Many of us have been lucky enough to live our lives in an age and geographical region where reason has dominated human affairs. Since the end of the Second World War life in Europe has become more prosperous, democratic and tolerant (and yes, the EU has helped to make it so). Minorities of many kinds, whether defined by race, ethnicity, religion or sexual identity have felt increasingly free and safe. And they have seemed ever less threatening to the majority, too, to the extent, for example, that same-sex marriage is seen by most as a strengthening, rather than a weakening, of the institution of marriage and a multi-ethnic society has come to seem culturally vibrant, flexible, creative and resilient.
There have, of course, been appalling lapses into hatred and violence on the margins of Europe, such as in the former Yugoslavia in the 1990s, but most of us take it for granted that reasonableness and peace will prevail, and that the checks and balances of democracy will prevent unreason and its allies, ignorance and stupidity, from ever wielding power.
But even in prosperous, tolerant societies there will be unbalanced people, who for fathomable, or unfathomable, pathological, reasons, are intent on harming others. There will always be hate crime (and sex crime and greed crime), and those who hate can usually find an ideological or religious justification for what they do (and encouragement from faraway places now that the internet allows ideologists and religious extremists to reach across the world).
Saturday night’s appalling crime in Orlando was probably a hate crime rather than terrorism (though the distinction is largely irrelevant). The facts that so-called Islamic State applauded its ‘fighter’, and that Omar Mateen claimed allegiance to so-called Islamic State in a 911 call, are surely matters of opportunism on the one hand, and an attempt at self-justification on the other. But who knows? In due course we may learn more about how he came to hate the gay community, or we may never come to understand what made him kill. Sometimes explanation fails.
But what is mind-boggling is that a man as unstable as he was could obtain appallingly dangerous weapons so easily. Without an assault rifle he might never have set out to massacre so many, or he might have killed far fewer. Violent unreason will never be eliminated from society, but that it can arm itself so easily is astonishing. Tinkering with controls, even staffing gun shops with psychologists, will never work. The right to bear arms should be annulled.
But the unreason I fear even more is the unreason that has political power – for example, the unreason, demonstrated graphically over the last twenty-four hours, of Trump and the National Rifle Association.
Consider the claim (repeated yesterday) that if more people armed themselves then crimes such as this one in Orlando would happen less frequently. The NRA says that the US needs more guns in people’s hands, not fewer. This is surely insane. Do they imagine that gay men and women should step out for a night at a club armed with handguns or assault rifles, that they’d wear them on the dance floor, ready to crouch and fire if threatened by a lone looney with another gun? Perhaps they imagine a world of trained, responsible, capable, trigger-ready citizens, all at ease with guns. The reality would surely be a world of incompetent, intoxicated, untrained, trigger-happy, nervous/aggressive citizens often ill at ease with their weapons and daily shootouts or accidents. The slaughter would be terrible. I would rather see guns only in the hands of a small minority of highly trained, responsible, police officers. Keep them away from citizens.
And consider Trump’s claim that Omar Mateen is the product of Radical Islam. This is unlikely. Radical Islam was probably a late, convenient justification for hate, rather than its underlying cause (did he perhaps hate the homosexuality in himself?). And Trump’s self-congratulation (‘I told you so.’) was utterly disgusting. Contrast that with Hillary Clinton’s message of sympathy.
It is the unreason of the NRA and men like Trump that I fear the most. Whatever the circumstances, such as inequality, or political alienation, that have made unreason appealing to so many over the last few years, perhaps even electable, they must be addressed urgently. Hate, fed by poverty and humiliation, became appealing in the 1930s. It must be marginalised now.
He could have been a latent gay ….
Firstly there is a lot of truth in what you say especially about Trump. And as someone who still has not apologised for claiming that the Benghazi attack was because of an anti Islamic film that insulted the Prophet rather than the truth, that it was a planned attack to commemorate 9/11, Clinton is still, in my opinion too compromised to be either truthful or capable.
However probably the big issue between us is your assumption that this was a simple homophpbic attack and that Islam was not the driver
Adam, we share an historic happening that neither of us can take much joy from.
The Holocaust by the Nazis targeted both Jews and homosexuals.
The persecution of both groups were not clandestine events
The elimination of both group were announced by the Nazis and they kept their word sadly.
I look upon the circumstances today as it affects me.
Polls taken throughout the Middle East show that as many as 90% of the Arab world are antisemitic.
This came as a great surprise to Angela Merkel who only discovered this after inviting about 1 million Arabs into Europe
In the UK and France, areas with large Arab or Pakistan populations have seen a rise of 75% in violent attacks on Jews, almost always by the Islamic migrants coming in.
This is a fact. Jews are aware of it and some are thinking of looking for a new place or country to live in
But this hatred of Jews is also shared among the Arab world towards homosexuals. As with the Nazis none of this is hidden.
In fact one of the wonders of the world to me is that while Israel has one of the best records of tolerance to the LGBT communities it is often boycotted by other international LG BT organisations, while Hamas were throwing alleged guy people off roofs to their deaths.
But I digress. My point is, there are many radicalised followers of Islam who will target both Jews and Homosexuals.
To pretend that Islam has nothing to do with it will lead to the wrong way of dealing with the problem.
Of course this is not meant to be an attack on all Muslims who I agree are a mix of mostly decent people. But in all religions there are zealots and probably, from what we see happening in the Middle East, Islamic Arabs have an unhealthy share of them.
Being realistic, Israel does racially profile people for security reasons.
It’s time others do the same. There are some people out there who want to kill men and women just for who they prefer to sleep with. And their religion condones and encourages that.
Just taking guns off the streets won’t stop them.
Well, I don’t think we disagree. I don’t see it as a ‘simple homophobic attack.’ Sadly, nothing is simple. Intolerant interpretations of Islam encourage homophobia and many other forms of unreasonable hatred, and it’s clear that he did this in the name of ISIS. Actually, I was thinking yesterday, of writing about how few Islamic leaders condemned what happened, but then so many of them did that I realised it would not longer be fair to suggest otherwise.
And of course I agree that taking guns off the streets won’t stop people from killing each other for all sorts of reasons and unreasons. Nothing will ever stop that. But I would bet a lot of money on deaths from shootings falling if guns were harder to obtain in the USA.
Well we are in total agreement then!
Seeing posters in demonstrations last night on TV saying people are being killed by NRA supporters is a bit of a hyperbole.
How this man passed so many tests so that he could actually get a gun license is beyond me, frankly. And of course the biggest numbers of dead people are in France and Belgium, where there is no right to carry guns.
While the news on Orlando (how ironic a name for a homophobic slaughter) is now showing the man was a self-hater, I still think this list by the ILGA list of 77 countries and independent political entities with anti-homosexuality laws, with links to the blog’s coverage of them:
16 Malawi (enforcement of law suspended)
23 Sierra Leone
25 South Sudan
Asia, including the Middle East
38 Daesh (or ISIS / ISIL)
43 Lebanon (law ruled invalid in one court)
49 Palestine/Gaza Strip
51 Saudi Arabia
53 Sri Lanka
56 United Arab Emirates
59 Antigua & Barbuda
62 Dominica (But see “Dominica leader: No enforcement of anti-gay law” )
66 St Kitts & Nevis
67 St Lucia
68 St Vincent & the Grenadines
69 Trinidad & Tobago
That’s a lot of Muslim states that teach homosexuality is wrong, and who practice what they preach by making gay sex a capital offence.
Incidentally, this just in…
GAY GRANDSON OF HAMAS FOUNDER GRANTED POLITICAL ASYLUM IN U.S.
“The grandson of Said Bilal, the co-founder of the Hamas Islamist terrorist organization and a former leader of the Muslim Brotherhood, has been granted political asylum in the United States. His life was threatened after it was revealed he was gay. Five of his uncles remain senior Hamas members and some have been the masterminds of suicide attacks on Israeli citizens.
In interviews with the media including CNN he also thanked Israel for helping him to escape. He told The Times of Israel: “The Jewish people were not the monsters I was taught they are. They were actually normal people who showed humanity and compassion in my time of need.”
He originally managed to leave in 2011 (after his father tried to stab him after he was found reading the Christian bible). But he was only granted asylum in recent days after further threats to him from Hamas (a group that British Labour Opposition Leader Jeremy Corbyn has referred to as his “friends”).
He has now changed his name to “John Calvin” and said he no longer considers himself a Moslem. He is living in New York.”
Congratulations to both Israel and the USA and to him for his courage. But I hope hasn’t become a fun-denying Calvinist!