Almost as soon as the Orlando shooter was identified, he began to be described as a “loner.”
This description is often used to describe the personality of mass shooters. If we look back at the headlines surrounding many of the men who perpetrate mass shootings, the descriptor, “loner” will come up.
But is this really an accurate description? If we could talk to many of them, I suspect that they did not see themselves as apart from community, but as integral members of it.
They are often, dating, marrying, parenting, and engaged in relationships with friends and extended family as well. Are they often extroverts? No, but a significant part of the U.S. population identifies as introverts.
I would submit that not only is “loner” the wrong word, but it is a word that lets the rest of us off of the hook for how much like us these men like Omar Nateen are.
They were told stories by the culture that moved them to action. To do what they thought the rest of us were too weak to do. We heard “gay people should be erased” as well, but we were not the type to take it as a mandate for action. Nateen was, and this was not because of his disconnection from society, but because of his intense connection to it.
You may have stalled a few sentences before this one at “We heard “gay people should be erased” as well.” You may have read that and thought, “I’ve never heard that!” But you have.
Every time your preachers deliver homophobic sermons from the pulpit. And, yes, even those of us who belong to churches where the “hate the sinner; love the sin” theology is preached, even we are engaging in the erasure of LGBTQIA people as well.
I am certain that there were preachers during the enslavement of my ancestors in this U.S. who (unwilling to accept that slavery was just wrong) pulled out the verse “Slaves obey your masters,” and talked about being a “good” owner. There were probably sermon series about how enslaved people were inherently less human, and as such, should be enslaved . . . but compassionately so. What all of this did was continue the sanctioning of a separate class for black folks. From. The. Pulpit. This sounds insane because it is. Now tell me about loving the sinner and hating the sin again?
As I wrote in a previous blog, representation matters. Every time there is a family drama with no gay child; every time there is never a tender love scene featuring same gender folks, this lack of representation is expresses a tacit complicity in the erasure of LGBTQIA people. It says, “Gay children are an aberration.” It says, “Tenderness in a same gender relationship is not possible.”
There is no “deranged loner” outside the context of a community. Think of all the “deranged loners” there have been. They were told stories by the culture that moved them to action. To do what they thought the rest of us were too weak to do. We keep telling each other these stories. Stories that say, “The standard for humanity is straight, white, and male.” People like the Orlando shooter are listening. And they are not loners.