It doesn’t take much pondering to figure out cause and effect.
You dehumanize people enough, someone will treat them as less than human.
You make guns easy to get, unhinged people will get them and use them to kill.
You respond to tragedies with thoughts and prayers and nothing else and nothing’s going to change.
For months in America we’ve heard hideous anti-LGBTQ rhetoric coming from one side of the political aisle. Lawmakers, parents and pundits senselessly calling out drag queens, labeling teachers who dare speak of gender identity as “groomers,” passing or supporting legislation making the word “gay” seem taboo.
Labeling people ‘groomers’ and attacking LGBTQ rights
After Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis pushed through his now infamous “Don’t Say Gay” bill, which prohibits teachers from discussing sexual orientation or gender identity with students in kindergarten through third grade or “in a manner that is not age appropriate,” his press secretary, Christina Pushaw, tweeted that anyone who opposed the bill was a groomer: “The bill that liberals inaccurately call ‘Don’t Say Gay’ would be more accurately described as an Anti-Grooming Bill. If you’re against the Anti-Grooming Bill, you are probably a groomer or at least you don’t denounce the grooming of 4-8 year old children.”
In April, Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-Ga., tweeted: “Democrats are the party of killing babies, grooming and transitioning children, and pro-pedophile politics. #SaveTheChildren”
It’s all wrong, it’s all based on nothing but intolerance and it all dehumanizes members of an already vulnerable community and paints them as existential threats to people outside that community.
Did you think all the hate would just blow away?
And now we have a mass shooting at an LGBTQ nightclub in Colorado. Now we have five dead and 17 wounded and an already-scared community with even more to fear.
What did you think was going to happen? Did you think all that hate would just drift up into the ether? Did you think, in a country filled with guns and rage, it was all just harmless talk?
This ain’t rocket science. It’s cause and effect. It’s two points connected with a straight line.
Spare me the excuses. We’ve seen this happen before.
I can hear the righteous retorts already. Don’t blame other people, some will say. Nobody was calling for violence, they’ll cry. Democrats use the same kind of rhetoric, right-wing pundits will lie.
Nuts to that. This isn’t finger-pointing, it’s logic. And it’s a pattern we’ve seen before.
The 2018 mass shooting at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh. A 46-year-old white man who heard over and over on Fox News and from the mouths of Republican politicians that Central American migrant caravans were “invading” the country, who believed Jewish groups were aiding the nonexistent invaders, opened fire and killed 11 people.
The 2019 mass shooting at a Walmart in El Paso, Texas. A 21-year-old white man, his brain fed a steady stream of anti-immigrant fear-mongering ginned up by President Donald Trump and his supporters, killed 23 and admitted he was targeting Mexican people.
Beyond mass shootings, the attack on the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, was a crystal-clear example of right-wing rhetoric fomenting violence. Trump and his congressional lackeys hollered endlessly about the 2020 election being “stolen” and hundreds of marauding Trump supporters storm the Capitol and violently attack police officers.
Lies and dehumanization lead to violence. Cause and effect.
Hateful rhetoric creates an environment where violence seems justified
We will learn more from Colorado Springs investigators about the motives of Anderson Lee Aldrich, 22, the man suspected of shooting up the LGBTQ nightclub, the man now facing murder and hate crime charges.
But what we know already should be enough to make anyone who has tossed about the word “groomer” or made specious claims that LGBTQ people are a threat to children feel at least partially responsible for the violence.
The offhand cracks about transgender people, the tweets mocking gender identity, the cruel comments directed at people guilty of nothing but being themselves. Those aren’t just words. They’re permission for bad people to do bad things. I know it, you know it, and everyone with brains enough to rattle knows it.
In the wake of the shooting, hateful rhetoric continues
When Colorado Springs Police Chief Adrian Vasquez read the names of the victims in the Club Q shooting, he also shared their pronouns.
Police spokeswoman Pamela Castro told The Washington Post: “For us, it simply came down to showing them the respect they deserve by identifying them using the names they and their loved ones used.”
You’ll find no such respect from far-right pundits, as many continued anti-transgender rants in the wake of the shooting.
Do you feel angry about this tragedy? You should.
It’s almost hard to be angry when you know the same damn thing is going to keep happening. When you know a small but noisy swath of the American population is going to deny a lick of responsibility – not blame themselves, not blame the guns, not see any problem with yelling whatever’s on their minds.
They’ll feign sadness and offer prayers and go back to saying the same dehumanizing things.
It’s almost hard to be angry. But I’m managing.
It’s 2022 and LGBTQ people still have to worry about existing
I’m angry that the thing we knew was going to happen happened. I’m angry that in the year 2022, LGBTQ people are being made to feel like there’s something wrong with them by cynical dolts who’ve never felt a whiff of discrimination.
I’m angry that Daniel Davis Aston, Derrick Rump, Kelly Loving, Ashley Paugh and Raymond Green Vance are gone from this world.
I’m angry that because of a deadly act of hate, there are young people out there this minute thinking twice about sharing their complete, authentic selves with the world.
So yeah, I’m angry, and I’m connecting the dots. I’m looking at cause and effect. And I’m looking right at those who have chosen – chosen! — to make life hell for LGBTQ people.
You all shoulder some of the weight of this tragedy. I hope you feel it in your bones every single day.
Follow USA TODAY columnist Rex Huppke on Twitter @RexHuppke and Facebook: facebook.com/RexIsAJerk
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