So who was the butcher of Orlando, one Omar Mateen? What motivated him?
His ex-wife tells us that he abused her, cut her off from her family and friends, didn't like gays. We get a picture of a domestic abuser with sudden leaps into tremendous anger.
His ex-colleague tells us that he made openly racist comments and also openly misogynistic comments:
Daniel Gilroy, a co-worker at G4S Secure Solutions — formerly known as Wackenhut — told NBC News that Mateen was a "very conscientious" employee who was often early for work and was fascinated by law enforcement.
He was also loud, "very excitable" and racist, Gilroy said.
"He was scary in a concerning way," he said. "And it wasn't at times. It was all the time. He had anger management issues. Something would set him off, but the things that would set him off were always women, race or religion. [Those were] his button pushers."
Working with Mateen was so difficult that Gilroy said he requested a transfer.
"I needed to be out of that situation," he said. "I described it as being toxic."
Mateen "always referred to every other race, religion, gender in a derogatory way," Gilroy added. "He did not like black people at all. That was mentioned once or twice, but more so was women. He did not like women at all. He did like women in a sexual way, but he did not respect them."His father believes that seeing two men kissing was what triggered his anger at homosexuality.
All through these stories are signs of mental instability, of anger management issues, of the characteristics of an abuser or a stalker, even if reported by only a few observers. Yet Mateen was able to acquire the weapons he used for the massacre, and acquire them legally, and this despite having been investigated for terrorism by the FBI in 2013. Because the investigations cleared him, he was as able as the next potential mass murderer in the US to buy an assault weapon!
Those are some the ingredients in the stew that made up the mind of Omar Mateen, with the necessary added sprinklings of extremist Islamic thought, the justification he himself appears to have applied to his butcheries by swearing support for ISIS, though whether he actually was a radicalized Muslim, in the sense of deep beliefs, or whether he just used religious justification for acts he would have committed in any case is not clear. To me it looks like he had his hatreds all neatly in a row and then looked for some type of blessing for them.*
The political reactions to this stew on the net are mostly predictable, and best understood by looking at what the two sides of the US political aisle are already for or against. Thus, the right warns us about the dangers of radical Islam (it's everywhere!) but is also against any attempt to regulate access to assault weapons, and somewhat agrees with the extremist Islamic tenet that homosexuality is a deplorable sin, though not one that deserves the death penalty.** On the whole the US right isn't terribly concerned with the potential for general anti-Muslim bigotry that the talk about religious wars and general Trumpery can support***.
The left, according to the usual rules, picks the positions that are exactly opposite to those the right has picked.
I am with the left when it comes to concerns about using cases like the Orlando massacre as a justification for making the lives of hundreds of thousands ordinary Muslims more difficult. That is wrong and must be condemned.
I am also with the left when it criticizes the wanton access to murderous weapons in this country or the money-starved mental health care sector. And I'm with those who point out that the vast majority of mass killings in the United States are carried out by men and not by women, even though women are equally able to get hold of assault weapons, equally likely to suffer from mental instability, and equally likely to listen to extremist preachers.
Where I diverge from some on the left is in my determination to criticize all religious teachings I disagree with, whether they crop up in Catholicism, fundamental Evangelism or conservative Islam. I believe the criticism of ideas is crucial, unless we wish our gardens of philosophical and religious ideas to be taken over by the most noxious of weeds.
I also believe that we must very clearly distinguish between criticizing extremist ideas and attacking people who belong to (or nominally belong to) various wider religious groups. Doing the former and avoiding the latter are both equally important, and we should be able to do both simultaneously.
* I have written a rant on the Orlando massacres in another post. That was my emotional reaction to the use of religion to justify deeds of utter horror, the way a stamp of approval can be applied to the most horrendous of human crimes by interpreting them as merely the ordinary day jobs of god's little executioners, just carrying out god's will.
We must erase that stamp of approval, and the job must be done by the preachers inside the religions and their sects. Outsiders cannot achieve that erasure, but outsiders can demand it, must demand it.
Though of course it is the need for the label of an 'outsider' which is inherent in many of these religious dilemmas. Your god or mine? Let's see which wins. And yet any real god(s) there might be is (are) silent as the stones are.
** Seven countries have, at least in theory, a death punishment for homosexuality:
According to the International Lesbian and Gay Association (ILGA) seven countries still retain capital punishment for homosexual behavior: Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Iran, Afghanistan, Mauritania, Sudan, and northern Nigeria. In United Arab Emirates it is a capital offense.*** This is necessary reading in that context.