First, let me say that I believe there should be a moratorium on political discourse during national tragedies such as these. Only by taking a moment to witness the personal despair, removed from any agenda, can we begin to grasp the gravity of a situation.
But the reality is that the extremities of the body politic are flailing, and what is being produced is the narrowest interpretation of the Orlando shooting possible. Of course, gun control should exist in a country as developed as ours. Of course, this isn’t a Muslim problem. Of course, Trump is offensive. But all we’re doing is talking about how everyone else is wrong and refusing to see our role in creating these circumstances. Here’s what we should be asking: How does a world exist where for one person, going to a gay nightclub has become so commonplace it’s mundane, but for another, it is a bastion of sin and perversion?
Here are simple truths: Islamophobia is an effect of Islamic extremism. Islamic extremism is an effect of Western imperialism. And Western imperialism is an effect of societies turning a blind eye to atrocities beyond their borders so long as such acts promise riches, comfort, business as usual, oil, a home in the suburbs.
Omar Mir Siddique Mateen did not kill fortuitously. He went to a gay club. He shot a group of people whom he knew only by their sexuality. This type of deliberateness is clearly not the result of an evil soul festering in a vacuum; there is no inherent reason to hate gay people. Rather, it is the result of factors (a minority of a religion, a culture, or a family) that at the very least suggested such hate was okay, bolstered by a soul more evil than most. But to believe that these factors were not in turn informed by other factors, ones to which you have either passively or actively contributed, is just you trying to find a place to draw a line in the sand where you end up on the ‘good’ side.
We should be angry. We should cry. But we should be angry at ourselves for contributing to a world where such hate can exist, and we should cry for all the individuals, domestic and abroad, caught in the maelstrom of our (in)actions.
All of this is to say that personal responsibility, rather than blame, is what we need to take from this event. Yes, that means gun owners need to take responsibility for gun violence. Yes, that means politicians need to take responsibility for political inertia. And yes, that means Muslims need to take responsibility for extremist interpretations of their religion. But it also means we all need to take responsibility for the fact that we live in a world where in one place, mass death is a world-shattering event, but in another, the world is too shattered for mass death to even be considered an event. And until personal responsibility, as opposed to finger pointing, becomes the norm, we won’t be able to solve our violence crisis.