My Sunday morning began in a way that was probably pretty similar to many of yours: I rolled out of bed, boiled some water to make tea while reading another chapter of the book I'd placed on my bedside table, and made some toast. Then I checked my email and social media accounts, and the warm morning laziness fell away as I learned that an Orlando nightclub shooter had killed 50 people and wounded many more in the early morning while I was sleeping. I began to gather detail after agonizing detail. The location was Pulse, a gay nightclub in Orlando, and the gunman, who reportedly had been carrying an AR-15-style rifle, seemed to have committed a premeditated act of violence, according to law enforcement. As I was writing this, the death toll skyrocketed from 20 to 50 people, making it the deadliest mass shooting in American history. This is an act of violence with more deaths than the Virginia Tech or Newtown shootings. Update: In a press conference Monday morning, Orlando police confirmed that 49 people had been killed and 53 injured early Sunday morning at Orlando's Pulse gay nightclub in the deadliest mass shooting in recent U.S. history.
The crime, which came just a day after the devastating news of The Voice singer Christina Grimmie's death — also in Orlando — by a gunman who came to her meet-and-greet, caused me to grasp for answers amongst a sea of shock and outrage. I won't pretend I have all those answers, but one thing I do feel for certain is that what happened at Pulse nightclub, regardless of what the shooter's motive may have been, was an act of terrorism.
And my opinion is not an unfounded one. Authorities are treating the shooting as an act of domestic terror.
First, let's focus on what an act of terrorism actually is. According to the Merriam-Webster online dictionary, terrorism can be defined as "the use of violent acts to frighten the people in an area as a way of trying to achieve a political goal." The Orlando shooting was certainly a violent act that frightened people — there's no doubt as to that.
Pulse Orlando's Facebook page, which describes the spot as "Orlando's Premier Gay Nightclub," makes it clear that the club is a gathering space for Orlando's gay community. Visitors have left reviews like " I always feel welcome at your club," and "Awesome atmosphere and friendly people everywhere."
And yet the shooter left people dead — people who were simply looking to shake off their weekday troubles to some music in an accepting environment. Whatever the shooter's motive, going armed to a gay club, taking hostages, and killing 50 innocents was an act of terrorism, plain and simple. Its importance should not be downplayed. Its impact cannot be dismissed. As President Obama said in a speech about the Orlando, shooting: "This is a sobering reminder that attacks on any American, regardless of race, ethnicity, religion, or sexual orientation, is an attack on all of us, and on the fundamental values of equality and dignity that define us as as country."
The general consensus of the Twitterverse is one of outrage and acceptance of the crime's status as terrorism:
A friend of mine, LGBT poet and entrepreneur Peter LaBerge, wrote a particularly moving Facebook post about the mass shooting this morning. I'll close this with his words, which he has allowed me to share:
"When people ask me why I write, this is what I say: I write to show other people that we are people. If this doesn't prove LGBT writers are necessary—in the literary world, in the classroom, everywhere—I don't know what does. We have to keep writing, keep speaking, keep using whatever platforms we have to speak out. We can't let people forget.
I'm not going to stop and say LGBT identity is a small piece of a person. I'm not going to stop and say it isn't some man's right to decide who lives and dies. I'm not going to stop and say the 'sickness' in this country is not LGBT rights & abortion rights, but rather the entitled men and women who seek to impede progress. These messages have been screamed and screamed before, to little avail.
Christina Grimmie clearly loved life; even at 22, she inspired millions of people—she didn't waste a day. I'm sure many of these victims were the same. My heart goes out to these victims and their friends & families. Let's just not waste today."