I’m currently sitting at my kitchen table and trying to work. As always there are constant pop-ups and pings coming from my phone and right now I just can’t ignore them. I can’t ignore them because today they are making me really angry.
In the early hours of Sunday 12th June 2016 a gunman went into a bar in Florida, USA and murdered 49 people and injured a further 53 before being shot by police. He chose the bar because it was an LGBT venue and his hatred of the world had focused on them.
This is horrific, utterly vile, but his actions are not what’s making me angry.
One of my earliest memories of engaging with the news comes from February 1993 when two boys around my age took a toddler, tortured and killed him. His name was Jamie Bulger and the images from the news have always stayed with me, but probably not for the reasons you would think.
When I saw that news, even at 9 years of age, I knew that what they had done was completely wrong, terrible, but totally abnormal. These were not the normal boys I sat in class with, the boys I sat in class with (horrible though many of them undoubtedly were) would never, could never do this. So it wasn’t the boys who did this that scared me – even at 9 I knew there was something wrong with them, and whilst things being wrong can be horrible, you don’t actually come across it that often.
What scared me was what the news was calling normal.
It was normal for grown men to throw themselves at the vans carrying these two abnormal children and it was normal for the fury felt by people, most of whom did not know the child, to lead to baying for blood. Even at 9 years old the thought that this was normal scared me far more than whatever horrors had happened. I knew I lived in a world where bad things could happen but even then I did not want to live in a world where cruelty and violence like that was considered normal.
Now, 23 years later, I’m looking at the ‘normal’ reactions to the violence in Florida and it angers and sickens me. We have a presidential candidate of the world’s biggest power using this as an excuse to target an entire religious group for discrimination, people quite happily sharing vile jokes about shooting gays on all sorts of platforms and we have news channels trying to play down the homophobic nature of the attack. It makes my blood boil to see people responding like this, but underlying it is the same fear I felt as a 9 year old.
It truly terrifies me that in the ‘civilised’ western world in the second decade of the 21st century there is anywhere that these ideas and attitudes are seen as even vaguely acceptable. There is no justification ever, under any circumstances, to walk into a room and arbitrarily murder people. None. It is utterly and completely wrong. I have a very vivid imagination and I still can’t come up with any situation in which this would be even acceptable let alone OK or right.
But it happens all the time. We know about this one because it’s big for America and here in the UK we like America so what hurts them hurts us right? But this happens around the world every day to thousands and thousands of people. We live in a world where enough people think it’s acceptable to commit this kind of act that we don’t even see most of them on our news.
That, that is what makes me angry.
To change this, to prevent these things happening, it is not enough to tell each other how terrible it is, we have to change the ideas that underly it. We have to teach ourselves, our children and each other that some things are NEVER acceptable.
But what if… No.
But in a war… No.
But if my children… No.
NO NO NO NO NO.
If, by some hideous twist of fate, you found yourself in one of those situations you would be acting on instinct, not some considered moral position. If you have to think about it the answer is NO! The people who do these things always believe their reason is the exception, their belief is the one that makes it OK but it NEVER is. So no, there are no reasons.
Until the media and the population following it say loud and clear that it is NEVER OK to do these things my blood will always boil.