Aida Zabidi
Originally by Banj Peterson, in response to the Orlando shootings - and he summed up everything I felt about it.

"Orlando has turned into the ultimate Rorschach inkblot; everyone sees in this what they want to see. For some, it’s Islam, for others it’s homophobic rhetoric, lack of gun control, or something else. 

I think the problem is that having so many different angles means people can make this about their issue to the exclusion of all others. A bit like a get out of jail free card, if it’s about the culture of hate fostered by certain conservative politicians then I don’t need to face up to the hostility within Islam and I can ignore the logical disconnect between a radicalized muslim somehow being inspired by a party who’s presidential nominee wants to ban muslims from coming to America. If the cause was that the shooter was a self-loathing gay man, I don’t need to own up to the problem of a lack of gun control and the fact that while there are self-loathing gays everywhere in the world, in only a few places of the world can they walk into a store and buy an assault rifle with no waiting period, but a handgun would have meant waiting three days. 

The problem is that this isn’t an ink blot; it’s a tapestry. A range of factors all contributed to varying degrees to cause an angry, deluded man to attack a bunch of innocent people. 

So I want to talk about culture, because culture is ultimately the sum of these various elements. Culture surrounds us, it penetrates us; it impacts our thinking and our actions. 

In 1996, following the Port Arthur massacre, Liberal Prime Minister John Howard moved to ban all automatic and semi-automatic gun ownership in the country. The way that fact is reported now you’d be forgiven for believing that everyone was on board with this idea at the time, but they weren’t. The resistance was at times ferocious, so much so that when Howard spoke at a pro-gun rally to make his case he could be clearly seen wearing a flak jacket due to a credible threat that he would be attacked. 

But there was something Howard said during that speech that stuck with me. He said that of course simply getting rid of guns won’t stop all shootings, but we needed to change the culture of guns in Australia. A culture that sees guns as a necessary or natural part of itself would always be prone to more gun violence. 

The problem with America’s gun culture partly manifests itself in gun violence in schools. There’s some handy resources online which catalogue shootings in schools over America’s history and it shows that the number of shootings has been growing at a LITERALLY exponential rate. 

There were over 30 incidents in 2014 alone (as compared to about five or six in all of Australia’s history). And the stories typically go that someone was bullied, or suspended, or had an argument with another student and so they went home, got a gun and brought it back to school. And these were just kids doing it. Kids don’t have access to black markets to buy guns. They get them from home. 

But more importantly, why do they do it? All around the world kids are bullied, suspended or fight other kids, but they don’t go and get a gun. 

American kids do it because they see school shootings on the news all the time and this becomes normalized as a result. Think I’m speculating? Go look into the studies on school shootings which have identified large numbers of plots that were carried out or foiled where the kids EXPRESSLY stated that they drew their inspiration from the Columbine massacre and in 14 cases sought to replicate and beat the death toll of that massacre on its anniversary. 

This culture of normalizing guns where they shouldn’t be has come about from the human propensity of monkey-see-monkey-do; a bunch of copycat killing. Which is one of the reasons why I can’t stand the argument that we should have more armed people in all these soft target places. 

When I go to a cinema I should bring my wallet, phone, keys and the deed to my home so I can afford popcorn and drinks. I should never, ever, need to think I should also bring my gun. 

If that becomes normalized then it’s a matter of time before shootings become more common in cinemas, probably because someone was texting. The same principle applies, even more worryingly, for nightclubs. Do you honestly think bringing gun culture into a place where people are drinking will result in fewer incidents? No, the opposite will happen. 

Which brings me to the role of Islamic terrorism. What little we know about the shooter’s motives includes his 911 call declaring support for ISIS and the Boston marathon bombers. Even though there is little evidence he was substantially a member of any terrorist organization or that he had been especially radicalized, the fact remains that he drew inspiration from ISIS atrocities. Just like multiple attackers in Paris have done. Just like the Lindt cafĂ© siege attacker in Sydney and other places around the world. What we have here is another copycat killer and the most worrying aspect is that just like those schoolkids drawing inspiration from Columbine, the shooter only had to see these other atrocities and think, hey, I can do the same. And make no mistake, there will be others. 

But if the shooter hadn’t been especially radicalized at his local mosque or was not a member of any terrorist cell, then the inspiration drawn from terrorist incidents was simply the lit match. We need to consider, what was the mound of fire fuel that it set alight? 

Here’s where the culture of hatred of the gay community comes in, including the shooter’s alleged self-loathing. 

Gays do not hijack planes, send anthrax in the mail, invade countries, bomb abortion clinics or shoot up churches. We don’t have a rape culture (hey, we’re too busy consenting to everyone in the world of free love). We don’t present any threat to anyone. Our greatest crime is that we’re different. 

We form relationships and get our freak on in ways that the majority of the world doesn’t. But unfortunately humanity doesn’t respond well to those who are different. Never has. 

Someone who’s transgender wants to wear a wig and a dress? Hey, it’s not for me (except that one incident with the Spice Girls costume and the mechanical bull, let us never speak of that again) but it also doesn’t affect me, so I don’t need to object. 

But many people don’t get that. 

Christians stand at their pulpits condemning us, while ISIS throws us off tall buildings. Pastors and preachers and tweeters celebrated the attack because people who don’t conform to their view of how all seven billion people on this planet should act were killed. Parents disown their gay children. They help create, foster and nurture an environment of hostility toward those who are different. 

The problem is that I’ve been a part of that problem too. In my early years I used to describe myself as a poofter because I needed to use that self-deprecation as a shield. 

Hey guys, I hate those freaks too. I’m a football-loving, beer-swilling type. Don’t lump me in with those queens. 

Most uncomfortably, to some extent, we’re all guilty of it, through the abominable “no fats, no fems, no Asians” culture. Or how about how many of us use the term “masc” or “straight-acting” in our online app profiles as some badge of pride? We still look down upon this “otherness”. 

If we do it as open members of the community, how can we possibly expect someone apparently torn between his identity and his background to love and accept himself? When all he sees in this community is a bunch of freaks he should hate? So out of all this, you see the cultural problem. 

A culture of hate toward people, a culture that sees others deal with their hatred through violence and a culture that normalizes the means of that violence. 

As John Howard said, the solution is about changing the culture. 

So let’s change it. 

Let’s continue to oppose homophobic voices. Christianity, your religion isn’t under attack. We are. We had 100 people shot, you’re being asked to bake a fucking cake. It’s time to utterly obliterate ISIS and show those who draw inspiration from it that defeat is all that the future holds for you. 

Let’s change the culture that sees guns as a normal part of life. Guns have made America a more dangerous place for all, not safer. That’s a fact that’s been shown again and again and again. 

And let’s change ourselves. 

Let’s stop this hating on each other. Let’s stop bullying, excluding and demonizing. 

Let’s change and let’s start right now."
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