On the evening of June 11, 2016, we experienced the deadliest mass shooting in U.S. history, when Omar Mateen opened fire in a gay club in Orlando, Florida, killing 50 people and injuring countless others.
Since then, there has been a huge outpour of support for the victims, survivors, and their families and friends.
However, at the same time, many people have expressed gratitude and pleasure at the deaths of such a large number of LGBT people.
Some of the comments made by those applauding the Orlando shooter can be found on ThoughtCatalog. Texas Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick responded by saying, "Don't be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows." Moreover, considering that their anti-gay rhetoric is known to incite violence against members of the LGBT community, "few Republicans mention LGBT community in Orlando reactions."
Meanwhile, on April 6, 2016, a mosque in Orlando, Florida, invited Sheikh Farrokh Sekaleshfar to advise its members that the killing of homosexuals is the compassionate thing to do. It bears mentioning that Omar Mateen was Muslim and lived in Florida.
What's most offensive and disappointing about Dr. Sekaleshfar's advice is that he is inciting people to kill members of the very community that has been fighting against anti-Muslim bigotry.
"The LGBTQ community has always been at the forefront of so many fights for human rights – including the fight against anti-Muslim bigotry. Tragically, the LGBTQ community has also long been a primary target of radical Islamist networks and governments across the planet.
We at AIFD stand unequivocally on the side of individual freedom and for the protection of LGBTQ people of all faiths and none."
In any event, this mass shooting was from someone home grown. Mateen, an American citizen, was born in New York. Mateen's father has said that the massacre "had nothing to do with religion." He described the actual motive as follows:
"We were in downtown Miami, Bayside, people were playing music. And he saw two men kissing each other in front of his wife and kid and he got very angry," Seddique told NBC. "They were kissing each other and touching each other and he said, 'Look at that. In front of my son they are doing that.' And then we were in the men's bathroom and men were kissing each other."
Like violence, to a very great extent, hate is learned and that much of that learning is taught through our family of origin.
Allow me to be crystal clear here. There is a backlash because the United States Supreme Court ruled that the LGBT community is entitled to marriage equality. It did so on the basis that gays and lesbians are entitled to equal dignity under the law.
It had to make such a ruling because a great many of those within the dominant culture were very happy keeping members of the LGBT community as second-class citizens.
It didn't matter to them that they were entitled to 1,138 federal marriage benefits that were denied to LGBT people by virtue of excluding them from marriage, among other things.
It didn't matter that similarly situated LGBT people in country paid higher taxes than their heterosexual counterparts by virtue of such exclusion. In 2009, The New York Times determined that the lifetime value of civil benefits received by married couples ranged from $41,196 to $467,562.
It didn't matter that the LGBT community was essentially being taxed without representation and was paying a greater share of the salaries and benefits for those representatives who were using their political positions to exclude them. Ironically, many such politicians and their supporters are members of "The Tea Party," referring to "The Boston Tea Party." It's ironic that they took that name and are anti-gay, considering that The Boston Tea Party the political protest that led to the American Revolution and occurred because the protesters were fed up with taxation without representation.
Now, because the United States Supreme Court ruled for marriage equality based upon the determination that gays and lesbians are entitled to equal dignity under the law, a backlash has occurred (as expected) and many people want marriage equality reversed somehow and every Republican Presidential candidate promised to do everything in their power to reverse it, except for John Kasich. There have been countless "religious freedom" / "religious liberty" laws brought up since, many of which have been passed.
In quite a number of states, gays and lesbians who marry a person of the same gender receive a pink slip from their employers as a wedding gift.
Anti-gays want the right to deny them services, housing and employment by virtue of their sexual orientation and/or gender identity.
The shooter felt the way he felt because of the lack of empathy toward the LGBT community and the increased disdain toward them because of the so-called "gay agenda," which is equal treatment under the law. Many people don't like such an agenda. They believe that anti-LGBT is disagreeing with what the LGBT community wants, which is equal dignity under the law.
Such people create the conflict that leads to hatred toward the LGBT community and increased numbers of hate crimes against LGBT community members ensue.
The shooter did what he did because of people with such beliefs and the hatred such beliefs incites.
Such people erect walls (literally and figuratively) to exclude certain disfavored groups of people from receiving equal dignity under the law. They also vote to elect people who are paid in part by members of the LGBT community through taxes they pay, to build such walls.
This wall building alienates groups of people and thereby creates or otherwise exacerbates conflict. It is integration and assimilation that reduces and eliminates conflict.
While the world is not binary (contrary to what many people want the believe), it is a binary choice either to be part of the problem or part of the solution.
To the extent that you build walls between yourself and those who differ from you merely because they differ from you or your worldview, you build such walls.
To the extent that you vote for people who build such walls, you are part of the problem.
To the extent that can vote against such people and opt not to, you are part of the problem.
To the extent that you don't speak up against such people, you are part of the problem.
I take very serious issue with people who have chosen through action or inaction to be part of the problem and then have the audacity to express sympathy toward the victims and survivors of attacks such as that which occurred in Orlando Florida on June 11, 2016.
I use sympathy rather than empathy because sympathy disconnects people, whereas empathy connects them.
According to Brene' Brown, Ph.D., empathy is a skill set. The core of empathy is perspective taking.
Perspective taking is normally taught or modeled by parents. The more your perspective is in line with the dominant culture, the less you were probably taught about perspective taking. In the United States, the majority culture is white, Judeo-Christian, middle class, educated, and straight.
Empathy is the key to conflict resolution or management and the lack of empathy leads to a great deal of conflict.
The following is an excerpt from a chapter I co-authored in a book titled 'Putting Kids First in Divorce':
What is empathy and why is it important? Brené Brown, Ph.D., LMSW, a best-selling author and research professor who studies vulnerability, courage, worthiness, and shame, believes empathy is a skill set and that perspective taking is at its core. Perspective taking is normally taught or modeled by parents, which makes your doing so that much more important. Dr. Brown contends that we can’t take off the lens from which we see the world. We all view it differently, based on our information, insight, and experiences. Moreover, Dr. Brown suggests:
Perspective taking is listening to the truth as other people experience it and acknowledging it as the truth. What you see is as true, real and honest as what I see, so let me be quiet for a minute, listen and learn about what you see. Let me get curious about what you see. Allow me to ask questions about what you see.
Empathy is incompatible with shame and judgment. Staying out of judgment requires understanding. We tend to judge those areas where we’re the most vulnerable to feeling shame ourselves. We don’t tend to judge others in areas where our sense of self-worth is stable and secure. In order to stay out of judgment, we must pay attention to our own triggers and issues.
Empathy reduces shame, whereas sympathy exacerbates it. There is a huge difference between feeling with someone and feeling for someone. Shame causes a person to believe they’re alone. Through empathy, we cause them to realize that they are not alone, which is why it is the antidote to shame. As Dr. Brown said in her book, I Thought It Was Just Me, 'In most cases, when we provide sympathy we do not reach across to understand the world as others see it. We look at others from our world and feel sorry or sad for them. Inherent in sympathy is ‘I don’t understand your world, but from this view, things look pretty bad.’
Keep on building those walls (physical or otherwise). However, let's be clear what individual freedom means. It means that all human beings are entitled to human rights, regardless of their age, race, gender, national origin, religion, physical or mental disability, medical condition, pregnancy, marital status or sexual orientation.
Those who fight for "religious freedom" / "religious liberty" are fighting against human rights for all; rather, they are fighting to deny human rights to those who fall outside of their religious worldview.
On behalf of the LGBT community, their friends and families, I'd like to say that we don't want the pity of those who have chosen to be part of the problem.