In the LGBTQ+ community, the month of June is the season of pride. While pride has its seeds as a protest movement spawned from the Stonewall riots of 1969, the trajectory of the movement has followed the trajectory of society’s inclusion of the gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, and other sexually nonconforming communities. As the arc of society bent toward inclusion, pride evolved into a celebration that echoes the cry of some of its trailblazers: “Gay is good.” Within one human lifetime, the movement has evolved from protest to party. An act of rebellion against police brutality and discriminatory laws has turned into a joyful parade that often includes local law enforcement. But on June 12, 2016, everything changed.
In these last few weeks, we have witnessed not only natural disasters of flood, wind, and fire in the North America, Europe and Asia but also human-made events that have left many of us — based on broadcast and social media — wondering what type of world is unfolding around us. We’ve witnessed a hate-driven massacre of historic proportions in Orlando that united the civil world in mourning. We have seen a rebuking of globalization while also ripping off the veneer of tolerance across Europe, exposing rampant and unhealed xenophobia. We may be witnessing the shattering of the United Kingdom with Northern Ireland and Scotland as well as the British overseas territory of Gibraltar questioning their continued home under the British crown. And this week, the Daesh attacks in Istanbul reignited our mourning. The assault in Ataturk airport is itself an act of hate against the liberties of the West.
The massacre in Orlando was an act of war, but how are the sides of the war delineated? Donald Trump, who declared in March that, “I think Islam hates us,” frames the war as Islam against the West. After the Orlando mass shooting, Trump again promised that if elected President, he would use his power to ban “immigration from areas of the world when there is a proven history of terrorism against the United States, Europe or our allies, until we understand how to end these threats.” Trump also accused Muslim communities in the United States of failing to report the “bad” Muslims whom he claimed were known to those communities: “Muslim communities must cooperate with law enforcement and turn in the people who they know are bad – and they do know where they are.”
The New York Times published an article covering Trump’s speech dramatically entitled, “Blaming Muslims After Attack, Donald Trump Tosses Pluralism Aside,” in which Jonathan Martin and Alexander Burns noted that Trump’s “language more closely resembled a European nationalist’s than a mainstream Republican’s,” and described him as “flouting traditions of tolerance and respect for religious diversity.” Even Republicans have accused Trump of uncivilized behavior:
“Everybody says, ‘Look, he’s so civilized, he eats with a knife and fork,’” said Mike Murphy, a former top adviser to Jeb Bush. “And then an hour later, he takes the fork and stabs somebody in the eye with it.”
Both Trump and the New York Times cast the civilized nation-state of the United States as the protagonist of their stories. The Times just happens to include Trump in its list of those who threaten “American traditions,” whereas Trump would list Mexicans and Muslims instead.
Once again we are standing in the wake of a horrific tragedy and trying to make sense of the lives taken away by an act of violence. On June 12, 2016 around 2 A.M. a gunman walked into the Pulse Nightclub in Orlando, Florida with an assault rifle, killing 49 people and wounding 53 others. Pulse, a LGTBQ club, was hosting a “Latin Flavor” event that was packed with approximately 300 people enjoying life and love on that Sunday morning. Celebrations of love, during this Pride month, turned to the mourning of those who were killed and to the honoring of those wounded in Sunday’s tragedy. While many people try to make sense of the losses and the continued hatred directed at LGTBQ individuals, the mainstream media continues to focus on the shooter and his apparent motives.