In the early hours of Sunday morning, Mina Justice received a series of texts from her son, Eddie, who was caught up in the Orlando massacre. With each message that came through, it became clear that Eddie was unlikely to live through the situation and he wanted his mum to know he loved her. Regardless of whether or not you are a parent, the thought of a mother and child finding themselves in such a terminal situation is heart-breaking. Even more so when it is purely the result of something so ‘normal’ as being in a nightclub.
“Mommy I love you. He’s coming. He has us and he’s in here with us.”
The words exchanged in those messages rang in my ears as I fed my daughter last night. I looked at her tiny face, her eyes sleepy and cheeks soft, unaware that other people are capable of acts of extreme hate and violence. In her world, people smile at her and she smiles back as if it is the best thing ever. She has no awareness of how vile her own species can be, and are, towards one another and if I could keep it that way I would move heaven and earth to do so.
We are moving in just under 3 weeks. There are many reasons why we have decided to make a move back to the homeland, but a major one is that we don’t want our daughter growing up somewhere where certain types of sexual orientation is illegal. That said, in 30 years I have met thousands of Muslims and I can’t imagine a single one of them would want to see a fellow human being dead, regardless of which gender(s) they are attracted to. The issue here is not to do with religion. I have very little time for organised religion of any sort, but acknowledge that the teachings of Islam are inherently peaceful. No, it is not about religion.
Is it about intolerance? I have many dreams of how my daughter’s life is going to pan out. She can be whatever she wants to be, however she wants to be, where ever she wants to be. She will know from as soon as she is able to realise, that we will love and support her down whichever pathways appear in her life and she should never feel that she cannot be completely honest with us about who she is. She is already a magical human being and it simply does not compute that anyone can give birth to a child and then suddenly dislike them because of who they fall in love with. I want her to find love. Full stop. Again though, I have had the displeasure of associating with people who are narrow minded enough to believe that men should only be with women and vice versa, but I’d like to think that none of those people would go into a nightclub and open fire.
When I lived in Texas for one particularly crappy year, I was amazed at how easy it would have been to buy a gun. Alcohol and cigarettes were strictly off limits but want a weapon capable of destroying life in an instant? Sure, here you go! A billboard proclaiming ‘Happy Mothers’ Day! Buy your Mom a gun!’ will stick forever in my mind as the perfect mantra of States United in chaos. Gun massacres in America are no longer shocking. If people can’t go to the cinema, to church, to university, to a restaurant without the threat of a deranged gunman taking away their life, they are not living in the Land of the Free. The minute there are lobby groups who try to suggest that the slaughter of primary school children is ok as long as the citizens (the ones that haven’t been shot yet anyway) are ‘free’, the country is doomed.
I realise there is a shocking lack of direction here, but I don’t think my thoughts on the Orlando massacre can be expressed without writing an extremely long and rambling post. Is it a hate crime? Is it religious? Is the guy linked to ISIS just because he shouted something down the phone about them? Is it the fault of the US because of their remarkably impotent legislation on firearms? Does any of that actually matter? Regardless of which bandwagon is jumped on this time, the fact of the matter is at least 50 innocent lives were extinguished by a solitary human being and it was allowed to happen with relative ease.
That is terrifying. The idea of my precious, beautiful daughter being huddled up in some nightclub toilets, knowing she is about to be killed by a stranger with an automatic assault rifle, having to process that knowledge and contact me to tell me, makes me physically sick. The thought of being in a situation where I know she is in trouble but I can’t get to her to help her is the stuff of nightmares. I like to think I’m a fairly articulate and intelligent human being, but I cannot process my thoughts on such a scenario. Perhaps it is better that way.
I would love to be able to write a closing statement here. Sum up my thoughts and reach some sort of conclusion over who or what is to blame. But I can’t. This is just one atrocity amongst hundreds that are happening every day, but this one seems too close to home. I don’t know who to blame, I don’t know what to give as an excuse. Religion, intolerance, gun laws…they are all so weak. So flimsy. The Western World stands high on its pedestal, claiming to be developed, forward-thinking and free but until something major happens to derail such poisonous acts long before they are implemented, such arrogance will remain severely misplaced.