Orlando: Healing Through Learning, Demanding Change
After the horrific, anti-LGBT terrorist attack in Orlando, Florida, millions of people around the globe offered their thoughts, their prayers, and held candlelight vigils to mourn for the victims. While I understand their usefulness to others, I am not a religious person and prefer to express my solidarity with the victims and outrage towards the massacre through words and action. Nothing I can do or write will bring back those lives lost at the Orlando nightclub. Nevertheless, if we are able to learn from their tragedy, it will not have been in vain. In the spirit of healing through learning and reform, I offer these observations.
Lifting the Prohibition Against Gay Men Donating Blood
After hearing about the mass shooting in Orlando, many of us almost immediately asked what we could do to help. The most pressing practical need in this scenario was the need for blood donations to provide transfusions for the 53 wounded victims. But gay men are prohibited by federal regulation from donating blood. In the wake of a massacre of LGBT persons, a large swath of the LGBT community was effectively banned from providing the most-needed aid. The resulting feeling of helplessness and hopelessness further compounded the grief felt by the LGBT community. When the grieving process comes to a close, the prohibition against gays donating blood should be scrutinized and, hopefully, repealed.
The Second Amendment Does Not Include Assault Weapons
Yes, here we are again: another mass shooting, another call for gun control reform, and another accusation that liberals want to confiscate all guns. Personally, I see zero use for assault-style rifles such as the AR-15 used by the Orlando attacker. It's the same weapon used in other heart-wrenching mass shootings: San Bernardino, California; Aurora, Colorado; and Newton, Connecticut. In response to these tragedies, some states have enacted laws to prohibit the sale of "assault weapons." Naturally, gun rights activists filed lawsuits to challenge these laws, claiming that the prohibition infringes on the Second Amendment Right to Bear Arms. As of now, most courts seems to be rejecting this argument and are upholding these bans. However, Congress had the option of renewing the Federal Assault Weapons Ban in 2004 but failed to do so, and numerous attempts to revive the assault weapons ban have been unsuccessful.
Certainly, more work needs to be done to expand similar smart firearm regulations. The art of politics has its foundation in compromise. I suspect that most Americans—after we remove the nonsensical claim that liberals want to ban all guns—would be in support of gun control reform that's reasonably calculated to limit firearm access to dangerous individuals or decrease the magnitude of future casualties. Let's break the cycle this time; let's enact change.
Mental Health Awareness Could Curb Radicalization
Interconnected with the pressing need for reasonable firearm reform is the need for greater awareness of mental health disorders and access to treatment. After in-depth investigation, many domestic terror attacks tend to have some sort of mental health disorder as one of the underlying causes of the attacker's actions. Much like the debate regarding gun control, not much progress has been made in the area of mental health awareness. It's time for us to end the stigma against mental health issues and increase the access to treatment. Actually, we're overdue.
Quibbling Over the Phrase "Radical Islamic Terrorism"
Within hours of the tragedy in Orlando, Republican politicians and conservative commentators lambasted President Obama and Hillary Clinton for not using the phrase "radical Islamic terrorism" in their reactions to the attack. I don't understand why the phrase "radical Islamic terrorism" matters. Does it make it easier to spot potential terrorists? No. Does it discourage terrorists from attacking because we've "spotted them"? No. On the contrary, using the phrase "radical Islamic terrorism" emboldens the terrorists. It bestows upon them the honor of being seen as the standard-bearers of Islam (in their mind) and reinforces the misconception that America is at war with the religion of Islam.
All the while, the same Republican politicians failed to acknowledge the fact that the attack was targeted towards the LGBT community. That's the real story here. The conscious decision to avoid using the phrase "radical Islamic terrorism" has some arguable basis in fact. On the other hand, the conscious decision to disregard the LGBT-aspect of the Orlando massacre is nothing less than disgraceful, willful ignorance.
Exploiting Fear, Villainizing Muslims
Before the victims had even been identified, Donald Trump gave himself a congratulatory pat on the back for "being right" about the need for a ban on Muslim immigration into the United States. Once again, he and his supporters have extrapolated the acts of one murderous individual and imposed judgment for those murders upon all 1.8 billion Muslims. Even when confronted with the fact that most mass shooters have been American-born rather than immigrants, Trump and his supporters remain steadfast in their demand for a ban on Muslim immigration. It is thinly veiled demagoguery and bigotry, exploiting the fears of otherwise well-meaning Americans to deprive an entire class of people their entry into our country solely on the basis of their faith.
Let's say that Donald Trump wins the election—as nightmarish or improbable as that may seem—and he institutes the Muslim immigration ban. As noted above, because most mass shooters are "homegrown terrorists" instead of immigrants, the ban on Muslim immigrants would not decrease the likelihood of future terrorism-fueled, mass shootings. If another mass shooting were to occur even with a ban on Muslim immigrants in place, what would the next response be? Would Donald Trump and his supporters then advocate for rounding up all Muslims in America and deporting them? We've already seen that story play out in history, prompting a global war that cost humanity 70 million lives.
Ending on a Positive Note
The passage of time has been a continual march towards the expansion of human rights and, in broader terms, the expansion of our conception of "humanity." One of the most incredible results of the horrible tragedy in Orlando is the overwhelming support shown throughout the world. Across vast oceans, nations have outstretched their arms to express solidarity with the United States and the LGBT community at large. While much is said about terrorist groups' use of the Internet to spread terrorist propaganda, the 24 hours following the attack in Orlando have demonstrated the Internet's positive power: the power to transcend labels and connect with one another on a fundamentally human level.
I'm convinced that something good will come out of this tragedy. I must believe that. It's the only way to stay sane and to honor the lives cut short in Orlando.