This man claims he was a terrorist, yes. But, not because he claims to be loyal to ISIS or that he mentioned the Tsarnaev brothers. (Remember, this doesn't even mean he actually practiced the true Muslim religion, just that he had enough messed up beliefs to feel the EXTREMIST group is right which could simply be from him doing research online.) He was a terrorist because he used terror to make his OWN political point. Timothy McVeigh, a former U.S. soldier was also a terrorist. He had no religion but he, too, was mentally unstable. Eric Rudolph who is known as the Olympic park bomber, was also a former soldier, born and raised in the U.S was also a terrorist. Dylan Roof, the 21 year old white American who killed 9 African Americans in a church in Charleston last year, a terrorist. These may be considered terrorist attacks, but what they are at the core is HATE. What they all have in common is that due to their beliefs, NOT their religion, but their OWN beliefs, they had extreme hate inside of them and projected that on others in the worst possible way. WE may never really know for sure why he did what he did. Personally, I don't want to call this a terrorist attack or even a hate crime. I call it a shame crime. This man, whether he was gay or not, an extreme muslim or not, did not feel he could live his life free to do and be what he wanted like the people around him. People who are unable to do so feel a deep shame and that shame can be coupled with hate and anger. These are very strong energies. It consumes a person. Many turn those inward and are self-destructive. Sometimes, people turn it outward. They take it out on others. This is not right. They make that choice. We can't fully understand it because we don't know what that's like. These crimes are never simple, they are complex and there are many reasons, many we don't (luckily) related to.
The real issues that need to be addressed have nothing to do with banning a specific religious group from legally (and by a very arduous process) entering our country, or allowing people to carry guns on the street. They have to do with mental health, stricter and safer gun laws, social and public awareness, and LESS HATE.
Every one of the people listed above and others who fall into the same statistic have history of mental health issues and extreme beliefs and some had troubling childhoods. Some can try and say this is just an excuse and "well, I went through things or had a rough childhood and I haven't killed anyone." This is true. But every person is different in how they are affected by their own trauma. And everyone who has a mental illness has their own unique issues. We really have no idea what particular traumas and illness do to each individual over time. It will never excuse their actions, as ultimately they make a decision. This does not condone their actions or beliefs. But, if we create a society where mental health is given more attention, where people don't just sit by but actually take action, get involved and "say something", it could be PART of the solution. There needs to be more awareness, less ignorance.
We love our freedom of speech and our freedom to have access to literally everything with the internet and technology. Terrorists love that too. They can easily get info out and find those who are already mentally unstable to join their cause. They can breed their hate to those young people sitting at home searching their computers for something to believe in, even if it's the wrong thing.
I'm always struck by the people who say that "The government is trying to take away everyone's guns and rights" or "if everyone in that club had a gun, that many lives wouldn't have been lost." First, no one will every convince me (some have tried) that any civilian should be able to own an assault rifle. They should be for military only. I don't like guns on the street. I am fine with people having a handgun for sport or even a basic rifle but as long as they have gone through extensive background checks, know how to use them responsibly, and they don't carry them around. I don't agree with the argument that if more people carried guns, there'd be less violence. That seems like the exact opposite as common sense. And not everyone is completely responsible in gun safety. The government is not trying to take away guns from everyone. Asking for stricter laws and more safety with guns is exactly what is needed, especially in light of the fact that many of these mass shootings are done by those who have legally obtained guns.
This may have been an Islamic extremist act. Or he may have just been using it to give it attention, finally get a name for himself as messed up as that is. Extremists exist in every religion and they do harm. Islam itself is a religion most don't understand but their views aren't much different from others. It's why I don't practice a religion, but instead take parts I connect with from many and consider myself "spiritual". To say that homosexuals should be killed (this is in Islam, Christianity, and Judaism and many more), is unthinkable to me. But, it's not just Islam that states that. These are ancient books from ancient times interpreted by people. So, yes, this man claimed to be loyal to ISIS who takes the Islam faith to a twisted and deplorable place. But, it still doesn't categorize all those who practice Islam. Do you think there's no gay Muslims or feminist Muslims? Of course there are. You are born who you are, whether you like men or women, whether you feel you want a voice in this world. And when you don't live in a free country like ours (or when you do but are surrounded by family who keeps you from living free), you are forced to suppress that voice, suppress who you really are. Hell, even here, people are forced to do so. Yes, you can call this extremist, but we need to help change the narrative. There are Muslims who don't agree with them, but have no choice, no place to go to get away from it, to be free to form their own opinions and thoughts. I still have people I know who feel the same way about Homosexuals. I don't associate with them, but they are Christians who still follow the words of the Bible very strictly. But, most people I know, no matter what religion, have taken their religion and made it their own. They have the core beliefs and choose to accept that they don't agree with every part. And they can. Because we are free to do so. Maybe if Muslims were free to do so, maybe if we stop lumping them into one category, what if we turn the tables and give them a voice. We admit this is Islamic Extremism, we admit that not all Muslims are at fault or feel the same way. We allow them to come to a place they can break free of the boundaries they have been given their whole lives and we welcome them and encourage them to live freely. Maybe it's a pipe dream, but I don't think so. I think as long as we are against them, as long as we keep that narrative, we are just fueling the hate, the isolation, we are helping suppress them to stay and fight and eventually have no choice but to become extremists themselves, if for no other reason to save their lives and their children's lives.
We need to stop spreading hate as a society. You may not even realize just how much you're doing it. Any comment putting down a particular group or person, you're doing just that. When making comments in front of children or "just joking", they absorb it. Hate fuels hate. LOVE fuels LOVE. No matter religion, your race, your sexual preference, your gender, your age, everyone deserves love and deserves to give love. Everyone needs to be accepted for who they are. Some think it's oversimplified to say that love and peace can fight hate. But it's not. Hate just makes more hate, fighting just creates more fighting.
If we, as a nation, discriminate against a particular group (mind you, a group who is not at fault), we are no better than those who wish to harm us, and in fact, we are HELPING their cause. If we, as a nation, continue to allow guns to be put in the hands of those proven to have mental issues, to those who want them for the wrong reasons, there WILL be more mass shootings. If we, as a nation, don't unite, don't stop talking about solutions, but start taking action, we will not find a solution. If we don't start to have compassion for the mentally ill, stop choosing to turn a blind eye to young people struggling, to people who are unstable, we will see more pain and death.
It starts with all of us. It starts with us not turning to hate and fear but instead to love and real, plausible, solutions. It starts with us teaching the kids and people around us about acceptance. Accept those who are "different". Teach them that no one is really "DIFFERENT". Everyone is the same at the core, regardless of our beliefs, our skin, who we love. We are all human, we are all capable of love. We are all connected and here on this earth and for this life together.