On a late evening during a visit to Orlando, Florida a couple of years back, I had stopped by a nightclub to use the washroom. The sheer energy and colour of the place was inviting, but the music too loud and the lights too dim for my nerves. On the way out I noticed that it was called Pulse. The second time I heard of it was last Sunday when the place was all over the news for the cold-blooded massacre of 49 party revellers in it, by a gun-trotting savage.
I usually avoid writing about tragic incidents, in India or abroad, because it’s kind of unsettling to keep replaying gory details when the intent of people who read this column is to seek calmness. Also, because one needs to leave the post-facto commentary and learnings to experts who understand the subject better. But today, for a change, I do wish to talk about it. Because this is how my conversation with an elderly neighbour went yesterday, and it left me stressed.
* She: “Did you hear about the killing in the US nightclub? How terrible, no?”
* Me: Absolutely. It’s shocking. I had even been to this bar when I visited the US.
* She: Haww. How come you went there? Normal people can also go?
* Me: I had stopped over briefly. What do you mean by ‘normal people’?
* She (sheepishly): No, just wondering. Anyway, koi kaisa bhi ho, they don’t deserve to die.
My instinct was to sit her down and tell her that it’s heartbreaking to see condolences being doled out as a favour, but my pained expression did that anyway. And to be fair, it didn’t seem like she was being malicious. And that’s what bothers even more. Be it an editorial among the thousands that got written by intellectuals in fancy global publications, or the opinion of an ignorant person on the streets, how could the focus of this tragedy be misplaced to be on the sexual orientation of the victims rather than the obnoxiously easy availability of assault weapons in one of the world’s most progressive countries?
The initial brouhaha about the assassin having homophobia (what the hell does this term even convey – fear of gays?) fell flat under the speculation that he himself frequented gay bars. Then the debate started on his possible dilemma due to his religious beliefs and his orientation. The circus was made worse by his father who declared that it was up to God, and not us humans to punish gays. Please, for the sake of sanity, people! Debate what needs to be debated, and that is — how to make it difficult, if not impossible for a person to lay his or her hands on machinery that’s designed to kill. As for the abhorrence towards homosexuals, frankly I don’t know if it’s worth trying to break our heads debating with those who are hell bent on denouncing it. They have the right to follow their belief system, just as those who support gays do, for theirs. I just want to ask the following questions to everyone reading this, and I genuinely would respect every varying view, as long as it is objective and not put forth in venomous words, for the sake of strongly making a point.
Question 1: When a person decides to kill those who do not even know him or provoked his actions in any way, is there ever a justification that could be put forward for the act – be it on religious, moral, sexual, cultural or any grounds whatsoever?
Question 2: Would you rather focus your energies on preventing mindless, unprovoked violence or trying to debate on what the victims would have done to deserve it?
Question 3: So you think it’s immoral, unnatural, downright wrong to have relations with a person of the same sex? Fair enough. Point taken. Maybe you are right. Maybe not. What is definitely not right is to impose your view, either way, on anyone who thinks differently. And it’s most certainly not done if you try and impose it in an aggressive, violent manner. That’s not called being gay or straight. It’s called being uncivilised.
Question 4: Would you rather aim for a society where no one is ever inclined or able to abuse another person sexually or one that prides itself on stopping consensual, happy adults from being with each other in the name of belief systems? If I have one lifetime to dedicate towards a cause, I’d much rather it be abolishing rape from the world, than knocking on peoples’ bedrooms to see if they are sleeping with a man or a woman.
Question 5: While we all aim to teach values to our kids, basis our respective, and respected, religions, wouldn’t it also be a good idea to teach them the importance of the golden phrase — To each his own? Trust me, it saves a lot of tension when you decide to not argue with someone who doesn’t share your view. The happy acceptance of a differing view point, with the happy sustenance of your own, might actually be the biggest key to calmness.
Sonal Kalra is bracing for a lot of gaalis from those who don’t agree with her. It might make her smile though, if an opposite view point is also put forth in a happy, civilised way. She likes to smile. Like any ‘normal’ person. Mail her at email@example.com or facebook.com/sonal.kalra. Follow on Twitter @sonalkalra