I, oddly enough, haven’t touched on the topics of Islam or guns. Despite it being one of the focal points of left-leaning apologetics and victim blaming, I’ve somehow bypassed it as a topic. But the largest mass shooting in the US just happened, and the perpetrator is, to the disappointment of leftists everywhere, not a right-leaning racist Conservative, but a Muslim. How surprising, except not at all. This is going to be less snarky than usual, as I’m honestly just trying to work this out in my own mind.
First and foremost, I extend my deepest sympathies to those affected by this shooting. Homosexuality is not and should not be a death sentence, and people who think that it is a crime at all, let alone a crime worthy of death, are bigots. There’s no beating around that bush. This was an evil act.
That being said, I’ve never liked how people have responded to these events. The coverage and reaction always comes across to me as extremely disrespectful and self-serving. The victims aren’t even in the ground yet, and the Washington Post is publishing stories about the last terrified text messages they sent their families before they died. It just doesn’t sit right with me to turn a tragedy into a news spectacle.
It reminds me of the scenes in Heathers where the school wants to commemorate the girl who died by putting her suicide note in a ‘tasteful’ yearbook spread, or where the funeral of two teens is turned into a sermon on LGBT acceptance. Innocent people have died, and people on both the left and the right wasted no fucking time in using what has happened as another footnote in their attempts to prove a political point against the opposition. They wasted no time at all. They didn’t even know how many people died before my Facebook feed was flooded with people calling Trump a bigot, or deriding the evils of gun nuts, or the evils of people who want to take our guns, or anything fucking else.
I guess I’m doing the same thing now, using a tragedy as an excuse to talk about my own political views. That’s the dilemma. You can’t talk about this without seeming like an opportunist to some degree. So I might as well embrace that moral/ethical ambiguity and try to make a point. As always, it’s a fight about guns and a fight about the causes of terrorism.
1.) I don’t think guns should be banned, which is what a lot of people have been saying. I also don’t think the situation would be helped by everybody having a gun, which is the counter argument the right has. Both of these are knee-jerk emotional reactions centered on unrealistic idealism. To make another pop culture reference because that’s the lens I view shit through: just go watch the Always Sunny in Philadelphia episode about guns where the Good Ole Boys learn that guns make things more dangerous than they already are while the liberals are across town simultaneously learning that everybody having a gun actually does make things safer. Then the episode just ends. That’s how I feel about things: unresolved.
While I think gun control in America could/should be reformed, I don’t think it would stop mass shootings as much as it would stop accidental gun violence and deaths. The shooter in Orlando purchased his guns legally, and while all my liberal friends are saying it’s a reason why getting guns should be more difficult, they don’t seem to have an actual plan. “More difficult” how? I think mandatory safety and training courses after/before gun purchase is a good idea to make people more competent around their firearms (again, decreasing accidental shootings), but how is that going to stop a guy who has decided to go on a mass shooting? Many people say getting a gun should be like getting a driver’s license, and sure, fine, but I don’t see how that would deter mass shootings either. You can stop people with criminal histories from purchasing guns legally, but that doesn’t mean they can’t get a hold of a gun just because they can’t go to a store and buy one. And what about the mass shooters who had no criminal past, who wouldn’t have been declined legal purchase? It’s a complicated fucking issue. And it’s childishly oversimplified to act as though the solution to the problem is “No more guns!” or “Even more guns!”
It’s just two groups of people who already know what they think, who are going to steadfastly adhere to what they already think on principle, using this as an excuse to continue their perpetual argument. All while giving the very distinct impression that they give more fucks about proving a point than they do about the tragedy that just happened. At least the NRA stands up for gun rights consistently. You hardly ever see liberals care about the issue unless it’s topical, and then it’s suddenly the most important political fight of our time, write your Congressman! Demand change!
2.) Then there’s the issue of Islamophobia and how it is utterly stunting our ability to talk about this or the last ten tragedies big enough to get in the news. I’m an atheist. I’ve been one since I was in middle school. I think religions as a general rule encourage intellectual dishonesty and egocentrism. I don’t like them. I don’t like Christianity. I don’t like Judaism. I don’t like Hinduism. And no, I don’t like Islam either.
If you want to call me Islamophobic, go right ahead. I’ll cop to that. Yes, I am openly afraid of an ideology that has prompted people to throw gays off of rooftops and regard their women as worth only half of a man. I’m afraid of an ideology that encourages and justifies horrible actions, that isn’t allowed to be criticized, isn’t even allowed to be brought up in conversation lest you be labeled racist.
If a Christian bakery refuses to bake a cake for a gay wedding, there is moral outrage. Defame those people! Fire them! Shame them! Make sure they never get a single customer again because they are bigots! Their religious convictions are stupid and hateful and behind the times, and shouldn’t exempt them from human decency! If a Christian has an issue with abortion, they hate women! They follow a religion that is patriarchal and sexist, and they need to stop imposing their religious beliefs on everyone else. Favoring a single religion and its specific convictions when making laws is wrong. If someone doesn’t want transgender people in their bathroom, it’s because we live in an awful, prejudiced culture that encourages hatred and violence towards trans people by depicting them all as perverts. If a white kid in the South shoots up a church, it’s because we live in a white supremacist society that inherently devalues black lives and encourages racism and violence against black bodies. If a guy shoots up a school, it’s because toxic masculinity and a culture of male entitlement made him a violently accurate reflection of the world we live in and how it views women.
If a Muslim shoots up a magazine office or blows up a building or fires into a gay club or sexually assaults a woman in public, though? There were no cultural influences to be found there! Their religion is irrelevant and had no impact on them or their actions in any capacity! They were representative of nothing and no one but themselves! Their actions aren’t reflective of negative cultural or religious elements at all. Shut up.
If I could impress one idea onto the brain of everyone around me, it would be this: Ideas and states of being are not commensurate. You can’t connect all white people to the shooting in Charleston because “white people” do not inherently share any traits together. You can’t connect Elliot Roger to all men because having a dick makes them similar to Elliot Roger the same way me having a vagina makes me similar to Sarah Palin. You can’t connect all women to the UVA rape hoax or Mattress Girl because being a woman says nothing about what you actually have in common with other people who also happen to be women. White and man and woman are states.
You know what isn’t a state? Muslim.
Christianity. Islam. Yada yada yada. These are ideas. They are things you choose about yourself. You actually know something about a person if the only information you have is that they’re Muslim. If the only information you have about a person is “He’s a man.” you know nothing about what they think and believe. Ideas, though, give you a better idea.
Following a mutual religion entails that you have something in common. It entails that you can be grouped together as similar parties. You have ideas in common. You have beliefs and customs and cultures in common. The Holy Book that openly informs your world view is the same Holy Book people use to justify killing and mistreating people. They’re not two separate things. The terrorists chopping off peoples’ heads for blasphemy aren’t reading from a different book than you. That is why people are “Islamophobic.” You are openly showing that you subscribe to the same belief system as a group that uses that belief system as an excuse to commit evil acts. Christians have actually been made to own up to this. You cannot have a conversation on Christianity without the resident Christian having to own up to the shit their religion has justified. Muslims have not.
And in order to combat “Islamophobia,” you need to make it absolutely clear that you are in opposition to these people. Not by saying they’re “no true Muslim,” because they fucking are. Their interpretation of the Book is no more right than yours. They can justify their actions by pointing to something Mohammed said just like you can. And I understand. People don’t like associating with the bad apples. But you can’t cut them off of the tree if you don’t acknowledge that they’re there first. According to Muslim apologists, they’re in an entirely different orchard. This isn’t helping.
I have Muslim friends. But my friend Mohammed who eats bacon and prays when it’s not inconvenient and loves 90s American pop culture is not the face of people who believe in Islam. Terrorists aren’t either. But they’re at least on the same fucking tree by virtue of overtly following the same belief system. To deny that would be like a Christian saying that Christian beliefs had no relevance to the events of the witch trials because the Protestants “weren’t real Christians.”
Religion evolves with the times. That’s how it’s existed for so long. But Islam has paradoxically grown by refusing to change at all. In order for Islam to reform itself into a more modern religion that doesn’t cultivate a culture antithetical to modern values like “don’t kill gay people,” “being rude isn’t a death sentence,” and “women should be able to do what they want,” Muslims first have to acknowledge that faith is flexible enough to undergo reform. By acknowledging that flexibility, you account for the murderous bad eggs and the “good Muslims,” and you work to move the goal post towards the latter.
And, yes, the people who want to ban all Muslims or make Muslim garb illegal are also not helping. They are engaging in blind distrust that is just as harmfully authoritarian as the people denying that there’s an issue. They too just want to control people. But fighting them doesn’t mean refusing to acknowledge the obvious – “the obvious” being that the culture cultivated by Islam’s overwhelming influence on beliefs and ideas has lead to regressive, sometimes violent, practices. The utter clusterfuck that is Europe right now should be evidence enough that the culture clash is something that needs to be addressed.
And Muslims have totally co-opted all of these tragedies through some misplaced and ridiculously anti-introspective notion that terrorism committed in the name of Islam leaves them the true victims. The Muslims actively fighting for religious reform are porch monkeys, but the ones who do nothing to denounce Islamic terrorism besides regurgitating tired rhetoric about how true Islam is a religion of peace, and shaming people who question their tired rhetoric by ignoring valid criticism are the victims. If you are talking about the tragedy in Orlando or Paris or Brussels, in the same breath you have to treat Muslims who get weird looks sometimes like they’re victims on par with the people who were just killed by religious extremists in order to moral signal to your friends that you’re not “racist.”
It is ridiculous. Islam doesn’t get a pass for being a religion for brown people. If you’re going to base all of your criticisms of violent actions in ideas of cultural and religious impacts on behavior whenever white people are involved, you shouldn’t be shy to apply the same scrutiny to Muslim perpetrators.