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A Symptom, Not A Cause

posted on: Jun 16, 2016

A Symptom, Not A Cause
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BY: Julia Kassem/Contributing Writer

Overnight, 49 people in downtown Orlando were killed in a shooting that leveraged dual damage against two minority groups often marginalized and ostracized in the mainstream media. In America’s worst mass shooting in history, it is not accurate, perhaps, to lament that no one could have prevented the tragedy in a nation with a worldwide unprecedented lead of mass shootings.

While the disaster and devastation wrought by such events should never be accepted as normal, their regularity unfortunately points to causes and trends in society and in policy. The shooting that took place Saturday night was but one example of a deplorable series of attacks by which such patterns in policy manifest themselves.

Republican nominee Donald Trump took advantage of the opportunity to claim victory for being “right on radical Islamic terrorism” followed by an attack on Obama for refusing to categorize the shooting as such.

Unfortunately, the candidate and business tycoon’s attempt to “otherize” the actions of Mateen was a futile attempt to distance his own expression of hostility and hatred that were similar to Mateen’s. To Trump, “terrorism” was a convenient means to “other” the perpetrator and possibly forget that homophobia, a trait part and parcel to Islamophobia in its unjustifiable hatred of an entire group, was also a factor.

Instead of pigeonholing blame on religious radicalization a convenient scapegoat for both Trump and Mateen to rationalize their irrational hatred perhaps their similarities can be used to find a solution. Violent, mentally unstable, and homophobic with unfettered access to guns, the Orlando shooter followed in the trajectory of the typical American mass shooter.

“Unfortunately, the impulse is to blame Islam,” said Dr. and activist Yasmin Nair. “[C]ertainly of the right, but I also think many in the gay community, unfortunately, including the sort of liberal, lefty gay community, the impulse has been to blame Islam.”

The shooter’s volatile backstory contradicts the narrative of the typical hyper-religious terrorist that swore allegiance to ISIL over a phone call to police hours before the attack. While investigated in the past by the FBI for connections to extremists, his violent domestically bred background bred domestically is undeniably more significant than the narrative attached to him as a foreign or foreign-motivated terrorist.

Nair said of Mateen, “His parents are from Afghanistan, a war torn country for which we are responsible. He, you know, his earlier signs of domestic abuse, his wife has said that he beat her and was abusive to her. His hatred for other minorities despite being himself a minority, his general, you know, his gun-buying spree, his fetishization of guns, his fetishization of the police force. There are photos of him wearing an NYPD t-shirt.”

Unfortunately, his surname and skin were used to shift conversations away from the otherwise harrowing similarities of systemic violence, mental health, and gun control that symptomatic mass shootings demand to be had in this country. Wrote Whistleblower Chelsea Manning wrote early Monday morning on the Guardian, “we must resist any temptations to let this attack…trigger anti-Muslim foreign policy [and] attacks on our civil liberties…The response can be more dangerous than the attack.”

Mateen was also an employee of G4S, the largest security firm worldwide that provides services in places like South Africa, Afghanistan, and Iraq. Employed as a guard since 2007, the juvenile corrections facility he worked at was known for mistreating its clients; a controversy in concert to the firm’s questionable means of treating inmates worldwide in regions the firm operates in.

Given the incriminating testimony by Mateen’s ex-wife detailing his abusive tendencies, Mateen was a patron of Pulse and gay dating apps. With a psyche marked by confusion and conflict, hatred was unfortunately the means the shooter adopted to articulate his intrinsic tension in the context of a country that demonstrates a track record of violence.

Homophobic, allegedly racist, and an employee for top security firm G4S with unrestricted access to guns, Mateen was a product, and not an anomaly, of a society that claims ideology, such as Islamic radicalism, as a pretext while ignoring the greater subtext of systemic violence present in policy and society alike.