I didn’t cry when I heard about the Orlando shooting. And for a minute there I was worried I’d become completely inured to this kind of cruelty. I barely reacted at all, none of my signature faces, no curled lips or disgusted head shaking.
It was troubling. I never want to be so desensitized to violence that the sudden, completely unnecessary deaths of 49 people inside Pulse, a gay nightclub – an event some are calling the nation’s worst terror attack since 9/11 – could fail to elicit a response in me. Yet, the sight of the shooter’s face, 29-year-old Omar Mateen of Fort Pierce, Florida, didn’t make me feel any type of way.
Why? Because in this world, in this time, this is what can happen when people don’t value diversity and inclusion. This is what can happen when you deny people the option to be who they are.
Yes, Mateen – who was killed at the scene by police – was likely mentally ill. I don’t know for sure. But when I heard about his experimentation, the visits to LGBT clubs, using gay dating apps, etc. I immediately thought, perhaps this wouldn’t have happened had this man felt comfortable embracing that side of himself. Perhaps if he had felt able to talk about things, to search out information and figure out this very personal situation among supportive family and friends, his anger toward those he likely viewed as free would not have exploded so fiercely and inhumanely.
If society was not so perpetually eager to put people into boxes, restrictive, limiting, potentially ill-fitting boxes, maybe folks wouldn’t get this angry. If jobs and lovers and friends and churches were not close-minded, if they were open to difference, more tolerant of ideas and people outside their small, regular circles, maybe the people who don’t fit into those boxes, into those narrowly-fitted ideas, wouldn’t end up using a gun to cure their hurt.
I’ve said it before, and I’ll probably say it time and time again. Everyone is not the same, and we as a nation, as a people, as a global workplace, as a world have got to understand that. We’ve got to change the traditional, often antiquated systems through which we live and operate to allow for individuality. We cannot make it tough for people to be who they are, and we can’t fear and block difference just because it makes us comfortable.
My thoughts may have little to nothing to do with Mateen’s actions. He could have just been a deranged man with an axe to grind, a violent nature and legal access to powerful guns. But it’s suspicious, you know?
And I’m sorry, but these mass killings we keep experiencing? I have no doubt that many of them are diversity-related. Man feels slighted by women, holds onto antiquated ideas about their duties and place, he kills. Man feels minorities are given special treatment and opportunities he cannot access but is entitled to, he kills. Man struggles with sexual identity and verbally aligns himself with ISIS, an outlier group that gives him the courage to act out a very personal, internal struggle in an external way, and he kills.
Connect the dots.
Happy people don’t kill, not usually. And nothing makes a person more unhappy than having to hide who they are, or feeling as though no one is interested in that authentic person, or that the fake version of self they present to the world is actually more acceptable. Think about that, and please act accordingly.