Obviously, I’m devastated by the events in Orlando, but I’m not surprised. This is what happens in a culture that just shrugs at violence. I have some thoughts on the matter, and a possibly way out of this madness.

First, just because a person remains silent on social media does not mean they are unaffected by the events. Because a person posts something on social media that is funny or unrelated to the violence does not mean they are being insensitive to the horror. This is a profoundly narcissistic view. While social media can be an effective vehicle for change, e.g. it was instrumental in organizing people in the Arab Spring, most of the time it serves merely as an echo chamber for ideas. Almost all social media platforms actively filter what we see based on our likes. So this means you are more often seeing content from people who share your views. It may make you feel better when you post your feelings on the matter on Facebook or Twitter, but to equate a social media post with actual social justice is delusional. Silence on social media about some atrocity does not equate to non-action or non-feeling. Only if you equate a Facebook post with real-world action does this fantasy become true. 

And while people point their fingers at what they believe to be the cause of this violence, e.g. ISIS, extremism, guns, male violence, etc., I will posit that those may all be contributing factors, but none of them are the cause. Yes, a suspected terrorist should not be able to buy a firearm, let alone a semi-automatic weapon. Yes, almost all shootings in the United States are perpetrated by males. But a few salient facts have come out about Omar Mateen that shed light on this for me. Omar may have been gay. He was using gay dating apps and was known to frequent the Pulse club. Some say he was merely scoping out his target, but I find this explanation weak. His father said he became very agitated when he saw two men kissing in front of his son. Another news article described Omar’s father as “very strict.”

I’d like to posit the real culprit here is child abuse. 

The late Alice Miller, who wrote the famous The Drama of the Gifted Child, describes the cycle of child abuse like this:

  • The parent abuses the toddler physically and emotionally.
  • The child, unable to handle the extreme feelings of shame and self-loathing, represses these feelings.
  • The child grows into an adult that still carries this repressed shame and self-loathing.
  • This adult has two options to rid himself of this carried shame. He can either (a) project that shame onto another or (b) mourn his lost childhood.
  • Those that project often do so by inflicting violence on their own children as a way to disown their shame; it is the child who is shameful, not the adult. Or in the case of a fascist, this loathing is projected onto some Other.

Omar Mateen was probably gay. I think his very strict father told Omar that to be homosexual was a grave, unpardonable sin. “Very strict” is a euphemism for violent, and I suspect there was much physical violence in the home. In order to survive and become an adult, Omar repressed his natural sexual urges. Whenever he felt these disavowed feelings, e.g. when he saw two men kissing, he also felt great shame, and to disavow his shame, he projected his self-loathing onto the Other, which in this case was gay people. Because Omar couldn’t be himself, no one could. He hated those dancers who freely celebrated who they were, without fear, because he knew he never could (not without facing his powerful disowned shame). In murdering those 53 innocent people, he tried to murder the homosexuality in himself. Obviously, he succeeded, but not in the way that was good for anyone.

Alice Miller says there is a way out of this hellish cycle. If the abused child has a confidant, someone to whom they can share their feelings with, someone who tells them they are not crazy, that they are not worthless, that their feelings of self-loathing were a way the child survived, that they are a survivor, and their feelings not invalid, they can emerge from this violent circle of abuse. This is not to say it is easy, only that it is possible. 

If we want to reduce violence in this country we need to look to its heart, where violence most often begins in an individual, as child abuse. First and foremost we need to address the mental health of this country’s children. Because child abuse is a lot more prevalent than we think.