Donald Trump's photo op when the country protests George Floyd's death asking for change...
I've never understood anti-Semitism. As a Mexican-American man with little exposure to Jewish people up until college, that hate always seemed like one group of white people discriminating another group of white people for no good reason. I never understood why if our country went to war against the Nazi's in World War II to save Jewish folks from genocide, we would have Americans that would act like the enemy. We are supposed to be the heroes not the villains. So it never made sense why ANY American would hate or promote hatred or fear towards the same group of people our soldiers died to save. It seems to me like a betrayal of our values and what our ancestors fought for. Why save a group only to hate them and persecute them later? It seems to me at that point we become our enemy.
In the wake of The Tree of Life Synagogue shooting the words "I'm sorry", "that's horrible" and "what a tragedy" don't seem enough. No words seem adequate to express the terrible feelings around this unfortunate event. Presently, I have many close friends and loved ones that are Jewish. Any of them could have been in attendance. Although I am not religious myself I personally have accompanied many of them to their place of worship for festivities or ceremonies. It could have been me. Any one of us.
Then to add insult to injury President Trump shows up in an attempt to, let's say pay his respects or console people. Both of which he failed to do as his response to this atrocity was that all they needed was an armed guard inside the place of worship to stop the gunman. The degree of disconnect in our commander in chief is astronomical. I later learned through a friend that the dinner on Air Force One on the return from the visit to the Tree of Life synagogue for Jewish staffers onboard was pork ribs. One would assume that for a man who's son-in-law is Jewish as well as his daughter (whom converted) and grandkids, he would have a greater sensitivity towards the Jewish faith and culture. However, it's not surprising. His track record shows the opposite. His failure to decry racism, sexism, anti-Semitism and his penchant for promoting fringe ideologies as well as violence towards those that disagree with him have led us here. In the span of a week two Trump supporters attempted to carry out their own schemes with the intent to kill people that Trump has in the past blamed or demonized. Words do indeed matter. Especially when they come from a man that is supposed to be a leader and a role model. Words can influence and inspire as can silence. In this case what Trump is saying is just as important as what he is not. By not taking action and not denouncing these vile behaviors he is basically silently condoning them.
"Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented. " -Elie Wiesel
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.
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