Say It


Omar Siddiqui Mateen.

That’s the first time I’ve typed out that name.  Until now, he’s been “the suspect” or “the shooter” or equally anonymous but less flattering sobriquets.  I didn’t want to put his name out there.  I didn’t want to add to the infamy.  I figured he’d have the rest of history to get his name in print; he certainly didn’t need my help.

Omar Siddiqui Mateen.

It’s looking more and more now that this wasn’t a simple case of hatred.  That Mateen was a very confused, tormented soul.  Someone who discovered he was someone his religion and his own father considered an abomination.  Someone who felt desire for something he was brought up to hate.  Those conflicting emotions finally collided at a place that represented what he felt and what he feared, what he wanted to push away and what he wanted to embrace.  He couldn’t live with who he was.  Or with the others who were the same way.

I say this not to excuse what Mateen did or paint him as sympathetic.  He still had a choice as to how he dealt with the conflict inside him.  He still chose to take up a weapon.  He still chose to end lives.  Nothing can justify that.  Ever.

But it’s important that he not be a nameless, faceless bogeyman.  Events like these are not committed by incomprehensible forces.  They’re committed by people.  If we lose sight of that and reduce these to nothing but the acts of scary monsters, we cede our ability to ever do anything about them.  We remove any desire to understand why they did what they did, and therefore any hope of preventing someone else from doing the same thing.  We allow their amorphous shape to congeal into a symbol of an entire religion, or an entire ethnicity, making us fear all instead of aberrant few.  And we deny the very human capacity for atrocity, somehow placing ourselves above such outrages, certain that no set of mortal circumstances could have ever brought about such evil, and that therefore there’s no act we can take or law we can pass that could ever hope to prevent such a thing from ever happening again.  Which is exactly what some want, because in fear there is power.

Omar Siddiqui Mateen.

That’s who did this.  That’s his name.  That’s the man who turned the anguish of one into the anguish of many.  That’s who we should point to when we wonder why this happened.  Not some propaganda caricature of Islam.  Not some faceless Other.  A man.

Say his name.  Not to dignify, not to publicize, not to immortalize.  But to condemn.  To try to understand.  And to turn fear into resolve that this never happens again.

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