When I was younger, I had a terrible run in with poison ivy. I still remember to this day the pain I felt from the blistering, scabbing, and burning rash that it caused. Not wanting this encounter to ever happen again, I read as much as I could about this plant. I learned that it could grow in the form of leaves, buds, berries, and flowers. I learned that its leaves appear red in the spring, green in the summer, and yellow-orange in the fall. I learned that although this plant has many different names and appearances, none of the superficial differences mattered because all of its forms shared one overpowering similarity: they were all inherently poisonous.
Sadly, hatred has become today’s poison ivy. It has different names, from homophobes to Islamophobes. It has different titles, from school bullies to presidential candidates. It has different appearances, from white to colored. Hatred, on the surface, has many different forms.
And until we address hatred for what it is, and work to equally combat it no matter what form it takes, we will continue to fall victim to its detrimental poison.
On Sunday, a man driven by nothing but hatred killed 50 innocent people. On Sunday, my heart forgot how to beat as I read headlines of one of the worst shootings to occur in American history. On, Sunday we witnessed the 998th mass shooting to occur in the United States since Sandy Hook. On Sunday, we witnessed the 133rd mass shooting to occur this year. On Sunday, President Obama addressed mass shootings on U.S. soil for the 15th time. On Sunday, we were reminded that our government has done nothing to prevent mass shootings.
On Sunday, I watched my Muslim mother publicly get called a terrorist although I have proven time and time again that this hatred has no relation to my religion. On Sunday, efforts were made to turn Gays against Muslims by the same people whose hatred has hurt us both. On Sunday, the same politicians who fought strongly against gay marriage and LGBT civil rights used this shooting, at the expense of Muslims, to hypocritically condemn bigotry against gays. On Sunday, the same people whose hatred destroys the lives of gays exploited this shooting to do the same to Muslims. On Sunday, scripted “thoughts and prayers” were offered by the very same politicians who have offered absolutely nothing to prevent mass shootings from continually occurring. On Sunday, we were told to hate Muslims by the same people who fight hard to give easy access of guns to violent people who unjustifiably kill in the name of Islam.
On Sunday, homophobes and Islamophobes celebrated in unison. On Sunday, Donald Trump was smiling. On Sunday, our nation bled and wept enough to flood oceans because we have failed to unite together against hatred. On Sunday, our nation lost to hatred because we have failed to directly address it.
It’s time we directly address the issues destroying our nation. Never forget that this shooter was an American, whether you like it or not. He was born in America, raised in America, educated in America, grew a hatred of gays in America, and bought all of his weapons legally in America as an American. Understand that this attack was driven by the same ignorant hatred that has been plaguing this nation in its many different forms.
Want mass shootings in the United States to end? Ask yourself: Why is it easier to get a gun than a driver’s license? Why have there been more shootings in America in the past 20 days than in Canada in the past 20 years? Why is it still legal for Americans to own assault riffles that can kill hundreds of people in seconds? Have we not realized after all these shootings that it’s time to ban weapons meant for war? Why does our government allow hateful people to purchase war-like weapons with stockpiles of ammunition in quantities only fit for massacres? And to the bigoted Donald Trump supporters, why not temporarily ban all guns until we figure out this gun problem just like Trump wants to ban all Muslims?
Want to defeat Islamophobia? Ask yourself: Why is nobody talking about the homophobic non-Muslim Caucasian man, who had explosives and assault rifles, that was headed to a gay pride parade yesterday with the intent to commit terror? Why is he seen any differently than yesterday’s shooter when both were driven solely by hatred? Why are Muslims constantly called terrorists when we are evidently the largest victims of it? Why does terrorism suddenly become belittled to a “mental illness” if the suspect is Caucasian? How can you call Muslims terrorists when less than 0.001% of Americans killed since 9/11 were killed by Muslims? How can you call Muslims terrorists when more Americans were killed by toddlers than by Muslims in the past several years (in part to our seemingly non-existent gun laws)?
Want to defeat homophobia? Look to the politicians and groups trying to pass hateful legislature against gays. You’ll find that they’re the very same ones targeting Muslims. You’ll see that they are the very same ones who made it possible for Sunday’s homophobic shooter to obtain weapons only fit for war. You must understand that Muslims don’t hate gays. You must understand that gay rights and Muslim rights have always been fought for hand-in-hand. You must understand that homophobia and Islamophobia grows within the same hateful people.
No, I won’t say the shooters name. I won’t mention his religion. I won’t describe his appearance. None of this matters because all that we need to see is that a hateful person who was raised in a nation that has a serious issue with homophobia was able to easily obtain weapons of war that enabled him to commit this massacre.
You don’t need to be an expert on Islam to understand that Muslims deserve to be treated like human beings and not constantly labeled as terrorists despite all the facts pleading you to see us otherwise. You don’t need to be a gun expert to know that guns kill innocent people if laws aren’t put in place prevent them from ending up in the wrong hands. You don’t need to be homosexual to see that gays are human beings too and that their lives, just like all human beings on this planet, are precious.
No longer can we allow hatred to divide and defeat us. Understand that we can have different beliefs without attacking each other. Our beliefs can conflict without us being in conflict. Our similarities, as human beings, will always overpower our differences. Love is more powerful than hate. Everything doesn’t have to be war.
I was terrified of poison ivy until I learned to see all its different forms as the same. Now I am forever able to prevent it from causing me harm. Let us do the same with hatred.