21 June, 2016


I'm late to this one. I hope I have something relevant to add.
Up here in the wilds, as I mentioned in my last post, time goes backwards. Because internet is suboptimal and costs, it's better (if damned inconvenient) to get news the old-fashioned way: through TV (remember TV news?), the radio, and the newspapers, none of which can be procured without, at minimum, a 25 minute drive. 

This resurrects, of necessity, a need to deep-read. When the paper in front of you represents that much effort to get a hold of, it seems only fitting to devote like mental attention to it.

In doing so, I have noted that more than one week on, the coverage of the Pulse massacre in Orlando has split into predictable, contradictory narratives. The terrorist/gunman was clearly motivated by Islamism/internalized homophobia to commit an atrocity which wouldn't have happened if Pulse hadn't gleefully advertised itself as a "gun-free zone"/ people previously investigated by the FBI (twice) for national security reasons should find it a trifle more difficult to legally obtain an AR-15.

Now, one of these divides is of course unbridgeable. Short of civil war, the United States will never resolve its issue with guns. It's not the prevalence of firearms, or not merely; while no other country boasts more guns than it has people, there are countries with relatively high rates of firearm ownership yet DRASTICALLY lower incidents of gun crime per capita. It's the culture as well. The United States is a country of the nerve endings. It runs on emotion. the higher the better.

I'm not sure why that should be, though I can hazard a few guesses. Between a history emphasizing individualism over any form of collectivism to a self-congratulatory mass media that dominates the planet to the current geopolitical reality of a hegemon weakening yet determined to appear strong at all costs, emotion trumps (that should be "Trump"s) rationalism at every turn.

So one divide is a bridge too far. The other two divides though...aren't. At all.

TERRORIST/GUNMAN: Only in America is such a distinction so quickly made and emphasized. In any other country, a man wielding a gun and killing 49 people of an identifiable group with it would be called a terrorist, full stop. "Gunman" seems to me to be an invention of the NRA, a term purposely designed to minimize an act of terror. It almost sounds like a profession, doesn't it? Councilman, fireman...gunman. Let's note that the divide here is artificial: a "gunman" IS a terrorist.

ISLAMISM/HOMOPHOBIA:  I find that both sides of this particular divide are blind to each  other in dangerous ways. President Obama seems to have a congenital inability to say the words "radical Islam", and half of the media trips over itself to avoid mentioning the religious faith of the terrorist. Instead we're told that he was a deeply closeted self-hating gay man who lashed out at his fellow gay men. That he interrupted his rampage twice to deliver pro-ISIS messages is minimized or ignored.

 The other half screams that OF COURSE the shooter was an Islamic terrorist, aren't they all? (Emphatically not: of the 998 mass shootings since Sandy Hook--!!!--2 (two) were perpetrated by Muslims.) This approach completely minimizes the victims and their shared identity, and verges on homophobia itself.

MEMO TO BOTH SIDES: Islam is not exactly friendly to gays. Islamism even less so. Daesh routinely tosses homosexuals off buildings. Being gay is still a death sentence in many parts of the world, Muslim parts most particularly. At the very least. gays can expect the lash, which is defined as less than capital punishment but which is often fatal itself.

As an aside, I do find it perplexing how many self-proclaimed advocates of feminism and gay rights choose to ignore Islam's track record on feminism and gay rights. There's some kind of wilful blindness at work there. We have become so cautious about giving offense that we have neutered ourselves from responding to offence.

But as to the Pulse massacre: This isn't either/or. This is both. Omar Mateen was BOTH an Islamist terrorist AND a self-hating gay man.  The two are far from mutually exclusive in a culture where homosexuality is so reviled.

It can't be stressed enough that while we view Daesh and like-minded groups as barbaric and morally bankrupt, they are viewing us exactly the same way. That's the thing about morals: they're not absolute. but vary from time to time and place to place. The Aztecs were even more into ritualized death than Daesh is today: from earliest childhood, you were raised to ASPIRE to be sacrificed. There was no higher honour. This is utterly alien to us, but it was not just accepted, it went completely unquestioned.
This is not to defend the ISIS viewpoint in any way. Only to suggest that their hatred of us is not blind, at least by their lights. Knowing why an enemy fights is at least as important as knowing how. And trying to shove people and their motives into a single box, when they clearly fit in two or more...not productive.

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