Yet again, the world must face man-made atrocity that is almost unimaginable. Almost, because it’s so common now that we actually can imagine it, and it’s only a matter of time until someone, in this case an American 29-year old named Omar Mateen, makes it a reality. This homicide of incredible savagery is quickly labeled terrorism, but it strikes me as possibly being too convenient a label to lay upon it. We live in an age of acute, almost hyper awareness to acts of terror, but in the truest sense, terrorism is after something. It is a means to a specific end, and at least tonight, it’s difficult to understand what this psychopath was trying to change. He very clearly chose to murder homosexuals, and it’s hard for me to see a political reasoning for the crime. What change could a would-be terrorist hope to bring about by slaughtering innocent men and women who happen to be homosexual? Was he opposed to marriage equality and hoped to terrorize us into backing away from it as a nation? It seems unlikely, yet we must wait on an investigation to try to sort through the initial reactions and claims of allegiance to ISIS to determine a likely motive.
There are of course religious undertones to a possible motive as all three Abrahamic monotheisms oppose homosexuality, and if the texts are read literally, homosexuality is deemed a “crime” by the alleged god who a few men claim to have communicated with. This god also communicated a punishment for the crime of being born gay and that punishment is death. Could this homicidal maniac have seen himself as his god’s executioner?
To say that we are at war with terrorists is to say we are at war with human nature, and that war won’t be won. It can’t be. Technology has made the human animal more lethal, but it didn’t create the emotional engine in every person that has to contend with fear, anger, jealousy, mistrust, greed, disgust, and even love on a continuous basis. Humans are irrational by nature, prone to poor judgment and driven by emotions. We’ve committed atrocities against each other for as long as we have been, and we will undoubtedly continue to do so. A proclaimed battle against the human nature to act as humans, however righteous the proclamation may seem when made, won’t stop a Dylann Roof from walking into a Charleston church and murdering innocent people because they were black. A solemn pledge to put the full force of the US intelligence, law enforcement and military prowess to task to defeat hatred and rage won’t stop Omar Mateen from murdering innocent people because they were gay. The lone gunman, as these types are described, are not part of an army or a militia. They live among us and sometimes broadcast clues to those around them that something evil is brewing, but it’s virtually impossible to take action to prevent evil thoughts from becoming evil deeds.
What can be done is removing the technology that makes the evil deed, when it inevitably comes, quite so deadly. Omar Mateen, like mass shooters before him, was able to easily obtain some of the deadliest technology forged by the minds of man. Mateen bought himself an AR-15 assault rifle to convert his evil thoughts into deeds, as did Syed Farook in San Bernardino. Adam Lanza murdered children in Newtown with an AR-15 assault rifle and James Eagan Holmes murdered patrons of a movie theater in Aurora with the same weapon.
While the hawkish politicians in the US will use the Orlando shooting as an alarm for more saber rattling and calls for war on Islamic jihadists, what they won’t do is confront the reality of evil in our midsts. They won’t look at the glaring truth of the human mind and its capacity for viciousness, ferocity, and rage, and take the logical step of taking weapons of mass destruction out of easy reach. They will be quick to provide thoughts and prayers, and quick to blame a faceless bogeyman, but the much harder job of facing a reality from which we cannot escape; well that they just won’t do.