In Or­lando, the elu­sive source of the hate

Cecil Whig - - FRONT PAGE - Ruben Navarette Jr.

— Wel­come to the new gun de­bate. If lib­er­als aren’t care­ful, they could wake up one day to dis­cover that the pro­file of U.S. gun own­ers has changed so dra­mat­i­cally that a group they’ve al­ways tried to vil­ify looks an aw­ful lot like groups to which they’ve al­ways pan­dered.

A few days ago, I heard a self-iden­ti­fied gay man — who was filled with sor­row and rage over the Or­lando mas­sacre — tell a con­ser­va­tive talk show host that he was ready to buy a gun. Con­vinced that our lead­ers can’t pro­tect him from peo­ple who in­ter­pret their re­li­gion to mean that they should kill peo­ple like him, the caller


had de­cided to pro­tect him­self.

Gays with guns? Oh yeah, that’s a thing. And, I sus­pect, it’s about to be­come a much big­ger thing.

How did we get here? It’s all about weak­ness. Democrats are per­ceived by many Amer­i­cans as weak in fight­ing the war on ter­ror be­cause they’re so en­am­ored with po­lit­i­cal cor­rect­ness that they can’t help but mock Repub­li­cans for in­sist­ing that they use phrases like “rad­i­cal Is­lamic ex­trem­ism.” The left would pay a heavy price for this if Repub­li­cans weren’t also seen as weak — when it comes to stand­ing up to the Na­tional Ri­fle As­so­ci­a­tion, which buys their loy­alty with mil­lions of dol­lars in cam­paign con­tri­bu­tions.

Fur­ther com­pli­cat­ing mat­ters, as Democrats are learn­ing, it’s dif­fi­cult for politi­cians to take care of two con­stituen- cies at once.

In the af­ter­math of 29-yearold Omar Ma­teen walk­ing into an Or­lando gay night­club with a semi-au­to­matic ri­fle and killing 49 peo­ple while wound­ing 53 others, those on the left have tried to pro­tect Mus­lim Amer­i­cans from an an­gry pub­lic back­lash. They want to wean Amer­i­cans off the be­lief that — in the omi­nous words of Don­ald Trump — “there’s some­thing go­ing on” with rad­i­cal­ized el­e­ments of the Mus­lim Amer­i­can com­mu­nity.

And at the same time, Democrats also have to worry about re­as­sur­ing LGBT Amer­i­cans that they haven’t been aban­doned by a party to which much of that com­mu­nity has given their hopes, bal­lots and money. It’s not work­ing out very well. Maybe some LGBT ac­tivists re­mem­ber that many Democrats — in­clud­ing Hil­lary Clin­ton — were slow to sup­port mar­riage equal­ity. Or maybe Democrats have, over the years, earned a rep­u­ta­tion for tak­ing the LGBT com­mu­nity’s sup­port for granted be­cause Repub­li­cans are per­ceived as worse and more in­tol­er­ant.

So don’t be sur­prised if more of that com­mu­nity doesn’t arm it­self, and if the is­sue of fight­ing ter­ror­ism doesn’t sur­pass trans­gen­der bath­room laws and the de­bate over whether Chris­tian pas­try chefs should bake cakes for gay wed­dings on the list of LGBT pri­or­i­ties for the 2016 pres­i­den­tial elec­tion.

It doesn’t help to calm fears that Amer­i­cans no longer seem to know how to re­spond when we’re at­tacked. These days, we don’t come to­gether; we come apart. We don’t seek com­mon ground; we re­treat to pet causes and pre­ferred nar­ra­tives. We don’t con­front un­com­fort­able truths; we do our best to de­flect from the real is­sues to avoid con­ver­sa­tions we don’t want to have.

It’s been more than a week since the Or­lando mas­sacre and the en­tire coun­try still wants an an­swer to one ques­tion: “Why?”

Ma­teen’s mo­tives re­main a mys­tery. And they’re likely to stay that way. Not be­cause FBI agents won’t be able to gather enough ev­i­dence and come up with a plau­si­ble the­ory as to what drove Ma­teen to com­mit such a hor­ren­dous act. But be­cause what­ever they come up with will — be­fore it en­ters the his­tory books — have to sur­vive the meat grinder of fin­ger-pointing, po­lit­i­cal spin, par­ti­san agen­das, dam­age con­trol and tidy nar­ra­tives.

For in­stance, my gay friends and my Mus­lim Amer­i­can friends agree on one thing: This was a hate crime against those who were dif­fer­ent, pure and sim­ple. The former group takes that po­si­tion be­cause it wants to draw at­ten­tion to the fact that it has been vic­tim­ized, the lat­ter be­cause it seems to want to de­flect at­ten­tion away from rad­i­cal el­e­ments in its midst.

But the “hate crime” ex­pla­na­tion is nei­ther pure nor sim­ple. It’s true that most of the vic­tims were mem­bers of the LGBT com­mu­nity. But they were also Amer­i­cans. One as­sumes they were also non-Mus­lim “in­fi­dels.” And most of them were Latino, with about half the vic­tims hail­ing from Puerto Rico. So why were these poor souls killed? Take your pick.

A hate crime? OK, so these folks were hated. That’s ob­vi­ous. But what was it about them that stirred the ha­tred?

Ruben Navarette Jr. is a syn­di­cated colum­nist from the Wash­ing­ton Post.

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