It's hard to know what you or I would do if confronted with a gunman in a crowded nightclub. Any decision about where to run or hide would be a complete game of chance. Predicting the trail of a killer, where he will turn and shoot next, would be impossible to gage, so in the end we'd only have our instincts, hoping against hope that where we chose to hide would be the one place the killer would not look.
In many horrifying accounts of mass murders, there are always reports of people who pretend to be dead in order to fool the killer. But pretending to be dead takes a certain amount of risk. You pick a spot and you stay there, immobile, until the killer passes over you but one false move and it's over.
If you run and hide in a bathroom, as many in Orlando's Pulse nightclub did on the night of the killings, you risk penning yourself in a corner with no way out, hoping somehow that the killer will forget to check the stall where you are hiding. Since bathrooms generally only have one exit, this solution isn't a good one. When a shooter is shooting there's no time to debate the pitfalls of various hiding place.
Of course, if you had a gun, you might get lucky and pick off the killer but a revolver is no match for the Sig Sauer MCX-semi automatic assault rife that killer Omar Mateen used in his slaughter of 50 gay people and the maiming of 50 more in Orlando's Pulse.
When Mateen began the shooting at Pulse he knew he'd be encountering people at a vulnerable time: at the end of a long drinking night when individual responses would be staggered or slow. As news reports indicate, as the shots rang out, patrons assumed they were a component of the music, a DJ improvisation. During the Paris massacre in 2015 at the Eagles of death Metal concert at the Bataclan, concert goers at first thought that the opening gunfire from the terrorists was fireworks or pyrotechnics. It took a couple of minutes before reality set in. By the end of that slaughter, 130 people had been killed, the largest public massacre death count in France since World War II.
The massacre in Orlando got me thinking of a lot of things. I thought of the big gay dance clubs I used to frequent with their erotically charged reverely and music, of jam packed dance floors where thoughts of violence and death were as far away as the Arctic Circle.
I also thought of sudden death, and why it is that some say that it is the worst kind of death because it takes us unaware without time to pray, meditate or say good-bye to loved ones.
St Nicodemus the Hagiorite, an Orthodox saint who died in 1801, wrote that "death shows up like an unexpected thief and we do not know how or when he will visit us. He may appear today, at this hour, at this very moment and you, who woke up feeling fine, will not last until the evening, while you, who have reached the evening, may not wake up...Therefore, my brother, take heed and tell yourself: "If I die suddenly, what will become of the wretched old me? What would be my benefit even if I enjoy all the pleasures of the world?"
The massacre also made me think of what a (now deceased) friend of mine was fond of saying: "Line them up and mow them down" whenever he talked about his political enemies. He was talking about mowing down members of the religious right, bigots who preached hate in the name of Christ, bigots who should not really call themselves Christian. "Line them up and mow them down" had an offbeat forbidden ring to it although my friend was far from violent. Saying this for him was a kind of catharsis or personal exorcism.
I used to repeat my friend's line myself line when feeling especially exasperated by certain groups of ignorant people. Line them up and mow them down. I'd laugh while saying this to offset the horrible sound of it. After Orlando, however, I'm through saying anything remotely like this again.
The aftermath of Orlando set off a series of political fights, of liberal vs. conservative, gun righters vs. 2nd amendment advocates, Trump vs. Sanders and Clinton supporters. Orlando hadn't been in the news for five minutes before certain people started blaming Christians for the slaughter. The reason? Because two or three crazy ministers announced that they supported the jihadist Marteen who murdered 50 gay men and women at Pulse. Blaming Christians for Orlando is as absurd as blaming Tony Orlando and Dawn for the floods in Paris.
We also saw the antigun folks call for a ban on assault weapons as if banning assault weapons would make terrorism disappear. Jihadists, however, can just as easily don a suicide belt or "recycle" household items like gasoline or kerosene into fatal weapons.
Assault weapons like the Sig Sauer MCX, however, do not belong on the open marketplace. Even Ronald Reagan (a man I do not admire) advocated their banishment except in the hands of the military. Assault weapons do not belong in the dens and kitchen cabinets of ordinary Americans.
Next up was the Facebook wars over the Orlando massacre. These battles were disheartening to observe, mainly because of the polarizing opinions there.
Some said that the massacre was caused by the easy access of assault weapons, while others blamed homophobia or radical Islam. It was the rare, intelligent commentator who put the blame on all three.
God forbid that a card carrying progressive should admit that Fox News might be right when it comes to fighting radical Islam. Just because Fox News is wrong 90 per cent of the time doesn't mean it can't score a bull's eye on one or two issues. Neither the right nor the left are infallible sources when it comes to political solutions.
MSNBC, Buzzflash, Alternet and Salon. Com, all progressive news outlets, might be clueless when it comes to President Obma's or western Europe's immigration policies, but these sources get my vote every time when it comes to their opposition to tampering with Social Security and programs for the poor.
Sadly, the "mow them down" mentality resigns supreme in America. The vitriol against Trump on Facebook is so thick that one can easily imagine an anti-Trumper edging towards violence.
Obama haters are just as ferocious in their obsessive rage. Some of these postings on Facebook express the wish that some disastrous event would come along and end the Obama presidency.
As for the Omar Marteen, since the massacre it has come out that he was a frequent visitor to Pulse. There have even been reports that he picked men up there despite his marriage to Noor Salman. Gays are all too familiar with this type of man, the downlow covert guy who lives one life on the outside and a gay one on the inside. As I used to tell people, the numbers of men who live this way are far more numerous than the ordinary person could imagine. It is, in many ways, America's biggest secret.
While there's nothing wrong with a healthy, questioning curious sexuality, in some men this secret life has adverse effects, especially when they hate themselves for what they're doing.
This rage, this self hatred of course might at any moment coalesce into violence, especially when fueled by religious fanaticism.
This is why men who have nagging, persistent secret homosexual thoughts and fantasies they wish to get rid of are the ones who often lash out at gay men who feel comfortable in their own skin. In plain terms, the man who is always yelling "faggot" is somebody to watch out for and take note of. More often than not, this man is fighting repressed homosexual desires and putting on a show so that his friends and family will not suspect his secret desires.
I experienced this on a Septa bus recently when a passenger, a male, lashed out at me as I pulled the cord for my bus stop. Perhaps I glanced at him too long when I boarded the bus at Front and Girard, but is this any reason to get upset?
Whatever the reason, he yelled "pervert" as I got off the bus, then said it again. He wasn't carrying a gun or a knife but he might have well been.
I gave him the finger, although even after I got off the bus he was still making hostile gestures through the window. This fanatic would not stop.
He wasn't Middle Eastern; he was just your run of the mill neighborhood dude in black athletic shorts... with a very bad attitude.