The world, this country, Florida residents and the gay community in particular are still in shock over the incomprehensible massacre of club-goers on the early Sunday morning of June 12. As investigators dig into the background of shooter Omar Mateen, a few things have become evident. While Mateen pledged allegiance to ISIS, his behavior showed another story, including going contrary to ISIS by visiting the gay nightclub Pulse several times before he committed his heinous crime as well as possibly using a gay app for chat for up to a year before that fateful day. His ex-wife even noted that Mateen had gay tendencies. On the flipside and more aligned with ISIS, his father said that Mateen said he was disgusted by the sight of two men kissing and that he was said to be a violent bully of gay people during his school-aged years. As details continue to emerge and be clarified, one thing is certain — Omar Mateen had some serious and deep-rooted struggles over homosexuality that manifested into bloodshed.

Any rational person knows that civilians do not need assault weapons, and that arguing one way or the other is exhausting, though we do stand behind an assault weapon ban. This sordid, sick and violent Orlando massacre arose, however, by all appearances, because a man with gay tendencies targeted his fellow humans, perhaps even his own special community, ruthlessly and mercilessly out of what appears to be a systemic cultural issue in this country and elsewhere. Though the severity of the act is just truly unfathomable, this sort of hate turned into violence shouldn’t be all that surprising, though just acknowledging that point is a hard pill to swallow.

It starts with a baker refusing to bake a cake for a couple because that couple doesn’t fall in line with the baker’s religious beliefs. Then the baker’s state legislators side with the baker, ignoring the institutionalizing of second-class, subhuman treatment of a particular kind of people, followed by a ballot initiative passed by voters to legalize discriminatory practices. Then there are outliers who preach discrimination that trickles down into the minds of unstable people who have easy access to guns and no self-worth or value for life. And the reason for no self-worth or value for life? Possibly because we have labeled and continue to label a person’s sexuality, gender, race, religion, etc., as a reason to discriminate; and a person who feels he or she cannot truly express his or her identity is in a constant battle in his or her mind. To relieve that stress and self-loathing, mayhem.

On top of these identity issues, and to make matters worse, we have an idiotic presidential frontrunner further pushing his agenda of hate and discrimination, particularly about Muslims, when the real problem transcends Islam or any religion. It’s about people looking for any reason to belittle and dehumanize others and to justify their pompous self-righteousness, which may actually stem from overwhelming insecurity. And this is where we are today — outraged over access to guns and over religion. But the real problem is the human condition that finds fault in others to make ourselves look better. What a depressing state of affairs for a civilized society with so much potential.

The solution to stopping the hate and ending the violence is complex and difficult. At some point, we have to shut down the hate at the source. Religious zealots who preach hate must be ignored, not only by the media but by people on social media. We are all playing a part by perpetuating the message just by acknowledging it, even if we are actually condemning it. Further, legislators who side with religious zealots should be fully accountable for spreading messages of fear, hate and anger. When those messages are mixed with irrational people, especially people who are in denial about their own true identities, the formula can be and has proven to be combustible.  

The message has been repeated over and over, but it’s clearly not resonating with enough people: Stop the hate, learn to love, accept and appreciate. It’s the only way we are going to stop the violence. And it starts with the message.

“As President Obama stated, ‘We will draw inspiration from heroic and selfless acts — friends who helped friends, took care of each other and saved lives. In the face of hate and violence, we will love one another. We will not give in to fear or turn against each other.” We KNOW love will always conquer hate.”

— Diversity Collective, Ventura County Pride/AIDSWalk Ventura