I am sick and tired of people saying we shouldn’t politicize tragedies like Orlando or Sandy Hook or San Bernardino or Virginia Tech. To me, that is just code for continued inaction and ignorance toward the problems that our population faces. Not our LGBT population, not our Muslim population, not our Christian population, but our human population.
The fact of the matter is we live in a country that abjectly ignores mental health issues as an integral part of a reasonable health care system. The fact of the matter is a ridiculous percentage of Americans routinely demonize people based on who they love. The fact of the matter is many of us get squirmy when we see a hijab wearing woman get on an airplane. The fact of the matter is I could walk into a store and walk out with weapons and accessories that are solely designed to inflict maximum damage in the shortest amount of time.
Whether it be our outmatched and underfunded and mismanaged VA system trying to cope with the thousands upon thousands of our veterans that need mental health support in addition to physical rehabilitation, or our private health care policy that simply doesn’t care about those battling mental illnesses ranging from depression to addiction disorders to schizophrenia, we have wrung our hands and said things like ‘we have to do something’ without actually doing anything. It will take money to address our mental health crisis – a lot of it. Do we have the will to do that? I would like to think so but our recent history makes me more than skeptical.
A loud portion of Americans seem much more concerned about who is using what bathroom than the rank discrimination that happens in the workplace on a daily basis. Two gay men may now be able to get a marriage license, but may legally get fired from their job only because they openly love each other. Even yesterday, I saw a comment from Ted Cruz in the wake of the Orlando tragedy. He spoke of violence against the LGBT as being wrong – pretty rich considering he spoke at an event held by Pastor Kevin Swanson last fall, who advocates for the execution of gays. And I heard other people talking about the fact that while Florida is an open carry state, gay people probably don’t carry guns. The illogic of that statement is beyond comprehension unless one abjectly ignores the fact that there are many currently serving or retired members of our Armed Forces that are homosexual.
There are other politicians – I’m looking at you Donald Trump – who continually foment and encourage a brand of fear that I had only previously read about in history books. If you wish to pigeonhole all Muslims because of Orlando or ISIL or 9/11, then you should also pigeonhole all Christians because of James Kopp or Kevin Swanson or the Westboro Baptist Church. Further, I offer an open invitation to come into my classroom and speak with my Muslim students – at least some of whom have only recently immigrated from the Middle East. They will denounce the violence carried out in the name of the Koran just as earnestly as others denounce violence carried out in the name of the Bible. Extremism in any form is wrong. But it will not be defeated by bombs and missiles.
My stance on guns is well known, so I won’t discuss it at length here. But I will reiterate that I do not advocate for squad of government officials to come and remove guns from every home in the country. Just like some people stereotype Muslims or gays or Christians, the vast majority of gun owners are responsible people and I support their right to own a firearm. But that does not mean we cannot have reasonable limitations on what can be possessed by a private citizen and it does not mean we cannot institute some kind of mandatory safety course before obtaining a license to own a firearm. Will that solve the problems? No. But we require people to demonstrate minimal skills before being able to legally operate a motor vehicle. I don’t know why giving someone an item that is just as lethal without some demonstration of knowledge would be so difficult.
Lastly, I have seen and heard many things like ‘How to end terrorism: Buy a gun, learn how to use it, carry it EVERYWHERE. If you aren’t willing to defend your life, what makes you think someone else will?’ That, to me, is giving in to fear and I simply refuse to do that. Later today, I am going to an international soccer match in Houston. I’m not going armed with anything other than my voice and a flask. I am not going in fear. I am not going with a shred of apprehension of what might happen. I am going to see 22 players try to kick a ball into a goal and tens of thousands of fans go apeshit when they do. If someone on a fringe decides to take advantage of that, then that is their problem and I’ll live (or not) with those consequences.
Decompression complete. As is the case when I write, this is my own kind of therapy. Agree or disagree, comment or not, your choice.