Because of my status as a white male, it’s taken me far too long to remove the rose-colored lenses of my privilege and see just how tainted, corrupted and twisted much of this country still is. When Dylann Roof set out to attack the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina in the summer of 2015, deliberately choosing to target a historically powerful African-American church and mercilessly slaughter the people who graciously welcomed him into their Bible study, my eyes were opened to the brutal truth that racism is still alive and fresh in the would-be “land of the free”.
Just in the last year alone, America has seen similar hate crimes be perpetrated against various minorities, especially against Muslims. The connection to Donald Trump’s rise to power and the surge in these disgusting hate crimes can’t be ignored. What may be most disturbing of all is the recent common outcry by the violent white male terrorists carrying out these attacks: “Get out of my country!”
I have no qualms about getting political here, because for the topic and sake of this article, I need to. President Trump has recently enacted a new version of his controversial travel ban, despite witnessing the damage that the first version created. Families were abruptly separated by what he signed into law, and so much pain was caused to our Muslim citizens. To say that this is unfair to them would be putting this far too lightly.
Muslim citizens in American have, without a doubt, become the modern parallel to Jewish citizens in Nazi-era Germany. They have been blamed far too much for problems in this country, when only a handful of extremists are responsible for the terrorist attacks faced here. And now, with these travel bans targeting them, I’m terrified that even more hate crimes will be committed against them.
In recent years, I’ve lost all hope, faith and respect towards my country, because not enough has been done to protect the Muslim community and other minority communities from domestic terrorism. From the Christian leaders of this nation, I have seen far too much apathy towards minority pain, and even praise for violence committed against us. My faith in my country disappeared after the tragedy in the Pulse club last summer.
The Pulse Club Shooting and the Vitriolic Aftermath
As a gay man, I’m no stranger to homophobia in all of its twisted forms, religious and otherwise. But I was never prepared to handle the blatant sadism and cold indifference from my fellow citizens after Omar Mateen slaughtered nearly 50 attendees of the Pulse gay club in Orlando.
Where do I begin? There were the tweets I saw from everyday people, praising Mateen for what he did, and thanking God for the tragedy. I saw various people marking the shooting as totally justifiable because the LGBTQ community was the intended target. Words aren’t enough to describe the anger and contempt that surged in me when I realized that there were plenty of people in this country who were gleeful that people like me had suffered like that.
But what truly ruined my faith in my country was how various pastors responded to the shooting.
Take for example Pastor Roger Jimenez from the Verity Baptist Church in Sacramento, California. The day after the shooting, Jimenez released an online sermon where he told his audience that in his eyes, the real tragedy of the Pulse shooting was that Mateen failed to kill more people, more…”pedophiles”, as he blatantly referred to them.
Not only that, but Jimenez openly suggested that the government ought to round up myself and all the other people like me, and gun us down by firing squad.
Oh, but it doesn’t end there, because Jimenez wasn’t the only “Godly pastor” who used his power to promote hatred and death towards us.
Steven Anderson, a similarly minded pastor from the Faithful Word Baptist Church in Tempe, Arizona, posted his own online sermon shortly after the shooting. In the video, he called the shooting good news, because in his eyes, 50 pedophiles had been obliterated from the Earth, which is for multiple reasons an absurd notion, notably because not all of the victims were LGBTQ.
Like Jimenez, Anderson also was disappointed that there were any survivors of the shooting. He went further, expressing frustration at the likelihood that people like him would be (rightly) condemned for their words against the LGBTQ community. He also wished that next time, LGBTQ people would be killed through the “proper channels”, such as a “righteous government” that would oversee executions similar to that proposed by Jimenez.
Do you have any idea how heartbreakingly devastating it is to know that your fellow citizens actually ache, and likely beg God, for your death with no remorse?
As if the sadism wasn’t enough, I recently discovered that some government officials at the time were openly apathetic and resistant to showing compassion for the LGBTQ community in the aftermath.
In Cole County, Missouri, Commissioner Jeff Hoelscher and Commissioner Kris Scheperle openly stated that they believed that the Pulse tragedy didn’t warrant Obama’s subsequent order to fly the American flag at half-staff to honor the victims. And in Tampa, Florida, a Christian employee at the Hillsborough County center filed a complaint against the Pride flag being flown outside their office, that the symbol created a “hostile work environment” for them. All this over an act meant to show solidarity with the LGBTQ community.
Adding to my fury was the homophobic generalization placed upon all Muslims following the shooting. I will admit that I’m very confused as to whether or not Omar Mateen was at all a devout Muslim, because I recall reading a report that his father affirmed his son’s lack of faith. Regardless, the notion was purported that all Muslims were to blame for what one horrible individual did, and of course, one of the biggest proponents of this message was President Trump.
Islamophobia in Trump’s America
Just after the shooting happened, Trump had the audacity to use the tragedy to congratulate himself one being “right” about Islamic terrorism. He also attempted to portray himself as a “friend” to the LGBTQ community, far better than Clinton made herself out to be, though of course, he was appropriately denounced for his self-assumption.
In what is now a chilling precursor to the ban he first passed weeks ago, Trump used the Pulse shooting as a “warning” that what had happened in Orlando was “just the beginning”, and that a ban on Muslim immigration was thus necessary for the sake of America.
Yeah, no, I have every right to say as a gay man that Mr. Trump is no friend of mine, he doesn’t have the best interests of the LGBTQ community (or any other minority, for that matter) at heart, and I have no reason to have faith in his supposed ability to protect me from his definition of terrorists.
I say that because while I definitely despise what Mateen did, I will never consider Muslims to be my enemy. No, it’s been made apparent to me over and over again that statistically speaking, white Christian men are my main enemies in America, and are far more likely to be the perpetrators of domestic terrorism against other citizens.
There are far too many examples for me to list here, because hate crimes are nowadays far too common. It would take a whole other post to count them all.
As a gay man, the case that makes my blood boil the most is the murder of 37-year old Khalid Jabara by his neighbor, a 61-year old white gay man named Stanley Vernon Majors. Majors killed Jabara after evidently terrorizing him and his family for years, because of Majors’ hatred for what ISIS has done to gay men in the Middle East. However, Jabara was a Christian, not a Muslim.
I will never respect any other LGBTQ person or “ally” who dares to commit violence against a Muslim person, or somebody they only suspect to be Muslim, out of a desire for revenge. I have no sympathy to offer Majors, because with his choice, he purported the same violence and sadism that I saw from those pastors and so many of my fellow citizens.
Majors is an example of what I fear America’s attitude towards its Muslim citizens to be now that Trump is in power: one of nothing but hatred and a desire to kill, even towards individuals merely perceived to be Muslim. I’ll say it again, violent white men are the true threat here in America towards all minorities, and are the true domestic threat that we need to fight against.
I have no respect to offer any of Trump’s stances on immigration, and I have special disgust for how how’s handled the hate crimes committed in his name. He has been far too apathetic, and in my opinion, doesn’t care enough to do his part to prevent further death and destruction.
And as for America, I fear that the analogy of the white-washed tomb that Jesus once used to describe the Pharisees who despised him now fits this country even more, beyond the horrors that America committed in the past and did nothing to prevent:
“Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of the bones of the dead and everything unclean. In the same way, on the outside you appear to people as righteous but on the inside you are full of hypocrisy and wickedness.” (Matthew 23:27-28)
There is too much violence and hatred in this country towards our Muslim citizens, and we are obligated to stand with them and for them. If that means confronting a “Christian” attacker, then so be it. The sanctity of American lives must be honored, unconditionally, and must not be demeaned and reduced in any form.
The LGBTQ community must resist the wish of others to blame a whole minority for the actions of one twisted individual. And we must stand in solidarity with our Muslim brothers and sisters against those that seek their deaths.