What Orlando Proves About Misconceptions of Terrorism
At least 53 people, as reported by 11:15 AM on 6/12/2016, were killed inside Pulse, an LGBT nightclub in Orlando, Florida. The shooter, Omar Mateen, opened fire overnight, creating the deadliest mass shooting and “terrorist” attack on American soil since 9/11. Police shot and killed the gunman, according to reports, and experts have stated that “it appears that he was organized and well-prepared”. The Orlando Police Chief, John Mina, added onto reports stating that the shooter had an assault-type weapon, a handgun, and a hunting knife on him. A lengthy investigation is ahead, given the sheer amount of victims.
People are already starting to freak out about this horrible accident, and a bit of a political chess game has already begun among the ignorant people of social media. People have been arguing about what the shooter actually did. Did he commit a mass shooting? A hate crime? An act of domestic terrorism? For all the ignorance on social media, I’ve yet to see someone say the correct answer: all three.
We live in a society that has beat the dead horse in a sense when it comes to the word “terrorism”. Ever since 9/11, our American senses have been short-shocked to imagine religion in the form of Islam to be the only form of “terrorism”. This is a horrendous misconception, with Americans going as far as completely ignoring domestic terrorism right before their very eyes because “the suspect doesn’t look like what we’ve been told a terrorist is.”
We’ve allowed ourselves to create a template in disguise, if you will. And it needs to stop right now.
Terrorism is not a modern concept, as Dan Carlin of the “Hardcore History” podcast has consistently preached. Terrorism is a modern word attached to an age-old problem in world history. Terrorism has existed throughout all history, putting us in a never-ending cycle of the so-called “war on terror” that political powers like enforcing through modern news media. If we like to persist a “war on terror”, then it has been going on since the beginning of time. The modern day fear of Islam — to an extent of Islamophobia — is nothing different than the Red Scare during the Cold War, or the fear of Japanese kamikaze pilots during the Second World War. The “War on Terror” is simply a sociological numbing towards whatever is considered “an enemy”. And guess what? I always goes too far on our part as well.
To the Red Scare, where hundreds of people were put up against a House committee, with their constitutional rights taken away in order to be “quizzed” into giving away “possible” communists that “may or may not” have been of interest. Innocent people were executed, and innocent people were forced to serve a year or more in prison. To the Japanese kamikaze pilots, a fear of “The Japs” led to concentration and working camps within our own fifty states. Such an extent went by to “the enemy” that our own soldiers on two separate fronts had different viewings of “the enemy”. To the soldiers in Europe, the Germans were living and breathing humans — simply brainwashed by an autocratic regime. To the soldiers in the Pacific, however, the Japanese were cockroaches — deserving of death and no mercy. Why? Because we had been personally attacked by the Japanese — the “war on terror” had targeted them”.
What the so-called “war on terror” targets tends to be the victims of history. We dislike communism, so we harm people that are 1/10 communist. We dislike the Japanese fighter pilots, so we harm American citizens of Japanese descent and Japanese citizens who, like the Germans, were not of the same level of those horrendous actions we portrayed. So, what the Hell is the difference when it comes to Islamic terrorism, or any terrorism at that?
Terror does not equal war. Fear does not equal an epoch or era of our existence. We’ve been in this for thousands of years. But when it comes down to it, the world isn’t the most dangerous it’s ever been. To say such a thing is the largest hyperbole one can say when it comes to modern day diplomacy and conduct. –The War on Terror Throughout History, Joseph Kaminski
If this man, Omar Mateen, was white…we wouldn’t be having this conversation. Much like the Planned Parenthood Christian Attacker, Robert Dear, who slaughtered to “be a warrior for the babies” and the Charleston racist with a manifesto Dylann Storm Roof, the news would consider them “disgruntled” or “loners” or “mentally challenged”. White doesn’t fit into the definition of terrorism our current epoch of the “war on terror” has set the template for. But, because of his name and the fact that his parents were from Afghanistan we suddenly splurge to a terrorist accusation without question!
He is a terrorist, but so are Robert Dear and Dylann Storm Roof and the countless other “disgruntled whites” and “peaceful protesters” that the news has been shoveling under the rug for years. Let me say it again: he is a terrorist. But not because of name or faith, but because of his actions.
The literal definition of terrorism, according to the Webster Dictionary, is the use of violence and intimidation in the pursuit of political aims. This man, Omar Mateen, shot up a gay bar during gay pride month exactly two weeks before the year anniversary of America legalizing gay marriage in all fifty states. His own father has come forth to say that his son had become “enraged” when he saw two gay men kissing in Miami not to long beforehand. That is a use of violence and intimidation in the pursuit of having his political ideology heard.
But, let’s take it a step further.
According to the FBI, “Domestic Terrorism” can be categorized if activities within the following three characteristics are met:
- Involve acts dangerous to human life that violate federal or state law;
- Appear intended (i) to intimidate or coerce a civilian population; (ii) to influence the policy of a government by intimidation or coercion; or (iii) to affect the conduct of a government by mass destruction, assassination. or kidnapping; and
- Occur primarily within the territorial jurisdiction of the U.S.
Well, alright then. Did this attack involve acts dangerous to human life that violated federal and state laws? You bet. Over fifty people are dead, a mass shooting homicide that tops the list of the many America sees. Setting a record, if you wish to describe it as such, becoming the worst act of terrorism and most devastating mass shooting in American history. So, check.
Did this attack appear intended to intimidate or coerce a civilian policy, conducting mass destruction? One hundred percent. His political goal is easily noticeable: to send a wave of fear in the LGBT community. This is a hate crime, yes, but a hate crime with a fit of rage intended to leave a mark. So, check.
Did this attack occur within the territorial jurisdiction of the United States? Last I checked, Orlando (ranked around the 77th largest city in the states and home to UCF, the second most populated public university in America) is in fact within the territorial jurisdiction of the United States of America. So, CHECK.
So, according to American fundamental laws: where in these categorizations are the words “Islam”, “religion”, or “faith” located? Nowhere. Absolutely nowhere. Thus, it doesn’t fucking matter if you commit a crime like this in the name of God, Allah, or in a homicidal rage. You’ve committed a mass shooting in the form of a hate crime towards LGBT members that can in fact be federally categorized as a terrorist attack.
Hate crimes? They can be terrorist attacks. Mass shootings? They can be terrorist attacks. It doesn’t matter if you’re white and Christian or brown and Muslim or anything in between.
So, how about we start wondering how to fix the mental health problem in America, stopping the LGBT hatred preached by idiots by Mike Huckabee and Kevin Swanson, and preventing bigots like Donald Trump from using a horrendous event to push his own political agenda forward? How about we focus on preventing future events, rather than creating further tension. How about we stop categorizing “hate crimes”, “mass shootings”, and “acts of terrorism” into different pools if the events overlap between the three categories?
Wake up, America. It’s time for some change in how we perceive this kind of tragedy. Orlando, Florida is not the first time this has happened: break the bubble you live in.
It’s a shame I have to say this, because it never should have happened. My thoughts go to the victims and the families and friends of said victims. It’s a shame that such bigotry and hatred can lead to the death of so many people. This can be blamed on more than just fundamentalist religious beliefs: it can be aligned with ignorance, bigotry, and homophobia.