The Way People Talk About The Shooting in Orlando Pisses Me Off

Nothing annoys me more when everyone on my facebook comes together to say exactly the same thing:

My heart goes out to the victims in Orlando

This is awful! There has been the largest mass shooting in American History in Orlando!

We need better gun laws! This must not be allowed to happen again!

Most facebook posts about the shooting fall into 1 of 2 categories:

  1. I am so mad
  2. I am so sad

What no one ever says is “I see how my behavior has contributed to the larger culture that allowed this to happen.” Because that shooter? He was American. Born and raised in the USA, educated in public schools, he was a product of our culture. Everyone on facebook who is acting like there is a problem somewhere over there is off base.

Whatever the shooter’s religion, skin color, his radical leanings — America made him the man he was. Not ISIS. Not Afghanistan. America. It is telling that he picked a particularly American form of murder isn’t it? Mass shooting with an assault rifle — practically apple pie.

Some of my friends have remarked “isn’t is sad this happened now, when things seemed to be going so well for queer people?” Tell that to the homeless trans women who can’t get hired because their gender makes people uncomfortable. Tell that to lesbians struggling to get by because they don’t have access to male earning potential. Tell that to gay men who still have the highest rates of deadly STDs of any sexual orientation.

Queer people still had tons of problems going on, but most straight people had no idea because they don’t take an interest in queer people. But, you know, when a club of gay men gets shot up, suddenly queers are interesting again. It reminded me of when Cheryl Strayed talked about how she responded to deaths of people she hardly knew, vs how she responded to her mother’s death:

THE FIRST PERSON I knew who died was a casual friend of my mother’s named Barb. Barb was in her early thirties, and I was ten. Her hair was brown and shoulder length, her skin clear and smooth as a bar of soap. She had the kind of tall body that made you acutely aware of the presence of its bones: a long, knobby nose; wide, thin hips; a jaw too pointed to be considered beautiful. Barb got into her car and started the engine. Her car was parked in a garage and all the doors were closed and she had stuffed a Minnesota Vikings cap into the exhaust pipe. My mother explained this to me in detail: the Vikings hat, the sitting in the car with the garage door closed on purpose. I was more curious than sad. But in the months that followed, I thought of Barb often. I came to care for her. I nurtured an inflated sense of my connection to her.

Recently, another acquaintance of mine died. He was beautiful and young and free-spirited and one hell of a painter. He went hiking one day on the Oregon coast and was never seen again. Over the course of my life, I have known other people who’ve died. Some of them have died the way we hoped they would — old, content, at their time; others, the way we hoped they wouldn’t — by murder or suicide, in accidents, or too young of illnesses. The deaths of those people made me sad, afraid, and angry; they made me question the fairness of the world, the existence of God, and the nature of my own existence. But they did not make me suffer. They did not make me think, I cannot continue to live. In fact, in their deaths I felt more deeply connected to them, not because I grieved them, but because I wanted to attach myself to what is interesting. It is interesting to be in a Chinese restaurant and see a poster of the smiling face of an acquaintance, who is one hell of a painter, plastered on the front door. It is interesting to be able to say, I know him, to feel a part of something important and awful and big. The more connections like this we have, the more interesting we are.

THERE WAS NOTHING interesting to me about my mother’s death. I did not want to attach myself to it. It was her life that I clung to, her very, very interesting life.

Cheryl Strayed in The Love of my Life

People are not showing solidarity toward the queer community because they care about queers, but because mass death is interesting. People want to feel part of something bigger, so they nurture an inflated sense of their connection to the queer community during this time. I am not talking about anyone (queer or otherwise) who has been triggered by this event and having trauma induced PTSD-like episodes. I’m not talking about anyone’s genuine emotional response, whatever that response may be. I’m talking about people who deep down know they’re not really as sad as they’re “supposed” to feel, but are pretending anyway.

I’m going to say something I’m not supposed to say: I don’t feel anything for those gay men who died in that club. I didn’t know them, I didn’t love them, and I’m not going to pretend to be in mourning for them. It would be offensive to those who really are morning. I am angry, and I’m scared for queer events in the future, but most of my emotions are based in selfish concern for my own safety. And, I feel pressure not to admit this publicly.

What really offends me about this culture of bullshit-sadness is that it’s part of the problem. We all sit around, pretending we feel things we don’t really feel, pretending we feel the things a “good person” should be feeling. But this bullshit emotional pretense creates isolation. What does nearly every mass shooter have in common? They are a lonely man without a lot of social connections. This way of isolating people from each other, this way we shame people for having normal emotional responses, is toxic. And it’s killing us. Literally.

I mean, is it just me? Am I a sociopath, or does the emperor have no clothes? Am I a bad person for not being sad about the deaths of people I don’t know?

Anyway — I wish my facebook would stop worrying so much about fake emotions and guns, and start worrying a little more about honesty and inclusion. Yeah, ok, I’d be down with fewer assault rifles on the loose, but lonely people will find a way of killing people. Haven’t we learned that by now? To fix mass killings, we have to create fewer sad lonely people. We have to connect. We have to get real about who we are, and let other people get real about who they are. Loneliness is fixed by connection, and connection comes from authenticity. So stop faking it already!

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