It hasn’t been fun in the Sunshine State these past few days. An emerging young singer was shot to death at a meet-and-greet, a gator dragged a two year-old toddler into the lake near a Disneyworld resort and of course there was that horrific shooting spree at a night club, resulting in the deaths of more than fifty people who were only guilty of wanting to have a good time. Even with Florida’s reputation as Ground Zero for all things weird and insane, this definitely has to be one for the history books. This was not a week of happy endings.
The Pulse incident is just one of the many horrific massacres that have underscored America’s gun control debate. Sandy Hook. Columbine. How is it still possible for anyone to simply walk into a store and buy a semi-automatic assault rifle with only a minimum of fuss? No background checks. No doctor’s note proving one’s mental health. No metal detectors. No x-raying of baggage or removal of shoes just to show that the subject will behave and not go bananas while in the air. If liquids, gels and sharp objects on planes are excessively restricted to the point of ridiculousness – I once had to give up a small jar of Speculoos cookie butter just to get through US customs – why are they so lax when it comes to the buying of dangerous weapons?
Not that the Philippines hasn’t had its share of gun-related massacres, but our horrors are more often than not accomplished with household objects. It’s a lot more common to read about the chop-chop lady or hear of someone being attacked by a machete, an axe, or a hammer. Maybe that’s one of the good things about life in a still-emerging economy. You won’t see the average Filipino blowing good cash on M-16s. Most of us are too poor to buy guns, we’re more likely to take that cash and use it to buy rice instead.
The Orlando shooting doesn’t just emphasize the evils of hate, violence and intolerance and the tragedy that is homophobia and mental illness. It also forces all of us to acknowledge yet again how uncertain life can be. One moment you’re having fun, the next you’re hiding in a bathroom, praying for your life. It’s depressing. Anyone can wake up one day and just decide to open fire or cook up a homemade pressure bomb. In Toronto there’s been a rash of killings as well. Even if Canada’s gun ownership laws are much stricter than it is across the border, gun violence is still on the rise. Pedestrians and cyclists are getting sideswiped by cars and dying. What is happening here? Is it the fluoride in the water? Is all the WiFi messing with our brains? Are all these shows about zombies, serial killers and white walkers slowly robbing us of our humanity? It’s enough to make a body want to just stay home and avoid human contact.
Of course with the gunman reportedly pledging his allegiance to ISIS, the terrorist angle is being exploited again. As if that helps. Yes, it’s terrorism because it instills fear and encourages mistrust. But aren’t we oversimplifying things? It’s so much more than us versus them, Muslims versus Christians. When a person has lost so much of his humanity that taking another person’s life means nothing, how do we address that? How do we fix it? Beyond saying “love is the answer,” whatever our beliefs may be, there should be no room for intolerance, or hate, or violence. And we definitely shouldn’t make it easy for anyone to just obtain a weapon capable of causing so much death and destruction in the blink of an eye.