(Content warning: mass shooting, terrorism)
After waking up to the news today, I feel that it would be wrong to write today without addressing it. Because my computer is broken and I’m sure the Internet is full of other, better-informed opinions, I’ll keep it brief.
Despite the fact that the attack took place at a gay bar at a time when the debates about LGBT+ rights are only increasing in number and intensity, many have been quick to name it an act of Islamist terrorism. Whether this label turns out to be accurate remains to be seen, but the instinctive jump to use it troubles me for several reasons.
When we quickly use foreign extremist terrorism as a scapegoat, we refuse to acknowledge the other forms of hate that can be expressed through terrorism, such as homophobia, racism, and sexism, that unfortunately still exist in the United States. By portraying this act as an affront to America as a whole, we wash over the groups and identities that are under attack by people within this country.
When we blame a group outside ourselves for an act of violence, we refuse to acknowledge that gun policy in this country is also at fault, and needs to be addressed with, if not before, violent attacks from outside groups. Developing hate for a group is one thing. Deciding to demonstrate such hate through gun violence (and succeeding in doing so) is another.
When we pin the blame on a group that the majority refuses to identify with, we refuse to do the difficult and necessary task of recognizing that we are implicated in the crime as well. Our culture that is so mired in violence and hate allows acts of such violence and hate to continue to occur. By falling into the trap of labeling every act of gun violence an act of Islamist extremism and focusing our energy and our efforts to stop these tragedies (another troubling label that seeks to take the blame off ourselves and make these attacks seem inevitable) outward, we prevent ourselves from finding the real root of this problem, which may lie much closer to home. No matter how completely we eradicate foreign terrorist groups, if we continue to displace blame and refuse to recognize ourself as part of the problem, it will never be completely solved.
No matter who ends up taking or receiving responsibility for this disgusting act, we as a society are partly to blame. The sooner we recognize that we are part of the problem, the sooner we will realize we are also part of the solution.