Response to Orlando Shooting

While I have used this blog exclusively to discuss my opinions on new music, I feel that there is more potential for me to use this as a way to just get things off my chest and out there for people to really think about. For those who read my reviews frequently, you know I occasionally deviate from the album to discuss my own beliefs on politics, society, etc. Now that tragedy has struck and people seem to be divided on what to make of what occurred this weekend, I thought it would be appropriate to state how I feel about the whole situation. If you really do not want to read about my political beliefs and only pay attention to my music reviews, that is alright too, I just felt that this needed to be written.

First, I think it be best to start objectively with what we know about Sunday’s shooting. CNN reported that Pulse, a gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida, was attacked by Omar Mateen, an American-born man who had pledged his allegiance to ISIS. Mateen entered the nightclub with an AR-15 and a pistol and killed 49 people, wounded 53, and was eventually killed by the police. It is reported this is the deadliest mass shooting in United States history.

It goes without saying, regardless of personal or political beliefs, that this is a terrible tragedy and everyone just wants to go about the best course of action to avoid incidents like this from occurring. How to avoid these disasters is where people begin to divide and I will admit there is no clear answer as to how we can prevent this. This has led to some dangerous and frightening suggestions by people as to what would be the best way to deal with this. And yes, I am talking about Donald Trump. For those of you who do not know, this was Trump’s tweet the morning after the shooting.

When you remove the braggadocios attitude Trump has about predicting a terrorist attack after we have had several recently, I know so bold of him, he does make a good point. We do need to be tough when pushing for a solution and we also need to be smart. Sadly for him, being smart would mean not electing him president. I honestly do not understand what Trump is trying to suggest we do when his ideas have included banning all Muslims from entering the country and stopping the immigration of Syrian refugees. I was hoping for at least one half decent suggestion from him, I know it is asking a lot, but instead he throws this out.

 

Yep, we need to blame to other countries. I am not sure if Mr. Trump knows this but Omar Mateen was born in New York and it has been reported that he did not have any direct ties with ISIS. So none of Trump’s suggestions would have prevented this from happening and it is clear that he is just using this tragedy to push his own bigoted ideologies. This is not smart, this is not telling it as it is; this is a message, pandering to his misinformed and/or racist supporters, disguised as an actual idea.

Now that I got everything out about Trump’s terrible ideas, it is time to think about what could be done in the future. This first suggestion might scare people but it is logical. We need more restrictions on firearms. Does this mean all guns need to be banned? No. Does this mean we need to take them away from our police? No. What this means is that it must be impossible for people like Mateen to legally purchase firearms.

When looking into Mateen’s backstory, it is obvious why he should not have been allowed access to an assault rifle. For one, he had been investigated by the FBI on two occasions, in 2013 and 2014, for talking at work about dying as a martyr, and being connected to al-Qaeda. While these investigations did not turn into anything, they should have still caused some alarm during a background check, especially when his ex-wife has claimed Mateen suffered from bipolar disorder and would mentally and physically abuse her. It is without question someone with this kind of history should have not been able to gain access to any violent weapon, especially an AR-15.

While I do not have a perfect answer as to what the best way to regulate guns would be, it is clear there need to be steps moving forward here. I do believe that it can be safe to have people who are proven to be responsible to carry a firearm for protection, but the system currently in place has proven time and time again to be imperfect.

The second part of this, which I find much more difficult to talk about, is religion. It has been reported that Mateen was a Muslim and was brought up with a fairly strong Muslim upbringing. Does this mean that Islam is a religion that exclusively teaches violence and hate? Absolutely not. There are plenty of positive messages taught in the Quarn as well as negative ones. This is true for many religions, including Christianity. Just look at the responses from Pat Robertson and Pastor Steven Anderson regarding this attack and you will see how even Christians can use their beliefs for hate.

As a Catholic myself, this is uncomfortable to talk about. Church has always been a central part of my family and I even attended a Catholic high school for four years. Even as a Catholic, I had to acknowledge there were many teachings from the Bible that I did not and still do not agree with. Luckily, my father, while religious, was still fairly liberal about his views and did not force them down my throat in a harmful way.

Sadly, this is not the case for many, including Omar Mateen it seems. It must be understood that the attack on Pulse was 100% a hate crime, targeting homosexuals. Mateen’s father even stated that he recently saw his son get angry over the sight of two men kissing while also saying the attack was not based on religion. He later made statements claiming “God will punish those involved in homosexuality.”

This did not seem as important until reports came in that Mateen had possibly been concealing his own homosexuality. Chris Callen, a performer at Pulse, stated Mateen was a regular at the club, visiting about two times a month for about three years. In addition to this, Mateen had used gay dating apps like Grindr and Jack’d and had reportedly pursued relationships with other gay men.

This is where religion can start to become dangerous. While most religious people are brought up learning positive virtues and basic dos and don’ts, some are brought up differently. They are told they are something that they are not and what they really want to be is evil and a sin. This was the case for Mateen, who clearly felt homosexual urges that he believed were evil because of his upbringing and now in his adult life the anger of not being able to be himself turned into violence.

This kind of religious teaching is a problem that has had negative mental effects on many people. It is unhealthy to follow any religion to an extreme and direct way, and it is important to note that this is not just a Muslim issue. You cannot just judge one religion for its extremists when all other major religions have their own unavoidable flaws.

Bottom line, I do not have a solid answer for what needs to be done but people need to realize there is a need for nuance when discussing these kind of issues. If the answers were so simple these kind of attacks would not be happening. I am hoping this gives people some insight into what actually happened in Orlando and where we should actually be directing our attention. It makes sense to be mad, but we must also be smart and do not let terror lead to needless hate. People have made this mistake over and over and I pray this is not another one of those situations.

Photo Credit: Phelan M. Ebenhack/AP Photos

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