I am 55 years old. I started my cyberspace adventure back in the days of Usenet and homebrewed BBS forums. I have witnessed and participated in online flame wars the likes of which these modern kids cannot even begin to imagine. Never in my life have I seen anything like the last 24-hour news cycle. Politicians, business leaders, academics, pro-gun advocates, anti-gun advocates, pro-LGBT advocates, anti-LGBT advocates, all of them on television and internet news sites pouring out hatred and vitriol and blaming everyone and everything for the violence in Orlando.
Everyone except Omar Mateen himself. He gets a free pass.
For some reason absolutely no one is attacking the man who actually pulled the trigger and gunned down over a hundred people out on the town for a night of dancing and drinks, nor is anyone calling him names. I suppose I should be grateful that so far the only people actually defending him are ISIS Twitter feeds, but still...he killed 49 people and wounded 53 others! Shouldn't that generate at least some anger and hatred? Instead, Donald Trump is labelled a homophobe, Hilary Clinton is labelled a feminazi, I get labelled a fat pig (which is actually more a compliment than an insult, but whatever), Barack Obama is labelled a Muslim fascist, on and on and on and on. These are not schoolyard bullies throwing these labels around. Many of these commentators are educated people raised in good homes and occupying positions of enormous social influence.
I turn on CNNj looking for an update and within 3 minutes the interviewer broadcasts a cherry-picked quote from Donald Trump ignoring qualifiers and supplemental clauses in order to broadcast five words that might, maybe, if you are very creative, be twisted into an insult aimed at the LGBT community, and then demands the interviewee offer a response. After a short pause (receiving advice through his earpiece, I wonder?), the interviewee attacks Donald Trump and calls him a homophobe.
An LGBT advocacy group posts to Facebook ignoring the radical Islamic beliefs of the shooter, ignoring his father's weekly anti-west rants on an Afghani YouTube channel, ignoring that the club was a gun-free zone, ignoring that Florida law prohibits concealed carry in nightclubs even if the armed person is not drinking, and even ignoring that the first victim to fall to the gunman was a unarmed, white, male, heterosexual, off-duty police officer working security at the front door, in order to boldly assert that this act of war proves masculinity is toxic and needs to be cleansed from all human thinking.
A pro-gun advocate who a few years ago I admired greatly but more recently can barely stomach uses his mass media podium to ignore groups like Pink Pistols in order to attack the "militant gay rights terrorists who are using this tragedy to further their anti-American agenda." Maybe this guy is one of those individuals who embody the "toxic masculinity" the other group was ranting against? Maybe he's just tired of being labeled a terrorist because he enjoys participating in IDPA tournaments? Either way, his column is not helping.
Some of my more liberal progressive relatives have begun flooding my Facebook feed with articles demanding "an end to the anger and hatred", which on the surface is definitely something I can agree with. Unfortunately, every time I open the link and read it what I find is yet one more op-ed denouncing every single American gun owner as a potential terrorist or proclaiming "the time has come to eliminate the oppressive white patriarchy that is destroying America!". But the shooter wasn't white...how could his actions possibly be indicative of loyalty to a white patriarchy?
I don't understand. How can so many millions of people in a single sentence call for love while spewing hatred? I'm really good at unwinding paradoxes and dichotomies. I have spent my entire life reading science fiction and mystery fiction, both of which specialize in presenting an impossible paradox only to reveal the solution some 300 pages later. And yet, that skill is completely useless for understanding the mass hysteria that has spread throughout the United States, across Europe, and into most of the modern world. Russian politicians praise Russian hooligans for starting riots at soccer games, American politicians blame each other for a mass shooting none of them have any relation to, American academics blame the rest of us for creating a society that encourages violence, everyone hates everyone for every reason under the sun, while I'm over here in Japan wondering if I am the only sane person left on the planet (which, of course, clearly indicates I'm the crazy one).
I don't believe we can eliminate violence in our society. Clearly, hatred and anger are very easy emotions to fall into. For some people, violence is the first form of communication they employ when something makes them angry, fills them with fear, or triggers an outburst of hatred. This will always be true. However, why have we as a society embraced a culture that encourages an outpouring of vitriol every time some lunatic picks up a gun and starts shooting people? How is this helping us cope with mass murder? Is it helping us cope? Is it not far more likely that when hatred and anger become a normal part of public discourse we are encouraging the next lunatic?
I don't know. I don't have any answers. After all, I'm supposed to be the crazy one.