Reflecting on identities and violence
Since my last column, we have witnessed the biggest mass shooting of civilians by a single gunman in North American history. I’d like to share a few thoughts on those events.
Here are the basic facts: On June 12, one “gunperson” killed 49 people and injured 53 others at a gay club in Orlando, during a Latin Night (most of the victims were Hispanic). The shooter was a 29 year old who pledged allegiance to Daesh/ISIS. According to many reports, he may also have been gay himself.
We live in an age where news is generally broken on social media. I learned about these events, and also about how my friends were responding to them, instantaneously and simultaneously, through that medium. I noted the immediate emergence, on the same day and before the key facts were known, of the “battle for the narrative” about this shooting.
Was the key question here the broader treatment of gays and lesbians, racism, so-called Islamic terrorism, immigration, guns, mental illness, or something else? On all sides, many people had immediate and specific answers. For me, looking at these events with the advantage of time, some answers are still not obvious.
The first and most important thing, it seems to me, is that we honour and commemorate the lives of the victims who were killed — and that we honour them first and foremost as human individuals. Of course, their identities — as gay, as Hispanic, etc. — inform who they were as individuals, but their dignity and value as individuals exist prior to, and independent of, their various identities.
Secondly, perhaps we should avoid looking at these types of events through any single lens. Of course it matters that the shooter pledged allegiance to Daesh/ISIS.
That fact gives important information about what was on his mind and informed his own justification of what he was doing. This was, by any definition, an act of terrorism.
However, recognizing this as Daesh-inspired terrorism doesn’t change the fact that the shooter was clearly troubled, and was not representative of the Muslim community or of anyone who seeks God sincerely.
He may have been informed by messages about sexuality that he received via radical Islamist instruction or by wider society; but it seems evident that he was also personally lost, responding to his own inability to deal with sexual, cultural, religious, and spiritual challenges in his own life.
As some seek to sharpen battle lines over issues of religion and sexuality, one anecdote from after the shooting is worth highlighting. Chick-fil-A, renowned for its chicken sandwiches, but also for having a CEO who opposes same-sex marriage, has faced boycotts from the gay community in the past. After the shooting in Orlando, the restaurant broke a long-standing policy of being closed on Sundays — they went to work in Orlando after the shooting to provide food to blood donors and first responders helping the victims. This strikes me as a beautiful example of how to transcend differences and focus on people in need.
Garnett Genuis is the member of Parliament for Sherwood Park-Fort Saskatchewan. He can be contacted by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 780-467-4944. His office is located in the Park Place Professional Centre, Unit No. 214. Genuis was first elected in October 2015.
Published: Thursday, June 30, 2016