Thoughts on Orlando

The tragic massacre in Orlando, Florida, on Sunday, June 12, has left me feeling broken, helpless, and hopeless. I don't have very much to say that's original beyond what's been said over the past three days, but here's where I stand in this moment:

1. Why are people acting surprised and shocked by this event? It will happen again and again and again. Stop living in some Fantasyland. The United States is an open society with a 2nd Amendment that protects purchasing, owning, and using high-powered, semi-automatic assault weapons. I'm told that there are policies and laws that are supposed to prevent people from gaining access to those weapons, but those policies and laws aren't always followed "to the letter." The NYPD finds all sorts of reasons to enforce laws about public urination or selling marijuana, and then we throw repeat offenders who break those laws into jail.  Where are the law enforcement officials throughout the country who are supposed to uphold these gun licensing policies and laws that I'm told will accurately and effectively screen people before purchasing a high-powered, semi-automatic weapon?

2. I am not afraid of "radical Jihadists." I am afraid of "radicalized Christians," like the man who preached on Sunday morning in California, telling his parishioners that the world was a safer place because 50 pedophiles were now dead. That is America, ladies and gentlemen. Sorry to burst the Disney-fied bubble that people like to live in, but that's the reality. And I challenge you to stand in my shoes as a gay man and try and get excited about living in a country and waving a red, white, and blue flag where that kind of rhetoric exists. I hope as you proudly hung your American flags out yesterday for Flag Day that you also took a moment to ponder how we collectively protect and even embrace an American mindset that seems to have partially led to the events on Sunday morning. Don't blame it on "Radical Islam." That's an easy out to cover over anti-gay hatred in this country that's been present far before any Muslim set foot on American soil. Religious zealotry is in the American DNA, all the way back to the Puritans, so if we really want to be Americans, we need to own all of our history, not just the parts that make us feel good on Memorial Day or Flag Day or Independence Day.

3. The Oxford English Dictionary defines "terrorism" as follows:

"The unofficial or unauthorized use of violence and intimidation in the pursuit of political aims; (originally) such practices used by a government or ruling group (freq. through paramilitary or informal armed groups) in order to maintain its control over a population; (now usually) such practices used by a clandestine or expatriate organization as a means of furthering its aims."

And a second definition:

"In extended or weakened use: the instilling of fear or terror; intimidation, coercion, bullying."

The verbal intimidation, coercion, and bullying tactics of Donald Trump and many of the other Republican leaders in this country amount to verbal terrorism based on the definition outlined above. Domestic terrorism used to control people who are afraid of others who are different from them. In the same way that ISIS is rallying people using social media, Donald Trump is doing the same thing in his public rallies and on his Twitter account. IT IS THE SAME THING AND WILL LEAD TO ANOTHER ACT OF DOMESTIC TERRORISM. It already has. Many, many times. Oklahoma City and Charleston are just two examples. "Oh, but those don't count because those guys were White." It makes me sick to even think that someone would say that, but I know that's the excuse that many Americans use and believe.

Words encourage and empower people to do things. We are beyond "Sticks and stones may break my bones, but names will never hurt me." That little adage died an ugly death in the halls of Columbine High School a long time ago. What people say matters. And what our leaders say matters even more. The United States of America is an embarrassment right now.