» News » Lessons from a meaningless massacre

Lessons from a meaningless massacre

By Sandip Roy
June 14, 2016 14:20 IST
Get Rediff News in your Inbox:

The Orlando masscare

By some strange and bizarre twist of fate, Omar Mateen did exactly what he did not intend to do. He took the lives of gay people and made them extraordinary.
He infused their stories with a poignancy they might not have possessed otherwise.
He enabled the rest of the world to see themselves in their stories, to weep at the sheer waste of lives cut short, says Sandip Roy.

Just the other day I was having dinner with friends in San Francisco. It was a scene out of a Home and Garden happy family tableau. The two little girls, toddlers, barely able to walk, were babbling away happily, banging their plates and dishes with glee. The parents were heating up their food and getting dinner ready while chatting about work, old friends and Donald Trump.

I was perched at the kitchen counter with a glass of white wine looking at the spectacular view outside -- the rolling San Francisco hills, studded with picturesque little houses, the tendrils of fog and not far away, a giant rainbow flag fluttering in the lazy afternoon light. It felt so tranquil in its normalcy, I didn't think that for much of the world this was unusual.

The friends were a gay couple. I'd been to their wedding a long time ago and now it seemed the most natural thing in the world to sit in their living room while they prepared dinner for their little girls. Soon it would be LGBTQ Pride in San Francisco. My friends were trying to decide if they would go with their little girls. Their biggest issue was whether the girls could deal with the crowds. The gay movement seemed to have effortlessly entered the mainstream.

Barely a week later that image of gay life in urban America was shattered. When we talk about gays in America today we think of dead bodies in a nightclub, 49 and counting. We think of a man named Omar Mateen who came into a nightclub and slaughtered everyone he could. His father told the media Omar hated gays. He had been violently repulsed seeing two men kiss in Miami and even more incensed that they had done it in front of his young son.

Now that story is slowly being subsumed by the politics of a presidential election. Trump wants to dare Barack Obama to say Islamic terrorist. Obama wants to talk about America and gun control. Hillary Clinton wants to talk about both. But that's playing politics, picking angles that fit with agendas.

Mateen apparently was not particularly religious. He violently abused his wife. He had anger management issues. Some patrons said he would come to the Pulse nightclub to drink because he could not drink at home. But in the end, because he invoked the name of Islamic State in a call to 911, he fits the label of an Islamic terrorist.

But let's not forget in the midst of all this that Mateen did not select any nightclub. He selected a gay club for his massacre. The man who could not turn his eyes away from two men kissing in Miami has inadvertently focused the world's eyes on gay lives.

These are not lives of activists. These are not lives of celebrities coming out. These are the lives of ordinary people like my friends in San Francisco.

Anthony Luis Laureanodisla performed in drag as Alanis Laurell. Jean Carlos Mendez Perez worked at a Perfumania store. That's where he charmed a customer named Luis Daniel Wilson-Leon a decade ago. They became long-time partners and both died that night. Darryl Roman Burt II was a financial aid officer, known for his big smile and colourful bow ties. Luis Vielma worked the Harry Potter ride at Universal Studios.

These stories are ordinary stories, so humdrum they never made news. Until now. By some strange and bizarre twist of fate, the killer did exactly what he did not intend to do. He took the lives of gay people and made them extraordinary. He infused their stories with a poignancy they might not have possessed otherwise. He enabled the rest of the world to see themselves in their stories, to weep at the sheer waste of lives cut short.

A friend shared on Facebook the story of a 49-year-old mother who went to the Pulse with her gay son, to show her support, to dance with him. They both died in the fusillade together. Juan Ramon Guerrero had gone to the club with Drew Leionen. He had come out only recently and was nervous about how his family would react to him. They had accepted them both.

Now Juan's father who has the same name as his son tells Time magazine that the two young men will have a funeral together. 'I think my son wanted to do that. That's why,' the father said through his tears. 'I don't care what the people think. I don't care.'

These are admittedly small slivers of humanity to hold onto in a tragedy so senseless and brutal. But ultimately these stories are the best defence against the likes of an Omar Mateen. There will never be security enough to withstand every crazed gunman out there. American politicians who have turned a blind eye to the deaths of kindergarteners and school children are hardly likely to be moved to enact gun control by deaths in a gay nightclub.

And no matter what Clinton and Trump say the ideology spawned by IS and spread by the internet will not be uprooted in one presidency.

But the only guarantee we have against any of the carnage, is the sheer resilience of the human spirit.

Somewhere out there a gay couple will put their children to bed and brush their teeth. A grieving mother will still cook her son's favourite dishes for his birthday even if he is not there to enjoy them.

And through this web of ordinary acts of human decency we will muster the strength to survive the horror. We have no other option.

Sandip Roy is the author of Don't Let Him Know.

Get Rediff News in your Inbox:
Sandip Roy
The War Against Coronavirus

The War Against Coronavirus