Orlando – A View From Britain

What happened in Pulse bar in Orlando on Saturday night was shocking, horrific, and utterly terrifying for anyone caught up in it. I can only write about it on the basis of the information I have been given by the British media, which may or may not be correct, but this information has got me thinking.

My heart goes out to the victims and their families. I cannot begin to comprehend the horror of being involved in such an atrocity. From a European perspective the obvious initial reaction was that as the murderer was called Omar Mateen this was likely to be another one-man terrorism act. Stereotypes, huh? We learned that shortly before he went out to kill people he had made some phone calls claiming allegiance to Islamic State. That just added to the image. But in the past few days it has emerged that he had also claimed to support a number of other terrorist organisations, some of whom hate each other, so that theory began to lose whatever credibility it might have had. It is further weakened by the fact that although his parents are from Afghanistan, Mateen was born and raised in the US and was a US citizen. So, not an imported terrorist, then.

Where to go next for an explanation? Pulse is a gay club, so this then became a crime committed by someone who hated gay people. Simple, huh? No, not simple: simplistic. Again, information started emerging that questioned the idea that this was ‘just’ a homophobic crime. A number of people have since come forward to say that they have seen and spoken to Mateen on several occasions at Pulse, going back over as much as three years. Why would he frequent a place filled with people he hated? Again, the simplistic answer would be that he was preparing for his crime, getting to know the club’s layout. But the evidence that he had been going there for three years would suggest otherwise. Today’s paper contains the theory that he was a latent gay, fighting against his inner feelings, and that killing gay people was his disturbed mind’s way of dealing with this. The suggestion by one of his ex-wives that he was bipolar adds to the picture of a troubled, complicated man, unhappy in his own skin and trying to find a way out. No doubt further information will become known in the days ahead, but it does appear that this may well be the explanation for what Mateen did.

The LGBT communities in the US and across the world fight an ongoing battle to be accepted and respected as people, in the hope that all civilised societies will reject homophobia as the crime that it is. Here in the UK I saw the Lord Mayor of Manchester on the BBC Breakfast programme, explaining why this was an issue affecting all LGBT communities, not just in Orlando. He spoke eloquently and movingly of how what had been expected to be a small memorial event in Manchester had become much bigger. And then there was this response, from the London Gay Men’s Chorus, at a very well-attended vigil in London to show support for Orlando’s victims. I think this is stunningly beautiful and moving:

Amidst all the coverage of why Mateen murdered 50 people, there is another question: how did he manage to do it? There is one very simple answer to that: because he could. Here in the UK we have homophobia, racism and all the other troubles that afflict the US. We have people who are troubled with their own sexuality, and we have people who suffer from bipolar disorder. But they do not have easy access to guns. In the recent past we had two major atrocities here: in Hungerford when 14 were killed in 1987, and at Dunblane School in 1996, when 16 children and a teacher were murdered. Our gun control laws have been substantially tightened since then. Of course, people can get around these, and always will if their intentions are strong enough. But they can’t just walk into a shop and buy a gun. The UK Government took on the pro-shooting lobbies and introduced the legislation anyway, arguing that the human right to life was greater than the human right to bear arms. I for one am pleased that they did. They did not have such an organised opposition to contend with as the NRA and commercial interests in the US, but they still acted to provide their citizens with as much protection as possible.

I read that this is the 15th time that Barack Obama has had to make a statement about a mass killing during his presidency. That is around two per year! Yet every time any politician raises the question of gun controls, they are howled down or, worse, declared to be unpatriotic, as the right to bear arms is enshrined in the Constitution. But that was written in 1775, and times have changed a little since then. It was no great surprise to me to see Donald Trump using events in Orlando to blame Muslims – all Muslims – for the crime and to reiterate his racist demand that all Muslims should be barred from entering the US. I doubt that he will be retracting these comments now that it is clear that this was not a crime of racial or religious hatred, or an act of terrorism. That would be too much to hope for. A cartoon in yesterday’s Times summed this up rather well:


Sadly, it appears that many Americans agree with Trump on this issue and on everything else he stands for. The possibility of Trump becoming President is a scary prospect, not just for the US but for the whole world. It would be likely that, if anything, the pro-gun lobby would become even stronger. Even if they don’t, the ready access to guns will continue to mean that troubled people will still have few obstacles to shooting their way out of their problems. I accept that much is wrong with our UK society, but at least we don’t make it easy for people to become mass murderers.

America, when will you ever learn?


Footnote: This post had been mulling around in my head for a day or two, but has been written at the prompt of Bernadette, who blogs at Haddon Musings, as part of a theme week on her Senior Salon. This week’s posts can be found here.

12 thoughts on “Orlando – A View From Britain

  1. Osyth June 15, 2017 / 1:40 pm

    This is an excellent and extremely thoughtful post which was written before you and I knew one another so I am grateful that you have re-blogged it today. I was living in the US at the time of the Orlando Massacre. I will never forget Anderson Cooper (himself Gay but very very quiet about it) standing in the City reading all the names, ages and occupations of the victims. I will also never, ever understand the attitude to arms in the US. And it is not just the Gun Lobby and the Far Right, it is more engrained than that. And it is that which is most terrifying.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Clive June 20, 2017 / 2:22 pm

      Thank you, as always, for your kind words. I doubt if many outside the States understand their attitude to arms. It dates back to the Constitution, but that was in 1775 and times have changed a lot since then. But I guess that after 242 years they’ve grown accustomed to it. Either that or they’re too stupid to see the need for change. The involvement of influential big business interests won’t make it easy though. After all, what are the lives of people worth, as long as the billions keep rolling in? xx

      Liked by 1 person

      • Osyth June 20, 2017 / 5:05 pm

        Greed is the root of all evil and what is big business if not the epitome of Greed? Xx

        Liked by 1 person

      • Clive June 20, 2017 / 5:54 pm

        Precisely. ‘Twas ever thus xx

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Clive June 15, 2017 / 10:04 am

    Reblogged this on Take It Easy and commented:

    I hadn’t planned on re-blogging any more previous posts at present, but I have just had a reminder about this one, from a year ago today. Whilst this was written as a response to the mass shooting at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, it carries a wider message.

    Sadly, that message is no less relevant today. Yesterday in the US saw the widely publicised shooting of Republican politician Steve Scalise and several others while they were playing baseball. It also saw the less widely publicised killing of three UPS workers in San Francisco by a colleague, who then committed suicide. This morning, I saw this on the Vox Facebook page:

    ‘In December 2012, a gunman walked into Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, and killed 20 children, six adults, and himself. Since then, there have been at least 1,399 mass shootings, with at least 1,564 people killed and 5,515 wounded.’

    These statistics are horrific, especially as a change in the law could help to reduce them. Here in the UK we have recently had the suicide bombing in Manchester, and two terrorist attacks by fanatical murderers armed with vehicles and knives. The loss of life and injuries caused by these outrages is awful, but I can’t help but think that had the perpetrators had the easy access to guns that they would have enjoyed in the States, the death tolls would have been much higher. Yet the US President took to Twitter to criticise the Mayor of London for his response to the events, using his usual technique of a very selective grasping of the wrong end of the stick. He then went on to mock us for our gun laws. You really still don’t get it, America, do you? Evil will, I fear, always exist in our world. But making it harder for those people to access weapons of mass murder seems to me to be a no brainer. But, somehow, I think this message falls on deaf ears amongst those in a position to do something about it. That, to a non-American, is shameful.


  3. joanneeddy June 16, 2016 / 3:36 am

    Thanks, Clive. Like you I kept looking at all the possible reasons for this man’s act as the news and clues dribble out. Of course you are right about both American’s gun culture (which makes no sense to lots of us) and Trump. Cross your fingers…and knock on wood a few Republicans (who are in power in both houses of our Congress) are making little noises about considering regulations…of course, that may quickly go by the wayside. But even Bill O’Reilly (a more thoughtful, but far right conservative, media host) for the first time is calling on the GOP to start looking at the Second Amendment differently and realize that regulating assault weapons should be considered. So maybe, just maybe there is hope for some change. On Trump, many of his supporters want change so much they have been ignoring his outrageous racism, sexism, and ineptitude. But he is dropping in the polls, and I am hoping and praying that is a good sign. Jo


  4. Still the Lucky Few June 16, 2016 / 12:03 am

    I am so appreciative of your detailed and intelligent post. You hit upon the reason that this event happened—access to guns. Yes, we have disturbed and evil people here in Canada also, but they can’t just pick up an assault rifle and go out and commit a massacre. That makes the difference. Just listening to Trump’s nasty rhetoric is making us all sick and fearful. It’s so dangerous!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Clive June 16, 2016 / 11:53 am

      Thank you Diane. The need for gun control in the US seems so obvious to those of us who don’t live there. I hope they bite the bullet, as it were, and start doing it. And having an incoming President who isn’t a rabid racist would help!


  5. Bernadette June 15, 2016 / 9:20 pm

    Clive, Thank you for giving so much thought to your post. I don’t know when American is going to get a grip about gun control. It is so frustrating to have lived my entire adulthood fighting this problem and not seeing even the smallest change. But I will keep trying.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Clive June 15, 2016 / 9:43 pm

      You’re welcome, Bernadette. As I said in the footnote I’d been thinking about this post for a couple of days and your request decided it for me. I know gun control isn’t the only answer but it would be a start. I hope you and like-minded sensible people can bring about a much-needed change.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. thejuicenut June 15, 2016 / 12:54 pm

    Excellent, balanced, articulate post that I felt too unqualified to write because I’m not a US citizen. Bravo! I will never understand their ‘reasoning’ over such free access to guns. My heart goes out to all those mourning their loss and all those affected by the sheer horror and shock of it.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Clive June 15, 2016 / 1:00 pm

      Thank you for your kind words. I know it’s not the only answer but it would at least be a start.

      Liked by 1 person

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