Hours after Omar Mateen had unloaded his AR-15 on innocent civilians in his twisted personal agenda inspired mini-war, president Obama took to the podium and called it an “act of terror” and an “act of hate.” He was accurate to include both of those phrases because, to be sure, both Islamic extremism and homophobia were motivating factors.
Why Islamic extremism? According to the FBI, Mateen called 911 and pledged allegiance to ISIS before his onslaught. Why an act of hate? According to Mir Seddique, Mateen’s father, the young man had become angered by seeing two men kissing in downtown Miami.
If you’re keeping score at home, we’ve got radical Islam and homophobia as motivating factors in Mateen’s heinous crime so far. That’s not enough for some. Fox News host Tucker Carlson also blamed Obama for the killing. That very day on his show he said, “Doesn’t the politicization of all of this, the relentless lying by the administration about the Islamic terror threat we face make it harder for people to want to step forward and say what they see?”
Not so, says Tom Brokaw. On Meet the Press Sunday, he said that lack of gun control was responsible for the shooting. Let’s throw yet a different point of view into the mix. A few weeks earlier an article in the Washington Post noted that Ronald K. Noble, former secretary-general of Interpol, has taken the position that mass shootings can be prevented if citizens are armed more, not less.
But it doesn’t end there. There are more fingers to be pointed and more targets to hit. Janaya Khan, founder of the Black Lives Matter movement in Toronto, took to Facebook and laid blame on yet another doorstep. According to Khan, it is “imperialist, capitalist Christian hetero-patriarchal fanaticism” that is responsible. For Khan, white supremacy is one of the main culprits.
If your head is beginning to spin, join the party. We could also throw in mental health, domestic violence and toxic masculinity. What else? Narcissism? Bad manners? God, the devil, and original sin? What single factor is to blame for the Orlando mass shooting? So many viewpoints, each one insisting that theirs is the only lens through which to look.
This event is unique in that it puts at the forefront two obvious motivators: Islamic extremism and homophobia. You will no doubt hear folks arguing endlessly over which it is.
“This event is unique in that it puts at the forefront two obvious motivators: Islamic extremism and homophobia. You will no doubt hear folks arguing endlessly over which it is.”
Here is an idea: The world is not black and white. It is actually a complicated place in which events occur as a result of MANY factors, not just one and maybe even not just a few. Nothing can be reduced to a single cause. To illustrate, let’s take a look at the Buddhist concept of interconnectedness. It’s a fairly easy idea to understand.
Let us ask the question, what is responsible for an apple seed becoming an apple tree? Is it sunshine? Is it dirt? Is it water? The obvious answer is that all of these factors and not just one or a few of them are responsible. All of them must be present in order for that seed to grow into an apple tree.
And what then, is to blame for Frosted Flakes ending up on our kitchen tables in the morning? Is it our busy lives or corporate marketing or apathy or poor education? Is it the cardboard factory or the corn farmer or the artist that drew Tony the Tiger?
What is responsible for a horrific mass shooting? Islamic extremism? Homophobia? Lack of gun control?
In our haste to blame, we will focus in on one or two factors because it has been ingrained in us by our educational system to do so. In fact, from the 3rd grade now, students are taught the age old tradition of trying to see the world through one single point of view and bolstering that one point of view with evidence that supports that one singular view.
Author and English professor David Batholomae has pointed out the drawback of this type of thinking/writing when he says “the tyranny of the thesis often invalidates the very act of analysis we hope to invoke. Hence, in assignment after assignment, we find students asked to reduce a novel, a poem, or their own experience into a single sentence, and then to use the act of writing in order to defend or ‘support’ that single sentence. Writing is used to close down a subject rather than open it up, to put an end to discourse rather than open up a project.”
“There is nothing inherently wrong with being able to defend and support a single point of view. Just as long as you’re not so married to that single point of view that you ignore all others.”
There is nothing inherently wrong with being able to defend and support a single point of view. Just as long as you’re not so married to that single point of view that you ignore all others. It is IGNORance that often gets us into trouble. A person who does that is a fanatic. They cannot see beyond their own narrow way of thinking. They are caught in their own tunnel vision, convinced that people that don’t think like them are evil and their way of thinking is the only valid interpretation.
That is Omar Mateen, staring at two men kissing in downtown Miami and not being able to get past his own narrow-minded paradigm. That is Donald Trump, thinking that a horrible public event is an opportunity to take to Twitter and further his political cause. This is many of us in the aftermath of the Orlando shooting, insisting that this or that is to blame. It’s only the liberals. It’s only the conservatives. It’s only Islam. It’s only homophobia.
Perhaps there are certain factors that have a greater impact than others. But in our haste to blame and analyze, let us not fall victim to tunnel vision. Let’s take a step back and consider that there might not be just one single reason that a 29 year-old dude would shoot up a night club.