Once again, our nation is forced to struggle with the pain and confusion that follows an act of political violence, an act of terrorism. But I hope that an important facet of this attack does not go forgotten: Omar Mateen targeted the LGBT community, and he did so for a reason.
Over the next few weeks, we will see the pitched political battles of the past fought again. The rancorous atmosphere of an already nasty election cycle will contribute to a fervent battle of ideology.
There will be heated and important discussions about gun control, about radicalization, about the security state and what the FBI could—or should—have done to prevent these tragedies.
I won’t pretend to have all the answers to these questions: I will only remind people, over and over again, that Omar Mateen targeted the LGBT community, and he did so for a reason.
We know this because safe spaces for LGBT people in America are not ubiquitous. Indeed, until very recently, gay clubs and bars were the only safe spaces that existed. It is because of this status as a safe place that Pulse was targeted.
The gradual acceptance, the slow but undeniable progress that America has made in embracing the concepts of pluralism and liberty inherent in Jefferson’s promise of “the pursuit of happiness” lies at the heart of Mateen’s motivation.
Pulse was attacked during Pride Month because LGBT acceptance mirrors America’s own embrace of pluralism. ISIS is threatened by that pluralism.
The United States’–at times begrudging–willingness to let LGBT people live their lives is one of the most offensive things to groups that use religion as a justification for violence and control, as opposed to a path for truth, love, and compassion.
Pluralism, and our belief that all people have a right to pursue their own happiness, is a fundamental reason why we are a target.
As long as we continue to support or even permit the idea that women are equal to men, the United States will be a target of groups like ISIS.
As long as we continue to entertain the notion that homosexuals, bisexuals, and transgendered people deserve human dignity and compassion, we will draw the ire and hate of groups like ISIS.
Because, ultimately, what ISIS fears is pluralism.
ISIS is a group that relies on fear, on hatred, on pain to maintain power. It relies on the gross stratification of groups, the predominance of one idea. It jealously, angrily, and passionately lashes out at any ideology that fundamentally challenges its claim to a divine interpretation.
And today, Omar Mateen killed at least fifty people because our country embraces pluralism.
I encourage the nation to discuss important issues like gun control, radicalization, and the security state over the next few months. Those are discussions that must happen.
But, as we move forward as a nation, I encourage us to embrace rather than reject the concept of pluralism. I encourage us to be more welcoming to one another, more compassionate with more another, more understanding of one another.
We cannot retreat into the darkness of fear and anger; we cannot rely on strict ideological guidelines, moral superiority, and projections of violence to keep us safe. Tough talk will not protect American ideals, and we cannot bomb our way out of a battle of ideology that has been turning since the founding of liberal democracy.
Instead, we must rely on pluralism. We must embrace the concept that all people have a right to pursue their own happiness, regardless of race, gender identity, sexual orientation, or religion. We must trust that, together, we are stronger, united by a collective agreement to embrace and celebrate our differences.
And we must recognize that 50 members of the LGBT community—a community that too often has been a victim of violence as we march forward toward a more perfect union—have become the victims of hate, intolerance, and division that define groups like ISIS.
Because Omar Mateen targeted the LGBT community, and he did so for a reason.
This post was cross-posted at Out of Ink.