Sympathy for Omar Mateen, the First Gay Muslim Person of Color American Mass Murderer
It’s my fantasy that if Omar Mateen had gotten some good gay sex and been given hugs and kisses when he first frequented the gay night club, Pulse, he might not have done what he did. I was not at all surprised when the facts about Mr. Mateen being a closeted gay man surfaced. As much as we hate to admit it, Omar Mateen was a (closeted) gay Muslim American. He was a fellow American, and he took an assault rifle that he legally purchased a week ago to shoot up the gay night club that he frequented.
If Omar Mateen had not been in conflict with his own sexuality and had been a happy gay Muslim, would he have shot up the club? If Mr. Mateen had a good relationship with his parents and had been in a happy heterosexual marriage, would he have done what he did? It makes perfect sense to me that Mr. Mateen took out his rage and frustration on a community that he could have belonged to–stemming from feeling displaced and rejected from that very community and sublimated his gay desires into a license to kill under radical Islam.
I’m not a killer and I have no intention of buying a gun. But let’s imagine if… I was coming out as a young gay Asian man with a lot of conflicts with my family who were radical Christian and anti-gay. Naturally I would have a lot of internal hate and rage. With the hope of connecting to someone romantically and getting some sex, I started going to the hottest gay club in town and chatting on Grindr… but all I got were rejections and cold looks. Then the radical Christian leaders I feared were saying something like “We must kill all the gays…etc.” When I couldn’t take it anymore, I just might pick up an assault rifle and shoot some people in the club to sublimate my internal self-hatred and homophobia as a radical Christian crusade.
Maura Healey, Massachusetts’ openly gay attorney general, called the Orlando incident “unimaginable” after it happened. I would argue that the incident was all too imaginable. Before Orlando, the largest mass shooting happened in Aurora 2012 where James Egan Holmes opened fire with an assault rifle in a movie theater, killing twelve and injuring seventy. Before that, it happened in a school in Columbine.
If I were to commit an act of mass killing or terrorism against LGBT people, wouldn’t I easily choose the hottest gay club in town? It really wouldn’t have taken a genius mass-murderer-to-be to figure that out.
Our tendency (typified by US media’s behavior) of marginalizing the killer by disassociating him from “us” and turning him into an outsider (be it radical Islam or non-American) reduces the discourse of mass killing into an all too familiar us vs. them or us vs. monster discourse. What we fail to acknowledge is that the mass murderer is one of us. He’s as American and as normal or diverse as you or me… even though his circumstances are unique.
If I were in Mr. Mateen’s physical and psychological circumstances, I could easily go pick up an assault rifle and shoot people. Could I imagine myself doing it? Could you imagine yourself doing it and being a mass murderer?
Pragmatically, if I could imagine myself being a mass murderer, I would make sure that I could not get hold of a gun period or get hold of a gun that easy. And I’m an average American like you.
I have been thinking about what imprisoned killer Charles Manson said, “These children that come at you with knives–they are your children. You taught them. I didn’t teach them. I just tried to help them stand up.”
Paraphrasing Manson, these children that come at you with guns—they are your children. You taught them. You gave them your guns. Now what can we do about it? And how can we teach and understand them for a better and safer future?