The Orlando Massacre was a tragedy- as are mass-killings in any country. As with Paris last year, I am hesitant reacting too quickly, especially when so much about the killer’s motives is unclear, but it seems not everyone shares my hesitation (few as appallingly as Donald Trump or Peter Madden though).
What I have been particularly saddened by in case of Orlando is how divisive the event and its responses have been, with the storm of debate over whether this is a hate crime or terrorist attack threatening to overshadow the tragedy of the event itself.
Media coverage of the incident have painted a confusing picture of the Omar Mateen, his background motivations and history of violence. Unsurprisingly, a host of anti-Muslim sentiment has spewed forth after revelations the American-born shooter is born to immigrant parents.
Perhaps equally predictably (and to me much more understandably), has come a tidal wave of anger at America’s inaction over gun violence. I have previously stated my sadness and incredulity at America’s failure to address such an obvious issue. So I certainly agree with many of the gun reform statements I have heard, and certainly empathise with the anger towards the blatant stupidity and self-interest that hold the nation back.
But I have some concerns about the way this debate is taking place right now. It is just too adversarial and personal. The blame is flying in every direction with little admission that it could be a complex situation that everyone could be partially right about. The attack took place in a gay club, which makes it an attack that would be more keenly felt by the gay community. Those who want to paint this as a terrorist attack would still be well advised to concede this much, not look for evidence of Mateen’s sexual confusion. Similarly, those who point to America’s inherent societal problems as the key cause of this atrocity have to accept that many people will be concerned by the killer’s statements pledging allegiance to ISIS. The finding that there was no credible connection between Matten and ISIS does not mean ISIS was not a motivating factor.
Obviously, many people are shaken and horrified by last week’s events. Now is a time to extend our care and understanding to those who interpreted it differently to us. We can debate the specifics of policy calmly and respectfully when the facts fully emerge. You don’t convince someone they are wrong by attacking them personally or ignoring the details they think are important.
Respond to an act of terrible intolerance with tolerance for different interpretations. Whether you think the key issue from Orlando related to US foreign policy, gun control, sexuality politics or radical Islam, try to accept that not everyone will agree. Omar Mateen was a disturbed and horrible person that performed a horrible atrocity. No one will know for sure what drove him to this, but we shouldn’t let him drive us to attack one another over our ignorance.