As most of us are still trying to process the senseless, horrific tragedy that recently occurred in Orlando, politicians, segments of the media, clergy and good ol' regular common folk wasted no time weighing in on the psychological wreckage, the carnage and the searing level of emotional destruction that has resulted from this most unfortunate event.
By now, anyone who has a pulse is aware that, on June 13, Omar Mateen went to a gay dance club on Latin night, initially had a drink at the bar and later opened fire, killing 49 people and wounding scores more. The atrocity ignited ample amounts of racist and homophobic commentary from both predictable and unusual quarters.
Presumptive Republican Party nominee Donald Trump, ever the pitiful opportunist, declared to his right wing base and non-supporters for that matter that he was right on target when it came to his perception of radical Islam terrorism. He shamelessly suggested that President Obama harbored a sympathetic attitude toward terrorists and furthered his call for an absolute ban on Muslim immigration without providing any concrete specifics on how such bans would have prevented the killer, who was an American citizen, from carrying out his sinister plan. This is typical Trump behavior--loud, bloviating, accusatory, self-righteous speech that is virtually absent of any substance.
The fact is that Trump was hardly alone in his racist and xenophobic rhetoric. He was joined in company by Roger Jimenez, a Baptist minister who heads a church in Sacramento. Jimenez unleashed a vicious, disgraceful homophobic tiradehttp://www.cbsnews.com/news/sacramento-baptist-pastor-roger-jiminez-post-orlando-anti-gay-preaching/ arguing that it was "great" that 49 pedophiles were killed. Not content with espousing such odious remarks, he further commented that, "If we lived in a righteous government, they should round them all up against a wall, and blow their brains out." Wow! Advocating for the brutal murders of men and women who happen to harbor a sexual orientation that you disagree with? Appalling! There has been recent speculation that Mateen may have, in fact, been either gay or bisexual himself. Moreover, some psychologists have made the argument that he was likely consumed by his own self-hatred and denial.
To be sure, there are a number, perhaps many, of religious people of varied faiths who oppose gay marriage or a gay lifestyle for personal reasons. More than likely these people tend to be over 55 years old. Yet, it is highly unlikely that they would equate gay men and lesbian women with pedophilia or encouraging the sanctioning of gays and lesbians to violent and sadistic forms of murder. Indeed, recent polling has demonstrated that the majority of Americans, especially those under 50 (this includes large numbers of Generation X'ers like myself and millennials), including a sizable number of conservative Christian millennialshttp://www.pewforum.org/2016/05/12/changing-attitudes-on-gay-marriage/
,support gay marriage.
The cold, hard truth is that, while Jimenez may view himself as a man of God, the fact is that his incendiary, odious, callous rhetoric is far from Christian in its message. As far as I am concerned, such rhetoric is reprehensible and morally indefensible. Jimenez represents the antithesis of genuine Christianity. Trump and Jimenez are two peas in a pod. They both are saying the same thing. They only differ in the weapons they have decided to employ for their carnage.
Trump and Jimenez aside, they are hardly alone in their disgraceful behavior. Some people do not hesitate to make pathetic excuses for people like Omar Mateen and others of his sadistic ilk for engaging in human atrocities, rationalizing the dispositions of such mentally unhinged madmen as they use the cause of ideological differences as the primary reason for such behavior. By doing so, they are helping to normalize hate, violence, intolerance and deviancy. This in and of itself is sad.
On the brighter side of things, there were hundreds of thousands, perhaps millions of people (including politicians) who responded to this incomprehensible tragedy by donating blood at blood banks, reaching out and comforting family victims, providing monetary contributions and denouncing the hate-filled rhetoric. This is reassuring. These are the men and women who epitomize the real Judeo-Christian spirit. They represent genuine humanity. God bless them.
Elwood Watson, Ph.D. is a professor of History, African American Studies and Gender Studies at East Tennessee State University. He is the co-author of the forthcoming book Violence Against Black Bodies (Routledge Press, 2017)