Shouting. This expression of the human voice carries with it a very particular inflections of the heart: drama, desire, and expectation. We shout when we see ourselves being moved in such a dramatic way by suffering and acts of evil. We shout when we want a desire to be realized, the desire for peace, for the resurrection of loved ones, for the eradication of evil from the world. We shout when we expect justice to be served, reconciliation, and concrete solutions. People have been shouting, for many different reasons, after the shooting at Pulse nightclub in Orlando. I was most pierced by the shout of a man outside the Stonewall Inn, where many New Yorkers were keeping vigil for the lives lost in Orlando. This man, whose brother was killed in the shooting, shouted his story, his pain and bewilderment, to the crowd of bystanders. “My brother has been killed! I don’t even know what is happening!” he shouted, as he wandered around aimlessly. His shouting turned into a prayer within a few moments. He along with three of his friends knelt down to pray the Our Father in front of a pile of flowers and candles. When he arose, his lips shouted praise, “but God is still good!” This man’s shouting embodied the authentic mystery that provokes man’s wonder in front of such dramatic acts as occurred in Orlando.
Other people are shouting as well. This sense of drama, desire, and expectation drives their voices, but in a radically different way. There are voices that are decrying hatred, bigotry, and ignorance as the root of this act of evil. There are voices that decry extreme forms of religion that are not true to the “authentic nature”of religion; the assent to religiously based morality; the entry of Muslim immigrants into America; the excessive availability of firearms. “Love is love.” “#StopHate” If only these assertions that many are shouting out could adequately respond to such a complex and mysterious event. Perhaps each of these shouts depict an aspect of what truly occurred, and constitute pieces of an adequate response. But is the solution as simple as illegalizing prejudice toward gay people, limiting the entry of Muslim immigrants to this country, stigmatizing moral opposition to sodomy, restricting the distribution of guns, and stopping hatred? Is it in our hands to “solve the problem” of extreme acts of violence? How will we eradicate the presence of evil in the world? And more importantly (dare we ask), do we understand the entirety of what occurred on that evening?
Amidst all of these shouts, news broke that Omar Mateen’s internet lover opened up to the media about what really motivated Mateen’s actions on that evening. According to “Miguel” (his lover’s pseudonym), Mateen experienced attractions to other men, and frequented Pulse nightclub often looking for a hook up. He had sex with several Latino men, who, after having been told by one that he was HIV positive, made him feel used and taken advantage of. Miguel claims that his decision to murder 49 people (most of whom were Latino) was an act of revenge, motivated by the hurt he felt from being taken advantage of by several of these men. Miguel says that Omar was “a very sweet guy,” who loved to be cuddled and “was looking for love.”
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Underneath accusations of lunacy, ignorance, and hatred, is a human being. Killed by his hands are forty-nine human beings. Crying, shouting because of the loss of their loved ones are more human beings. These are humans with complex stories that intricately weave together dramas, desires, expectations…love, wounds, sins…which make up the fabric of their humanity. While we must consider the different factors that motivated and allowed for Omar Mateen to commit this act, and the responses that we ought to enact in order to avoid the recurrence of such a tragedy, perhaps we would benefit from starting this process by leaving space for humans to be humans, for the mystery of good and evil to be a mystery, and the work implied by the aftermath to be as complex and multifaceted as it truly is.