I haven’t been able to get the Orlando Pulse’s nightclub shooting out of my mind. Massacres like this one always rattle me, but this one feels closer. It's like the distance got smaller between Orlando and Brattleboro, LBGTQ and straight, Anglo and Hispanic, armed and un-armed. Most analysts blame homophobia and hate. But as soon as I started reading the names of the dead I knew homophobia and hate were not the whole story.
The impulse to find the-one-explanation is strong with stories of mass shootings like the one at Pulse, but I want to resist that temptation because incomplete stories lead to partial explanations, which in turn lead to simplistic solutions.
The story of the Pulse massacre is also about the young, because most of the victims were in their teens, twenties and thirties. In addition to hating LGBT people, the shooter must have also hated the young.
But what hit me hardest is that ninety percent of those killed were Hispanics. Reading the names of the dead, most news anchors can’t roll their R’s and between emotion and ignorance, can barely pronounce the names of these young LGBTQ Latino/as: Ríos, Montero, Pérez, Guerrero, Sotomayor.
I've learned that a better term to refer to their identity is Latinx (La-TEEN-ex). Latinx is an alternative to the male-female division built-into the Spanish language and its implicit assumption that all Latinos are heterosexual.
Fifty three Latinxs were also wounded. It was Latin Night, the day of the National Puerto Rican Parade, in a town of more than six-hundred thousand Puerto Ricans. So the killer must have hated Latinos too.
Certainly, the Orlando Massacre was a terrorist act of homophobic hate and more – call it a multiple hate crime. But this horrific story is also about the Assault Rifle-15, and the National Rifle Association’s lobby, and the money that buys power in Congress, and a society that increasingly leaves their mentally ill un-diagnosed and untreated, as well as a media and culture that cares for a while, then quickly forgets.
We can pray for the families of the victims and mourn the loss of so many young Latinxs who did not live the full life they had a right to. But while we may never have the complete story, we must try to understand it as fully as possible so we may reach more comprehensive solutions.