orlando massacre - candlelight vigil

Candlelight vigil in Orlando after the massacre at Pulse Nightclub

*On Saturday night there was a domestic terrorist attack at a gay nightclub in Orlando Florida that left 50 people dead and another 50 people injured. Two thoughts occur to me.

First: This incident has illustrated the way in which society has progressed in the last decade. The acceptance of gays and lesbians in this country has been coming in waves. In 1969 gay people initially put their foot down in terms of being harassed. Since then it has been a series of (expected) starts and stops. But in recent years the reality of gay and lesbians has not been about why they are asking for citizenship privileges or how they are fighting for those privileges. The conversation has changed to why anyone would deny them citizenship privileges. The incident on Saturday night underscored this change in that the commentary on Sunday morning was mostly about what a tragedy it was. Even while highlighting the fact that the venue primarily catered to gay clientele, the news cycle was about how Americans (not gay Americans) had been victimized. With this mass shooting we, as a country, are seeing the legitimization of homosexuals as people.

Second: This is the kind of thing that could easily become typical. Donald Trump’s campaign has effectively alienated at least Mexican-Americans and Muslim-Americans. Trump has tapped into an angst regarding ethnicity and religion that had not been accepted as appropriate since the 1950s. But now with one mainstream politician (and presumably his political party) vilifying these groups it would not be surprising for violence against people in those groups to increase. And if violence against some groups becomes an accepted modus operandi, then it will spread to other groups. In fact with the mass shooting in South Carolina last year, it could be said that this is already happening.

Massive acts of violence that target a specific group are going to be the litmus test of whether our country continues to move forward or whether we return to the days of pronounced and blatant nativism.

Trevor Brookins

Trevor Brookins

Trevor Brookins is a free lance writer in Rockland County, New York. He is currently working on a book about American culture during the Cold War.  His writing has appeared in The Journal News. You can reach him at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter @historictrev.