America can’t seem to agree whether the largest act of terrorism since 9/11 — and the nation’s largest mass shooting ever — matters more or matters less for having happened at a gay night club.
If that’s the debate driving our conversations post-Orlando, we are in trouble as a society.
What happened Saturday night into Sunday morning epitomized the very worst of everything American society currently has to offer — incessant assault rifle massacres, religious extremism and dangerous homophobia.
Some people, like the lieutenant governor of Texas and a rotten preacher in California, eschewed their usual condemnation of Muslim terrorists to spew judgmental criticism at homosexual victims who were slaughtered while partying in Florida after midnight.
Meanwhile, the LGBT community reacted in shock, in mourning and in understandable sensitivity after realizing an ISIS-allegiant madman had decided to target a gay bar.
Talk about messy political perspectives colliding at unprecedented speed.
Here in Oklahoma, the response seemed mostly appropriate on a public level. In Tulsa, a gathering attracted hundreds of people. In Norman, a vigil lit up the University of Oklahoma’s South Oval. In OKC, families rallied along 39th Street, and city leaders lit the Skydance Bridge in a rainbow of supportive hues. In McAlester, I’m sure someone did something.
Embarrassing headlines were avoided here locally, or so would say us — the non-homophobic media chattering class.
But there is more to this story that straight and gay Oklahomans alike must consider, and it’s not an easy pill to swallow.
While it doesn’t make for fun bedtime reading, it does make for a powerful congressional filibuster that — at the time of this post’s publication — remains ongoing.
If you hadn’t heard, Sen. Christopher Murphy, D-Conn., began speaking at 10:21 a.m. Wednesday to demand a U.S. Senate vote on at least two gun-violence-prevention measures that have broad public support.
He was joined by dozens of other Democrats, as well as at least two Republicans, and ultimately the GOP-led body agreed to allow the gun-control votes this week.
As best I can figure it, here’s the reason why they took a stand.
15 days and 20 mass shootings
Orlando marks the largest mass shooting in U.S. history, with 49 people killed and an equal number “just shot.”
President Barack Obama has now had to address 15 mass shootings during his seven years in office, and that doesn’t even count the hundreds of other events that qualify as “mass shootings” by the criteria of GunViolenceArchive.org. Halfway through June 2016 alone, the U.S. has seen 20 instances where four or more people were shot.
That’s 15 days and 20 mass shootings.
The president has pushed for firearm reform through all of this, and he has been vilified for curbing people’s access to guns without actually succeeding in doing so in the least.
Meanwhile, the events get worse and the public gets desensitized. Until we set a new death-toll record, that is.
Three years ago, 27 people were killed at Sandy Hook Elementary School. A year ago, nine people were killed during a church massacre in South Carolina. The day before Orlando, a man killed a woman and four children under the age of 14. The day after, a man shot five people at a Brooklyn playground during a dispute over a stolen handbag.
Do we have to reach triple digits before there is action?
While many mass shootings are not hate crimes or products of religious extremism or racial animus, a man shooting 17 people in the factory where he made riding lawnmowers is just as disturbing.
Failing to act: ‘A truly dangerous predicament’
Fueling America’s nightmare, however, is that no one seems able to do anything that can keep guns out of the hands of the unstable. Nor can we subdue the nation’s frightening machine-gun machismo in general. Perhaps the former can’t be accomplished without the latter in the first place.
In the wake of Orlando, we must all realize what a truly dangerous predicament gun violence is for our democracy, but Serious People in this country are STILL being distracted by condemnations of gay marriage — which has already been decided by the Supreme Court — and LGBT equality in general.
In the end, extremist hatred of LGBT communities comes from multiple books and multiple pulpits. People can hate damn near anybody, and the byproduct of hatred can easily be death.
Until we can all make a concerted effort not to hate and not to have assault weapons loaded in every hater’s closet, we’re destined for these sorts of events to recur.
That’s truly sad. We must all strive to do better for the sake of humanity.
(Editor’s Note: This post was updated at 8 a.m. Thursday, June 16, to reference the end of Sen. Murphy’s filibuster.)