In Club Q’s Shadow

The weekend before Thanksgiving here in the US was turned upside-down by yet another mass killing.
Still off-balance from news of mass murders at the University of Idaho and the University of Virginia, the reports of shootings at Club Q in Colorado Springs popped up first thing Saturday morning, November 19.
Echoing the violence at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Florida years earlier, and on the eve of the Transgender Day of Remembrance…
Yet another young guy barely beyond puberty with a yet-to-mature pre-frontal lobe, went on yet another hate-addled American killing spree.  His weapon?  As if one needed to ask: yet another AR-15-type semi-automatic rifle.
The mass shooter’s ubiquitous firearm of choice is, for some twisted, unexplainable, uniquely American reason, constitutionally protected as somehow more worthy than the lives it is designed to end.
God forbid we should limit our shooters in ways that demand they reload more often or be forced to fire less frequently.
Downright unpatriotic of me to suggest such a thing, isn’t it?
But I digress.
If you’re thinking, “c’mon Ken, you’re just another knee-jerk Lefty using this tragedy to push the radical gay agenda,” cue the thoughts and prayers and thanks for your opinion.
If seeing another’s humanity is “pushing an agenda,” then I can think of no agenda more worthy of being pushed.
People labeled as gay, trans, non-binary, queer, genderqueer, or anything used to describe anyone who lives outside the heteronormative standard are human beings.
For heaven’s sake, these are flesh and blood people we’re talking about, each one a beloved sibling, child, partner, friend…
Because an awful lot (I use the word “awful” intentionally.  It fits.) of what I see in the rash of trans- and LGBTQ+-phobic rhetoric and legislation is engineered to dehumanize.
The patterns of these deadly events are nothing new.
The mechanics go something like this: First dehumanize specific groups, preferably vulnerable minorities already somewhat marginalized…
Amplify the perceived “threats” they pose and, if possible, tie those threats to hot-button low-hanging fruit like sex and/or gender.  If you can suggest that the dehumanized group imperils children, all the better.  The same is true if you can convince people of threats to closely held religious beliefs.
Then double down on words that inspire fear – “grooming” and “indoctrination,” for instance.  Use those polarizing words as often as possible.
Add that to a society in which firearms are viewed as symbols of personal freedom and their numbers surpass that of the population…
And the outcomes we’re witnessing every American day are not only predictable, they are inevitable.
Am I, a professed, practicing conscious adult, placing blame?
Gloves off time, people.  Yes, I am.
I’m frustrated and angry beyond belief.
How many more Club Q’s and Pulses do we need? 
Side note:  If we expand the hate crimes circle, let’s not forget Tree of Life, Emanuel AME Church, Buffalo Tops, and El Paso Walmart, to name but a few.  If we want to highlight the weaponry, we could toss Newtown, Uvalde, Route 91, Parkland, Columbine, Aurora, Highland Park, etc., into the mix.  That it’s this easy to call up so many mass shootings in a matter of minutes is nothing if not sickening.  Yet again, America.
That one of our political parties has all but thrown itself into dehumanization as its favored blunt instrument of fear-addled populist policy is bad enough.  That it has garnered such an entrenched following is the stuff of nightmares.
I’ve written of my own concerns about the rise of antisemitism and the violence that goes along with it.
It’s the toxic cocktail of phobias and ism’s that represents and precedes the even more frightening progression of violence.  Only this isn’t violence that’s coming down the road.
Rather, it is the well-established homo- and transphobic violence that’s well-established and already here.
If the soul of Matthew Shepard has gotten a blessed moment’s rest, he’s surely rolling in his grave now.
I wish I had a solution, though in this moment I’m experiencing little beyond helplessness and hopelessness.
If I know anything, it’s that dehumanization kills.
That’s not melodramatic exaggeration.  It’s cold fact.
Regardless of what bombastic pundits and righteous religious leaders jump through fiery hoops to sell, the people they work so hard to “other” are human beings.
Listen for dehumanizing, and name it when you hear it.
Very real lives are at stake.
May the memory of those lost at Club Q serve to inspire learning, tolerance, acceptance, and right action – for the benefit of all and with harm to none.
May this wounded nation find the strength to look at its deep shadows, admit the truth of its pains, and find its way beyond violence to true healing – for the benefit of all and with harm to none.
These are my prayers, which I invite you to share.
Postscript: In the time since drafting the above, my son reminded me that there are indeed many actions that can be taken.  Here are a few places to start:

  • First and foremost, vote.  Do the due diligence required to keep democracy alive and well.  Know what your candidates stand for, paying particular attention (as best you can) to where their money comes from.  My opinion: Practitioners of dehumanization and promoters of fear simply do not belong in public office.

  • With regard to Club Q, here’s a Page from Colorado Public Radio with resource suggestions.

  • If your only relationship to “those people” is through scary hearsay, grab your curiosity, go meet some of “them” with an open mind and, importantly, an open heart.