Remebering Orlando

The barbaric shooting in a gay club in Orlando a few days ago was tragic and egregious, but a sadly frequent occurrence in the US. To a British sensibility, American gun laws seem like an absurd paradox. The NRA and many members of Congress extol the second amendment with ferocious zeal, arguing that every American citizen has the right to defend him or herself. However, if there were fewer guns legally available, one might argue, there would be less need for self-defense.

Of course, if Omar Mateen were hell bent on committing mass murder, he would have done so by any means available, gun or no gun. However, it’s impossible to ignore the fact that the AR-15-type rifle was a very similar style weapon to the one used by James Holmes, who murdered 12 people and wounded a further 70 in a cinema in Colorado in July 2012. Adam Lanza used an AR-15-type rifle to slaughter 20 children and 6 adults at Sandy Hook School in Connecticut in December 2012. Another 49 people have died and 53 are injured after being shot with a legally sanctioned weapon. The AR-15 shoots 45 rounds per minute, making it an efficient choice for those wanting to slaughter as many people as possible.

As if the events in Orlando aren’t deplorable enough, that absurd goon Donald Trump, congratulated himself on Twitter for ‘being right on Radical Islamic Terrorism’. Trump’s self-aggrandising was met with fierce criticism, my favourite response was from George Takei, who called out Donald Trump’s shameful egomania.

Unsurprisingly, Trump has used the bloodshed to push his reactionary, racially insensitive agenda. Although, his proposed ban on Muslims entering the US isn’t relevant in this instance, Omar Mateen was an American citizen. That hasn’t stopped Trump from blathering on about being ‘tough’ and ‘smart’. I loathe Donald Trump for many reasons, but what I find most offensive is his ruthless exploitation of people’s fears, inciting bigotry and distrust to gain power. We can only hope that clown does not win the election; if he does we’ll all be on a bobsleigh to hell.

Donald Trump isn’t the only one to jump on the fear train. Brexit campaigners have claimed that the free movement of Kalashnikovs throughout Europe leave the UK vulnerable to an ‘Orlando Style Atrocity’. The Brexit group has since been lambasted for exploiting the shooting for their purposes. Shadow Foreign Secretary Hilary Benn tweeted that it was “shameful and cowardly”, adding “Our best protection against terror is standing together whether in Orlando, Paris or Brussels.”

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There have been calls from both Labour and Conservative MPs for the Brexit campaign to take down the opportunistic tweet and apologise. The tweet was deleted, but an apology seems unlikely.

The horror of the last few days might shake one’s faith. I used to classify myself as an agnostic with spiritual leanings. However, in recent years I’ve become more cynical and suspicious of the possibility of a God. If a benevolent deity does exist, how could He permit such atrocities to be committed in his name? How could he have created a world riddled with injustice and suffering? I no longer believe in any higher power, there’s too much compelling evidence that we’re alone on this little rock, spinning around our corner of the universe, isolated and unguided.

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But in amongst this darkness and despair, there is hope. Humanity is programmed to hope, it’s what propels people across the Mediterranean in a tin-pot boat to find a better life. Without hope we’d simply give up and somehow, we never do. We carry on in the knowledge that the terrible pain we’re going through right now will, eventually, change. The in the solidarity expressed in quiet, dignified vigils all over the world, remembering those who were shot, reminds us that we are united.

It is very important to vote in the upcoming European referendum; our right to a voice would be taken away if the Caliphate came to town. We must guard our liberty with steadfast courage and be united in the hope that binds us.