The massacre at a gay club in Orlando has created a groundswell of unfortunate responses by both the political right and left on the issues of immigration, guns, and policing. These poor responses include erasure of a queer identity and (un?)intentional racially/immigration status oppressive politics.
I have been trying to hold back my initial reactions to the Orlando shooting. Some of that has been a deliberate with holding of opinion, and some has been due to how numbing these sorts of events can be. Processing the news, the grief, the fear, and then the responses on all sides is a major intellectual and emotional undertaking. A lot of my friends in LGBTQ communities around the world have been struggling with the fear, sorrow, anger, etc. that the massacre created.
What I have noticed is similar to the observations of others – mainstream reaction to the Orlando shooting involves a lot of jumping to conclusions and ignoring the victims and survivors. What this does is add insult to injury for lgbtq and poc communities, and ultimately I say leave the door open for more future oppression and violence against those communities.
The reality that the shooting at Pulse happened on Latinx night and involved many people of color and immigrants seems to have been overshadowed by outside agendas to promote an anti-immigrant response. Even though the shooter was a man of color and american citizen born and raised. Outside forces are twisting this tragedy to fit the narratives they have already written. The anti immigrant crap is largely coming from the political right. Were this a white shooter, it would be a lot easier to suggest it was a racially motivated attack. The shooter being of color himself, and a first generation American makes it not so cut and dry. However, the issue of the identity of the victims must not be ignored in analysis. Many of the victims were immigrants, the children of immigrants, from the colonized territory of Puerto Rico and some undocumented folks as well. Responding to this shooting with anti immigrant legislation, and legislation which will ultimately result in more racial profiling is NOT honoring the victims and survivors. It is basically spitting on their graves.
The political left has their own contradictory bill of malarky to sell the public in response to this incident. The anti gun whiplash response is in full effect, largely ignoring the facts about existing gun laws, guns, and the not great political implications of their suggested gun laws.
There is a great article exploring the issue of the AR-15 itself I encourage folks to read <a href="http://www.vox.com/2016/6/20/11975850/ar-15-owner-orlando“>here. The anti-gun reaction also largely ignores that the shooter in the Orlando incident was able to pass background checks, got his guns legally, and had a decent level of security clearance to get his job as a private security agent. Most of the proposed laws would not have prevented his purchases. I would love to see more analysis about how the culture of policing the shooter experienced through his job may have influenced his violent homophobic mindset.
The anti-gun reaction has now culminated into several proposed pieces of legislation and a protest attempting to force the bills to be passed by the Democrats in the House of Representatives.
Many Democrats and liberals are promoting legislation that a) they previously recognized as problematic and b) would promote even greater racial profiling than exists. Yes, I am talking about the proposed bill to stop anyone on a “no fly” list from buying guns.
Indulge me by travelling back in time, to the immediately post 9-11 era. Where people found themselves on these untransparent and unaccountable no fly lists for their political beliefs. One of the stories is here: Pacifists on no fly So yea, the pacifists probably don’t care if they aren’t allowed to buy guns. But the no fly list and terror watch lists have many, many problems aside from access to guns. Tacking gun legislation onto these lists serves only to further support them and the racist, oppressive policies they represent.
My friend Alex Pagliuca, who I see as a local expert on not being stupid, recently said this,
” I think I’ve been pretty clear, for a long time, that I favor fire arms regulations that aren’t enforced in a way that is discriminatory against minorities, which is not what this will be.
This, is political theater. Let’s not screw around, when people hear “terrorists” they’re thinking of people of Arab descent and Muslim backgrounds. These people make up 4% of mass shooters. This is not effective or sensible legislation to address the issue it claims to be aimed at.”
Also police, encouraging police, aside from the historic context of police directly oppressing, hurting, harassing and killing lgbtq people, there is the indirect issue of homophobia and toxic masculinity. It is ridiculous to suggest that the culture of most police departments is not one of macho heterosexual patriarchy. Unlike this article , I don’t see the turning towards police for help as ironic. Unless they mean in the Alanis Morissette misuse of the term to describe things that are simply unfortunate way. Dressing up NYPD cars in rainbows does nothing to address the underlying issues and the reasons why the State and the lgbtQ community have not gotten along. I want to acknowledge that most of the media coverage of the Orlando shooting has clearly left the ‘q’ off of the acronym LGBTQ. That is erasure, and intentional. Those in favor of queer liberation rather than assimilation do not and likely will not feel safer thanks to police at (often already corporate and white/gay only already) events. The violence faced by trans, non gender conforming, and poc queer (and non queer) people by police, the prison industrial complex, etc. makes this new attempt at an alliance uneasy at best. The Against Equality facebook group is where I found this picture, by Justin Michael, which does a nice job of summing this issue up:
I recommend the Against Equality books and pages for those interested in exploring queer liberation ideas.
More policing, more “war on terror”, more anti immigrant sentiment and law, and more ignorant gun laws will not keep any of us safer. The incredible, let’s just say it, fuck up that is the war on terror, has done little to keep people safe and much to cause harm at home and abroad. In fact, the absurd tactics of the FBI are very likely creating more terrorists and luring folks into traps that result in prison time that they would have never engaged in without FBI informants’ influence. This is something we have seen across movements, from the Animal Liberation and Earth Liberation movements to ‘muslim terrorism’. The money spent on the U.S. military as opposed to schools, healthcare, and housing, the harm done to our soldiers, civilian casualties, the illegality of drone strikes, and the environmental destruction of war are some other reasons why anyone with a heart and brain should seriously hesitate before endorsing further war, on terrorism or anything else. Not in my name, and I question if the victims in Orlando would want it in their names.
The anti immigrant and anti gun reactions to Orlando share one thing in common – a weird pro police state kind of mentality that ignores the reality of the people who were just murdered in Orlando. I think a lot of people feel helpless and desperate, and that fear has a major influence on the reactions. And a lot of us are just using this latest incident to push our own political agendas, no matter how poorly they fit. This is a complicated issue with complex roots, and we need to take the time to explore it and come up with solid solutions. Not just political chest thumping matches. We can do better. We can look deeper. And I believe that we MUST if we ever want to address the underlying issues and change our culture so that these incidents are rare if not unheard of.
—– Mo Karnage is an anarchist, genderqueer, queer, pregnant, witch, sober, vegan living at the Heathen Homestead in Beaverdamn, VA and hoping to do a lot more writing in the future.