Thursday 19 April 2018

Dr Ciara Kelly on Orlando massacre: 'A cruel and cowardly act by another damaged, messed-up individual high on hate'

Ciara Kelly
Ciara Kelly
People in Sydney, Australia, at a candlelight vigil for victims of the Pulse Nightclub shooting in Orlando.

Ciara Kelly

Dear God what a week - is there no end to the mass slaughter of innocents that America's unfathomable love of guns repeatedly facilitates? Last week we saw the aftermath of the murder of 49 people and the injuring of 50 more, who were having fun and minding their own business, out on a Saturday night in Pulse nightclub - an LGBT venue in Orlando, Florida. A cruel and cowardly act by another damaged, messed-up individual. High on hate and latching on to the message of intolerance, bigotry and violence that Isis is attempting to spread across the globe in a kind of malevolent franchise.

The reactions were complex and confused initially. With people uncertain was it an act of Islamic terrorism or a homophobic hate crime. It turned out they were not mutually exclusive and it was both. 'This was an attack against all of us' was said repeatedly - mainly I believe in an attempt to show solidarity with those lives lost. However, those in the LGBT community pointed out it was not. A gay venue was targeted because radical Islam - much like radical Christianity - targets LGBT people and incites intolerance, hatred and violence against them.

Owen Jones, a gay journalist with The Guardian newspaper in the UK, walked off the TV set of a Sky News review of the papers, discussing the events in Orlando, when the other panellists failed to acknowledge that the choice of venue was significant. This was not an attack on all of us. This was an attack on a group of people marginalised the world over simply because of their sexual orientation.

From Fairview to Moscow, LGBT people have had their heads kicked in, just because of who they love. Straightsplaining went into overdrive, as the wider community explained patiently to gay people that this was not really about them, all the while failing to understand that the message of Isis, like every other oppressive regime targets the marginalised and the vulnerable first. Gays and women are among their favourite people to crucify, torch, behead and throw off tall buildings.

Donald Trump, in a spectacular lack of empathy - even for him - rather than caring about the dead, crowed about being right about 'a Muslim' being responsible, without ever recognising that the brand of hate he spews, is almost as intolerant as that of the Islamic fundamentalists he vilifies. Journalists ran scared and the online conversation didn't know how to cope with the heady cocktail of guns, terrorism, racism, homophobia and grief that disparate groups tried to carve their own agendas from. James Wesley Howell, a white, non-Muslim, with an arsenal of guns, stopped on his way to the LA gay pride event, was only mentioned as an afterthought by the few. It seems you don't even have to be an Islamic fundamentalist to want to kill the gays.

In the meantime, 49 young bodies lay on cold, mortuary slabs in sunny Florida.

All in all, a very bad week, despite the anger, vitriol and confused narratives online and some public denouncements and withdrawals from social media. I think these digital conversations are important. Society is evolving. We are only now learning what is and isn't acceptable from different perspectives - many of whom were almost voiceless before social media. Privilege is being challenged and the privileged don't like that. Yes the LGBT community is not the only group that intolerant, hate-filled, murdering bastards target - but it is certainly always near the top of the list.

Guns don't make America safer, despite what the gun lobby claims, and tolerance and humanity - not an automatic assault rifle - are the best weapons against the indiscriminate violence of bigots. The only hope we have is that this current wave of hate, polarising the people of our planet, will pass off, without us descending into full-scale war. Love is love people. Let's not lose sight of that.


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