“Give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, The wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door!” That's the poem on the Statue of Liberty written by Emma Lazarus, a Jewish woman in 1883. A woman who back then did not have the right to vote and came from a group of people that have been and continue to be persecuted the world over. A woman who was the daughter of immigrants. The point being is that America is a nation of immigrants, founded and built by immigrants. It continues to be to this day. To be xenophobic is almost by definition un-American. We all know what happened on September 11th 2001. We also know who hijacked those planes and where they were from. The attacks that took place that day changed America forever and that includes increased security measures on travel to and from the U.S. We have to take our shoes off and submit ourselves to "Total Recall" type X-ray machines or very intimate pat downs. We also know what happened in Germany right before World War II. The persecution of a certain group of people that according to the German leadership at the time was responsible for all the ills of the nation. A group of people that needed "extreme vetting" and surveillance. That group's vetting got scaled up bit by bit until they found themselves in labor or concentration camps. During that time America did the same thing, to our citizens of Japanese descent. History tells us that these approaches to our security were a mistake. We need to learn from history. We cannot fight terrorism with fear. Ben Franklin said it best "Those who would give up essential Liberty, to purchase a little temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety." Immigrants are not our enemies, Muslim, Mexican or otherwise. They are our backbone and always will be. But this is just my opinion, of course.
This is what happens. When as a society we allow ignorance to be protected under the guise of politics or religion. When we defend other people's insecurities in an attempt to conserve and protect values that may be traditional to some but oppressive to others.
This is what happens when we don't promote respect and acceptance of diversity through knowledge and understanding. We encourage ignorance which promotes fear and hatred of people different from us. This is inexcusable. My heart goes out to the LGBTQ community and the victims of today's massacre in Orlando.
Calling this an act of terrorism or a gun tragedy or anything other than a hate crime is taking away from the LGBTQ community and almost making an excuse by blaming it on something else, distracting from the real issue. The fact of the matter is that as a society we have been doing this for generations. LGBTQ people have been murdered, beaten and raped (yes raped) just because they simply consensually love another person that a heteronormative culture does not approve of. Not to mention the countless amounts of discrimination they faced and continue to face on a daily basis. From marriage rights to lack of employment protection to getting something as inoffensive as a cake baked for their wedding. This is a hate crime and we have all been complicit in it.
As a nation we still treat our LGBTQ brothers and sisters as less than or something other than. Even with the Marriage Equality act they are still second class citizens. Then there is the astronomically high suicide rate among teens that are LGBTQ. As I write this, sexually active gay people are being denied the ability to donate blood to the victims in Orlando, but not sexually active straight people. The odds are stacked against anyone that is not "straight and normal" in our world and the systemic support is pretty much non-existent.
Can we make this a terrorism issue? Yes, of course. After all, the guy did claim allegiance to ISIS. Can we make this a gun issue? Absolutely. It was a gunman. He used guns. Can we make this a religious issue? Very much so. Much like the Westborough Baptist Church, ISIS is a fundamentalist extremist sect of a very popular world religion. Can we make this a political issue? Certainly. All the presidential hopefuls have all chimed in. But in the end, we are all avoiding the deeper issue; excused, acceptable, and defendable ignorance, hate and intolerance.
How many times have we called someone the "f" word. The one that ends with "g"? Or said "that's so gay"? Or heard someone else do it and not say anything? Furthermore, we don't stop to consider if the person saying it is with ISIS or what political party or religion they belong to. More often than not its excused, because its "just a joke".
You want to fight religious extremism? Fight ignorance first. Religious extremists need ignorance in order to brainwash people into following them and their warped beliefs. You want to put an end to gun violence? Fight ignorance first. We need responsible gun owners and not ignorant ones. Don't use the 2nd amendment right (which is how this gunman was able to acquire this weapon LEGALLY) to threaten others or as an excuse to constantly live in fear that someone may attack you. Banning guns won't make a difference, ignorance always finds a way. You want to fight homophobia? Fight ignorance first. Being afraid of people that are different from the majority is how we got the public lynchings during the first half of the 20th century.
We make excuses to defend our ignorance. We shield it under religious beliefs, politics, superstition, tradition, pseudoscience or morality. Its time to drop our defenses and open up and accept. Its the only way to learn and gain knowledge over our fear of the unknown, and its the only way to fight ignorance.
Arizona is at it again. This is what happens when you don't stand up for equal rights on the first abuse of power. Escalation. The abuse of power continues and so does the ignorant thinking and prejudices. This time around the great state that brought you the "papers please" law and decided to make life more difficult for minorities and immigrants, has decided to persecute the transgender community. Just when I thought they couldn't find more assholey ways to discriminate against minorities, Arizona manages to raise the bar of douchebaggery. This time the proposed bill by state rep. John Kavanagh would require transgender folk to identify their gender stated on their birth certificate before they use the facilities in a public place or risk facing 6 months in jail. Check out more about this knuckle dragging piece of proposed legislation here.
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