapons and put in charge of security at places like courthouses when they have a history of domestic violence. I’m reminded of a chilling op-ed piece I read years ago that pointed out if having been arrested for domestic violence (or admitting in divorce proceedings to abuse) disqualified people from being cops, prison guards, and the like, we’d have a very hard time staffing departments, prisons, and so forth3.
Let’s not forget that all the societal forces and institutions that encouraged the shooter to hate queer people, and that afterward blames the victims for bring this thing on themselves just by being who they are, are still active in this country. Some of them are even running for high political office. Others are merely preaching in churches around the country. Though some are finding themselves less welcome with their co-religionists: Baptist Union distances itself from anti-gay pastor.
The pastor in question, Steven Anderson, is one of many who said (from his pulpit) the Pulse massacre victims deserved to be murdered. He’s not the pastor who said that who has since been arrested for molesting a young boy. But since this guy also often goes off on homophobic rants, it wouldn’t surprise me if he gets caught doing something similar. But right now he’s just trying to go to South Africa and preach. He might not get to spread his hate there, however: SOUTH AFRICA CONSIDERS BANNING U.S. ANTI-GAY PREACHER.
But enough about the hateful people. What can we do to help love to win? Well, the first thing is not to forget the previous victims of hate:
1. The political cartoon I link to above refers to the Orlando shooter as a “gay homophobe” which was widely reported, but later debunked by the FBI2. The shooter installed a gay hookup app on his phone and set up his account around the same time that he bought the weapon that he later used in the massacre. And as I mentioned, his conversations never turned into meetings. He would ask gays what the busiest club was, and if they didn’t know, stop talking to him. If they mentioned any clubs, he would ask questions about the nightclubs, and then deflect any attempts by the person he was talking to to actually meet. A few people who spoke to the press in the aftermath of the shootings, claiming to have been flirted with by him or have even had sex with the shooter. But the FBI determined that none of them had actually met the shooter.
2. I still run into people who believe that the shooter was a self-loathing gay man, and that this fact means it wasn’t actually a hate crime. First, he wasn’t gay. Second, lots of hate crimes against queer people have been committed by self-loathing or in-denial queer people. Doesn’t make it any less of a hate crime.
They’ve begun releasing autopsy reports of the victims of the Pulse nightclub massacre in Orlando: Most Pulse victims shot multiple times, first autopsies show. It was nearly two months ago, on June 12, that the killer snuck a gun into a busy gay night club on Latino night and opened fire, killing 49 people and wounding many others. In that time we’ve had Republican politicians express false sympathy, then days later vote down gay rights protections. We’ve had people try to claim that the act wasn’t an anti-gay crime. We’ve had people gin up evidence (which has been thoroughly debunked) that the killer was secretly gay himself. We’ve had people and politicians try to claim the killer was part of an organized Islamic terrorist organization, and that has been thoroughly debunked as well.
And a lot of people have moved on.
Some of us can’t. As I wrote before, one reason it’s so difficult for me is because my whole life I’ve lived with the fear and knowledge that there are people who hate queers enough to attack me and kill me, but I haven’t often had to think of the hatred of me being a danger to those around me. The killer’s own father said that his son had become disproportionately angry about seeing two men kissing in public over a week before the incident. Others who knew the killer have talked about his increasingly angry outbursts about gay people. Seeing two men kiss made him go kill 49 people in a busy gay nightclub during Pride month.
It’s one thing to know that bigots hate me enough to kill me. It’s another to realize some hate me enough to commit a massacre.
And it’s upsetting to know that some people who claim to be friends, and relatives who have said they love me, are completely incapable of understanding that this killer’s actions are a symptom of society’s messed up attitudes about queer people and about guns. And that’s what people are saying when they claim this is just one lone nut. Or that this isn’t really about queer people. Or that there is nothing society can do that will make these events less likely to happen. So, yeah, it’s upsetting to be told to my face that someone else’s right to sell assault weapons to a person with a history of domestic violence (despite even a majority of NRA members expressing the opinion that people convicted of such crimes shouldn’t be able to legally purchase guns) is more important than protecting the lives of people like me.
One of the other things we don’t think about in our haste to move on after an event like this is just how long the aftermath is. It’s been nearly two months, and they’re still working on the autopsies. The reports just now released are only the first part of the analysis. Experts won’t be able to begin to do a thorough incident analysis until all of the rest of the autopsy reports are complete, and then the work of coordinating those with all the other evidence and reports begins of trying to understand what happened in there.
I posted my first Weekend Update just over two years ago because there had been a lot of new information coming in the day before about one of the stories I had linked to in that week’s Friday Links. I didn’t originally intend it to become a regular thing. I do skip it some weeks. But most weeks I wind up feeling I need to post some follow-ups to some of the previous day’s news. Before I get into the unpleasant story, let’s take a moment to rejoice:
Backers of I-1515, the initiative to restrict which bathrooms transgender people can use, have told Washington state officials they will not turn in signatures by the Friday midnight deadline! Thank goodness. We keep referring to this as a transgender bathroom initiative, but it did more than that: it overruled a state finding that Washington’s existing non-discrimination law and certain portions of federal law required access to public bathrooms consistent with a trans person’s gender identity; it also forbid state agencies to make any such rulings in the future; it also forbid cities and counties from enacting their own transgender non-discrimination laws; it forbid any school (private or not) allowing any transgender student to use any bathroom other than a private, single-person bathroom; and finally, it mandated a $2500 bounty be paid to public school students who caught any transgender classmates using any bathroom other than the one that “matched” the gender the student had been assigned at birth.
None of us had any doubt the law would stand up in court if passed. Several of its components are identical to laws and policies that federal courts have already ruled violate Title IX of the United States Education Amendments of 1972 (also known as the Patsy Mink Equal Opportunity in Education Act). The state constitution requires that initiatives cover only one topic with a very narrow focus, and multi-part initiatives similar to this one have been struck down in the past for violating that requirement.
But in our state, initiatives that gather enough signatures are almost always placed on the ballot regardless of how unconstitutional they appear, under the reasoning that the people can reject the initiative if they think it is unconstitutional, and courts can examine the law in full after it is enacted if need be.
Past experience indicates that when an anti-gay initiative is on the ballot, the amount of harassment and hate crimes in the state go up, as the haters are whipped into a bit of a frenzy by all the advertisements and misinformation. Fighting an initiative takes time and effort away from other worthy causes, and it if did pass, fighting the initiative in court is also costly. And as we’ve seen recently with the Brexit vote in Britain, sometimes when a vote like this passes, it convinces the haters that everyone agrees with them, and the hate crimes and harassment continue.
In less pleasant news, the Dallas shooting situation was still happening Thursday night when I finished the yesterday’s Friday Links, so there has been a lot of developments. Among the details that I think people have still missed: there was only one shooter, not several. The shooter was not the person whose picture was plastered everyone as a person of interest, and whose picture remained on the police web site for nearly 24 hours after the police had already determined he wasn’t involved. Five officers total died. The Black Lives Matter organization was quick to condemn the shooting. The demonstration was peaceful. The sniper was killed by a remote controlled robot that the Dallas police obtained from the military supposedly for bomb disposal purposes.
Alton Sterling was a felon. Philando Castile was a ‘good man.’ None of that should matter. Whenever a black person dies in police custody, the press seems to put all effort they can into digging up information about the person’s past, as if that has anything to do with the use of force at the time of the killing. It doesn’t matter if Sterling had a criminal record, in the video he was clearly not struggling and was not a threat to anyone. It doesn’t matter the Castile was an exceptionally wonderful man and pillar of his community, having a broken tail light is not a valid reason to be executed by a cop, let alone be denied medical attention and allowed to bleed out while his wife and child watch, with the cop pointing his gun at them.
Police harassment of people based on racial profiling and other criteria that should have no bearing on how the citizen is treated isn’t a new problem. We mostly know about more cases now simply because nearly the entire population carries phones with cameras and the ability to uploads pictures and video to the world wide web from just about anywhere. There have been attempts to deal with the misuse of force by some police even before the era of the smart phone. We should revisit those attempts and figure out which things worked: The Blazer Experiment.
Then, of course, there is the man who was not in any way involved in the shooting, but whose picture was plastered all of the world as a suspect, and the stupid reasons that it was: The Case of Mark Hughes, Or Don’t Carry at a Protest. “Hughes may have been totally within his legal rights. But his actions were really only barely less stupid than the jackasses who terrorize folks at the local Bennigans or Home Depot by ‘legally’ walking into a public establishment with an AR-15. Why do you bring a rifle to a peaceful protest? I get it. You do it as a message of self-assertion and power in the face of dehumanization and powerless. It’s still stupid; it’s not the right or a safe way to send that message.”
I’ve spent almost two hours on this post. That’s enough. I’m going to go post more cute cat pictures to my twitter, and then get back to Camp NaNoWriMo.
When horrible things happen, the first reaction of some people is to say that their thoughts and prayers are with who ever is suffering because of the events. It sounds nice. It makes the person saying it appear to be concerned, without actually costing them anything. It is a poor substitute for actually being helpful. This cartoon, which Patt Kelley recently shared on the topic, shows a person on fire, and another person holding a garden hose and spraying water into a bucket rather than putting out the fire. The person with the hose offers prayers, when a means to actually do something about the pain, suffering, and death is right there in his hands.
People insist that there is nothing they else they can do, but frequently they’re wrong. There are things which can be done. Things within the power of the people making that statement. Congress critters of the conservative sort are especially liable, here (but not the only ones). And I don’t just mean in passing laws, though that could often help.
The very same congresspeople who sat in Republican caucus recently and prayed that gays are “worthy of death” made a big show of talking about thoughts and prayers while a lot of the public was up in arms about the Orlando shooting. It didn’t stop them from killing an amendment to extend job discrimination protections to queer people. It didn’t stop them from voting down an amendment to tighten (but hardly close) the so-called gun show loophole. It doesn’t stop them from attending rallies with pastors who call for the death of gays. It doesn’t stop them from telling their supporters that letting trans children use the bathroom that matches their gender identity is dangerous.
They’re not just withholding a water hose. They’re the people who have been splashing gasoline in the direction of every queer person they could for years. They’re the people who handed matches out to lots of people and said, “I don’t condone violence, but god says queers are monsters.”
Thoughts and prayers is more than just a means to look like you care when you don’t. It’s more than just a means to appear helpful while you do nothing. It’s more that just a means to make people focus on your piety rather than the problems of others.
It’s also an attempt to establish an alibi.
If they offer thoughts and prayers, then clearly they can claim they had no idea that all their anti-gay rhetorical was going to encourage another to attack queer people. If they offer thoughts and prayers, then clearly they can also claim that they had no idea that all the anti-trans hysteria they’ve whipped up over bathrooms would make gender nonconforming kids hate themselves to the point of considering suicide. If they offer thoughts and prayers, than clearly they can claim it’s not their fault that queer people grow up filled with fear and self-loathing, driving some to self destructive behavior, while driving some to turn that violence toward others. Clearly, they say, it isn’t their fault that anyone would listen to all the hate they have been spewing and act on it.