In the early hours of Sunday morning, a gunman massacred 50 people and critically wounded 53 others at Pulse, a gay nightclub in Orlando, FL, during Latin@ Night. News reports are calling it the deadliest mass shooting in U.S. history and the worst terrorist attack since 9/11. There is preliminary evidence suggesting that the shooter, Omar Mateen, was a sympathizer of the radical Islamist group ISIS. Other articles mention his ex-wife’s allegations that he violently abused her, which raises the question of how he passed a background check to own assault weapons. (The answer being that this is America.)
I can’t stay silent, yet I can’t find the words.
The script we follow for these never-ending gun homicides is tedious and heartbreaking. Everyone seeks to harness this deadly energy for political change, in some cases by scapegoating another victimized group (Muslim-Americans, the mentally ill), in other cases by hoping that this time the suffering will be great enough to strengthen gun control laws and end the hateful rhetoric against Latin@ immigrants and LGBTQ people.
I just don’t believe it anymore. I don’t see hate being turned to love, or even to repentance, by our spilled blood. I start to gag when I read yet another gay Christian blogger pleading with their conservative brethren, “Won’t you care about us now?” This appeal assumes that those who preach a death sentence against homosexuals don’t really mean it. That they are only negligent and not intentional in dreaming of a world where queer brown people are wiped out. No, take them at their word. People who’ve made peace with the prospect of eternal conscious torment for nonbelievers are too numb, or worse, to notice a few more bodies lying in the street.
We all look for patterns to extrapolate from these shattering traumas, for life lessons that could keep us safe from another terrible surprise. This instant de-centering of the actual victims is part of what bothers me about the heated conversations in my Facebook and Twitter feeds today. I’m hesitant to write the next lines because I don’t want to co-opt this tragedy for my own agenda, either.
This is my personal struggle, in the aftermath of Orlando: It feels like another nail in the coffin of my belief in the Christian God. The moral logic of the Cross seems to have failed. The suffering of innocents is not effective to awaken the conscience of the persecutors. There is not some guaranteed maximum number of lives lost or ruined, past which no wrongdoer’s heart can stay hardened.
Prove me wrong, America.