The Third International after Lenin

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Solidarity response to Orlando killings

A comrade just posted this on Facebook:

A year ago Friday, a White nationalist named Dylan Roof massacred 12 people in cold blood in the historic black AME church in Charleston. Facing an unspeakable horror, families of the victims showed a remarkable degree of courage, dignity, and mercy that quite literally inspired the world.

After mass shootings, much of the public discourse becomes disturbing to me. Many reactively call for prohibitions on firearms, bill of rights and due process be damned. The right-wingers who "defend" those rights do so with deeply anti-social rhetoric and vigilante myths about "good guys with guns". Both responses are driven by fear and serve to feed that fear back into an echo chamber. Nobody gets a hearing, and frankly few deserve it.

After Charleston, something altogether different happened. Working people around the country were galvanized towards a concrete demand, that the battle flag of slavery be removed from the statehouse in North Carolina. People rightly understood that the confederate flag was Dylan Roof's banner, and that it sent a chilling message to black North Carolinians that the "people's house" would never belong to them.

Because of the remarkable example of the victims' families, and the constructive and sustained outpouring of actions to remove the flag, White nationalists like Roof suffered a historic defeat. Not only did the flag come down, but shortly after so did statues all over the south honoring confederate generals. Roof lost, and the deaths he caused however tragic they were, were not allowed to be in vain. His victims became unwilling martyrs to a historic victory against one of the final vestiges of Jim Crow segregation.

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On early Sunday morning, a homophobic bigot named Omar Mateen butchered 50 gay men in a night club, and injured many more. Within a few hours, people were lined up around the block to donate blood which was urgently needed. Each person who chose to do so stood as a sweeping reminder that human solidarity will always trump petty terrorism.

Once again the broad public discourse is disturbing to me. Many quickly dismiss the second and fifth amendments to the constitution and shout for sweeping legislation to provide a sense of security, or seek to empower the FBI. Because the killer was a muslim, Right-wing populists throw fuel on the fire of anti-Islamic bigotry and stretch to demagogue about immigrants and refugees (though Mateen was US-born). Once again both responses, driven by fear, undermine our agency and mutual solidarity as human beings.

Mateen, like Roof, must lose. What he so fervently sought to destroy we must rally to defend. Gay men are still prohibited from donating blood, a vestige of the horrid stigmas invoked at the height of the AIDS crisis. Now more than ever is an opportunity to end that ban for good, and with it help to further defeat the bigotry that Mateen sought to galvanize.

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