Orlando Was An Act of Queer-Antagonism & Hate. Calling it Radical Islamism Is Crass Political Expediency
A 29 year old American-born citizen unleashed his homophobic hate on 49 LGBTQ revelers at Orlando’s Pulse night club. While the perpetrator was of Afghan descent and a Muslim, his hate crime had nothing whatsoever to do with Islam or ISIS, even though he stated that he was doing it for that terror group’s leader. His crime is the expression of homophobic hate many Americans of all faiths are taught at home from early childhood and into adulthood. This is one of a group of home-taught rhetorical schools of thought that is not thoroughly or uniformly countered by what should be America’s great equalizer: our public education system.
Reactions from public officials have been typical, scapegoating the most obvious immediate targets they can find, fueling the vicious cycle of the singling out of the villain du jour, targeting it for punishment, perpetuating America’s propensity for war, and ignoring any and all signs that the problem is homemade. Pick a mass-murder, rinse, lather, repeat, at the expense of more thoughtful restraint, giving into political expediency. This lack of leadership costs our society in terms of its ability to react maturely and responsibly, with a view to curing fundamental social problems in a systematic way, rather than continuing to apply solutions and resources to the wrong problems.
In a speech, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton called the crime Islamic terrorism:
As she claimed that today isn’t the day for politics, Clinton broke with President Obama when she reversed the very policy she insisted on during her Democratic primary debates by adopting GOP anti-Islamic terminology and then proceeded to squarely place blame for the Pulse massacre on radical Islam, all the while stating that “we are still learning about the motives” for this attack. Moreover, Clinton gave into a most inappropriate impulse when she said “To me, radical jihadism, radical Islamism, I think they mean the same thing. I’m happy to say either.”
Happy? There is nothing “happy” about the topic. Based on similar hate crimes, including one that was averted in Santa Monica, California mere hours after the Orlando tragedy, is there any factual basis for blaming “radical Islam?”
FBI Director Comey’s statements at his news conference included an inordinate amount time spent defending his agency from accusations of incompetence, yet again:
FBI Director Comey on Orlando shooter: "I am not using the killer’s name and I will try not to do that." https://t.co/9h1WqAkAsJ
— ABC News (@ABC) June 13, 2016
— CBS News (@CBSNews) June 13, 2016
FBI director and deputy attorney general hold briefing on Orlando shooting investigation https://t.co/aPqc5O1SlT
— CNN (@CNN) June 13, 2016
As The Hill reports:
““As I would hope the American people would want, we don’t keep people under investigation indefinitely,” Comey said. “If we get to a point when we’ve exhausted the tools we have and we don’t see predication for continuing it, then we close it.”
President Obama, too, came to bat for the bureau without prompting, suggesting that the White House anticipates backlash.
“The FBI followed the procedures that they were supposed to and did a proper job,” Obama said in remarks from the Oval Office.
Still, questions were raised in the immediate aftermath of the shooting as to whether closer attention should have been paid to a man who thrice raised red flags. “
In an analysis, the Los Angeles Times explores the failure of the FBI to identify Mateen:
“Similarly, Mateen claimed in 2013 that he had ties to Al Qaeda, a Sunni group, and to Hezbollah, a Shiite group that opposes Al Qaeda.
The FBI investigation found no links to either group and agents concluded Mateen did not understand the difference between Sunni and Shia Islam, the religion’s two major denominations, a U.S. law enforcement official said.
Mateen’s lack of rigid ideology and his affection for terrorist groups that are at odds with one another suggest he was posturing or seeking an excuse to commit mass murder, experts said.”
A review of what the FBI was looking for in Mateen reveals both a cultural blindness and a very narrow-minded view of the world. FBI experts, instead of being satisfied by Mateen’s ignorance of the subtleties of Islam, should have looked deeper into his rage. One wonders whether an FBI psychologist ran a profile of Mateen, and if such a thing was done, whether any cultural conflicts in Mateen were even picked up on. It is interesting to note here, from a CBS News report, that co-workers complained to the FBI:
“There is no evidence to suggest that the FBI contacted G4S, the company Mateen worked for, when it investigated him in 2013, CBS News justice reporter Paula Reid reports.
According to FBI Director James Comey, there is no evidence that FBI contacted Mateen’s actual employer during its investigation.”
This begs the question why, when one investigation was begun due to co-worker complaints, the FBI didn’t follow up with the employer? Furthermore, one wonders why those co-workers went to the FBI, rather than a supervisor at work? According to an article in USA Today:
“The security firm that employed Omar Mateen, the suspect in the shooting deaths of 49 people at a gay nightclub in Orlando, said it carried out two background checks on him and found nothing of concern.”
Security checks neither address a person’s ideology, biases, or their psychological condition, which begs the question whether such investigations are too superficial for the jobs they are intended to screen for.
Be that as it may, the overarching question, as the FBI investigates itself, should be why Mateen’s state of mind wasn’t given close examination and why terrorism was the only concern that was investigated. After all, in the absence of any ties to extremist groups, the FBI investigators were still left with someone with access to weapons at work and a record of hateful utterances. What’s more, it appears, from statements the FBI has made, that there were no communications between it and G4S, the employer. Remember, the first investigation was triggered by complaints from co-workers.
So, in the hours following Mateen’s mass-murder, why did virtually all of our leaders focus in on Islamic terrorism? Why, now that we know so much more, are they still focused on external threats?
President Obama on “violent extremism:”
Donald J. Trump wrongly stated that Omar Mateen was foreign born as he renewed his call to ban Muslims in his remarks on the Orlando tragedy:
If one automatically dismisses any statements Donald Trump makes on this or any other topic, due to his propensity for factual inaccuracy and racist bent, then what do we make of the statements by the “adults in the room?”
For that, one must take a look back at hate crimes in recent years and how they were eventually labeled by authorities and the establishment.
Dylan Roof should not have been able to get a gun, but got one due to a “glitch” with FBI systems. Roof associated with known hate groups online and his rather significant online footprint went undetected. According to NBC News, “Roof faces state charges including nine murder counts in the June 17 slayings at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church. He is expected in court again on those charges in October.
He also faces federal charges including hate crimes and obstruction of the practice of religion, some of which are also eligible for the death penalty in that system. U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch has said federal charges were necessary to adequately address a motive that prosecutors believe was unquestionably rooted in racial hate. South Carolina has no state hate crimes law.”
Roof will not be charged for terrorism. Roof’s case is one of internal, not external threat.
Colorado theater shooter:
Troubled University of Colorado student, under the care of a psychologist for what probably was adult onset of mental illness. Not only was he able to purchase multiple guns and vast amounts of ammunition online, but also explosives. All of his activity went undetected. Mandated reporting never kicked in. According to the Wikipedia, James Holmes, labeled a murderer, was “convicted on 24 counts of murder and 140 counts of attempted murder for the 2012 Aurora shooting that killed 12 people and injured 70 others at a Century movie theater in Aurora, Colorado, on July 20, 2012.” Holmes’ case is one of internal, not external threat.
The San Bernadino shooter had a steady history of radicalization, yet never came up on the FBI’s radar, in spite of his associations, trips overseas, or his wife’s own history and her online footprint, in spite of the NSA’s vast surveillance work. Early reports included stories of workplace harassment by at least one co-worker. The attack is being labeled by many as a terror attack, even though there is no evidence of direction of the shooters by external forces. In spite of Tashfeen Malik and Syed Rizwan Farook having been Muslims, their case is one of internal, not external threat.
The New York Times published an opinion piece based on an analysis of 300 acts of terrorism, asking the question, “Why Do Terrorists Commit Terrorism?” This kind of approach attempts take extreme conflict and reduce it to a template for radicalization. This approach is flawed. Asking why terrorists commit terrorism is as silly as asking why people get angry, with a view to finding ways to reduce anger. It isn’t the anger that’s the problem, but the reasons why people get angry. Hence, why terrorists commit terrorism assumes that there is a common reason that all terrorists share when it comes to a trigger. But the first problem with the piece is that it assumes that the Orlando massacre is an act of terrorism of a particular kind. That assumption is premature and, given what we have learned, most likely erroneous. Another big problem is how some among us define and use “terrorism.”
There has been a rush to blame violent extremist Islam for this latest mass-murder, rather than acknowledge our homegrown homophobia as the root cause. Both presumptive nominees rushed to call for military action against ISIS and other extremist organizations overseas as a response to Orlando, with no evidence to back their calls. They made no similar call for a war on cultural ignorance and bigotry. There was a rush to judge the nature of this hate crime based on preconceived bias, but none to analyze its source and the common threads that runs through it.
To be sure, ISIS, Al Qaeda and other terrorist organizations are a scourge, but they have nothing to do with what happened in Orlando. The connection is peripheral, at best, if only due to the fact that Mateen’s father came to this country as an Afghan refugee. But Siddiqui Mateen, himself, is no different from the millions of religious zealots in our nation who inculcate their children with hate and intolerance. He is no different from the zealots who keep pushing for anti-LGBTQ legislation and oppose any effort to grant civil rights to particular populations. The debate on which bathroom to use is a current example. Another glaring example of America’s generalized blindness to its own failings is expressed in this quote from a Democracy Now interview:
“In a new article for Rolling Stone, journalist Soraya Chemaly writes, “The Washington Post reported Monday that ‘although family members said [Omar] Mateen had expressed anger about homosexuality, the shooter had no record of previous hate crimes.’ But that depends on how you categorize domestic violence.” Mateen’s ex-wife, Sitora Yusufiy, has come forward to describe how Mateen beat her and held her hostage.”
Violence against women and gays has been decried for a very long time, but still isn’t automatically accounted for when it is a part of new incidents, nor is a connection consciously and automatically made as events are analyzed in real time, as has been the case here. Our leaders first pointed to Mateen’s heritage for causal implications, but not to deficiencies inherent in our society. This is in line with both the opposition to a more enlightened system of education and the fear of liberals to antagonize detractors by insisting on it.
Omar Mateen’s father has given extensive interviews in which he lays bare the cultural dichotomies in this man’s view of the world. The elder Mateen’s beliefs are not only obviously backward, but incongruous with life in American society, as imperfect as it is:
At the root of Omar Mateen’s inner conflicts, are the clashes between the ideals and social mores defined by his father in this interview against Mateen’s own human nature. In response to this tragedy, our leaders point us to present day dangers that have only a peripheral relation to the problem at hand. Yes, radical teachings have some connection. But that connection is the same whether it comes from the most conservative of Islamic or Christian fundamentalism. Yes, without the proliferation of pro-gun legislation and a ban on assault weapons, Mateen would have had a much more difficult time procuring his Sig Sauer MCX. But the proliferation of guns doesn’t explain Mateen’s rage in the least. The clash between Mateen’s nature and the repressed upbringing he received do. The cultural poverty of American society with the supremacy of Western ideals and culture make our institutions blind to factors that should have alerted investigators to a serious problem when they first encountered Mateen.
When it comes to the teaching of the humanities in our schools, American society has yielded too often to the Republican/Libertarian view and opposition of what public schools should teach. The consequence of this anti-intellectual, anti-sciences opposition is the absence of a robust national gender and sexuality curriculum in our nation’s schools, to provide children and teens with a scientific and social skills based approach to internalizing and coping with adverse social trends. Another cause we must account for is the levels of hostility against America’s Muslims since 9/11, with constant negative references to Islam, in one fashion or another, by the nation’s politicians.
All of our politicians would do well to heed Rabbi Michael Lerner’s powerful admonition at boxing great, Muhammad Ali’s funeral:
While this one single hate crime is of catastrophic proportions, it is a part of a very long pattern of generalized, violent queer-antagonism in America. It is not, as some are writing, about Hillary Clinton’s hawkishness insulating her from Trump’s post-Orlando attacks. Orlando isn’t about Clinton or Trump, though one of them will likely be in a position from which they could do something to address its root causes. Once there, would either leader be willing to resist the temptation of political expediencies? If recent history is any guide, sadly, the answer is no, not without a whole lot of pushing from below.
Giphy.com’s tribute to the victims:
By Son of Baldwin
“You think your pain and your heartbreak are unprecedented in the history of the world, but then you read. It was books that taught me that the things that tormented me most were the very things that connected me with all the people who were alive, or who had ever been alive.” ― James Baldwin
Here’s what I’m not going to do:
I’m not going to claim that the Orlando Terrorist Massacre was the largest mass shooting in American history because I know that’s actually, factually incorrect; ask any of the First Nation peoples, for example, about the shitAmerica leaves out of its textbooks. It’s not difficult to uncover.”
Click here to read the rest of this powerful essay.