The Orlando Shootings

My dear readers, we have been alive to hear of the latest and most horrific mark on the honour of the United States, the worst mass shooting in all of American history in terms of sheer numbers. 50 dead, 53 injured. If you are still unaware of this story, in the early hours of Sunday (2:00AM local time), a gunman opened fire in a gay club in Orlando, Florida. The man was armed with an assault rifle and opened fire on a venue said to be hosting more than 300 people inside as part of a Latin themed event. At 2:09AM, the official Facebook page of the club instructed everyone to run away and keep running. The man took hostages and holed himself up inside the club, before police resorted to using explosives to create a hole in the wall of the building and storm inside. The gunman was shot and killed, though not before apparently declaring his allegiance to IS. Make no mistake, this story must not fade from our memories, this must be remembered as both a human tragedy and an LGBT tragedy.

The news have been eager to deflect on the LGBT angle, calling this a tragedy committed against people as a whole, rather than against a community but that is unfair. If a gunman shot down 50 Jewish people, we’d call them anti-semitic. If a gunman shot down 50 church-goers, we’d call them an antitheist. If you are considering a tragedy such as this, it is important we know who committed it and against whom and in this scenario, this man opened fire on a known LGBT venue – this is hate crime. You could try and argue that it being a gay bar, as opposed to a normal bar, doesn’t give it any extra weight to the story but the difference is more palpable than many of us can relate to. A gay bar is not just a watering hole for a community, it’s a sanctuary, it’s a place where you are the norm. As straight white people, you can walk into almost anywhere in the Western hemisphere and feel that you are the social default, the definition of ‘normal’. Gay bars, black churches, Muslim neighbourhoods, you might feel walking into such places as a straight white person puts you ill-at-ease but that is because you are walking into a different community, a community of people who adhere to different ways of life or look different to you but have banded together with those like themselves to look out for each other. In a world where there have been attacks on Sikhs just for wearing turbans and thus, being assaulted as ‘terrorists’, many of us want to be in a safe familiar setting where the man sat opposite us looks like us or thinks like us. A gay bar is just that, a place to deviate from the expected-heteronormative and not be judged for it.

IS have claimed they were behind this, whilst groups such as Westboro Baptist Church call this the wrath of God. Me, I call bullshit, I think IS wants to label any act of hatred or destruction as their work to make us scared and ignorant, to make us think they have power over us when in fact, they are nothing more than rag-tag thugs exploiting opportunities as they arise for lack of a better strategy, a cult of twisted madmen playing themselves up as the heralds of the apocalypse. Still, we expect this of them, they are profiteering hate-mongers wanting us to cast out our Islamic brothers and sisters into their receiving arms, that they might manipulate their resentments into weaponised anger. This gunman claims his allegiance to them but the FBI themselves have found no link, this is more than likely a blame-shift to the IS because you hear IS, your racist buddy hears “Syrian immigrant”. If you ask me, this is one man, one twisted man, using the assault rifle his country’s laughable laws allow him access to, as a means of executing a vendetta he has against those different to him. Also, funny coincidence, funny being extremely facetious, that the worst mass shootings in recent memory were against a gay bar, a planned parenthood clinic and an all-black church service, these seem like the communities another cult of hatred would like to see gone and I don’t mean IS.

Worst of all, in reaction to this, even worse than the news channels saying “This isn’t an LGBT tragedy, don’t politicise this (which I’ll address next)”, was Trump. Donald Trump, the pile of human excrement, has said this is what should lead Obama to resign for refusing to admit that this was the work of Islam and has decided to resort to “I told you so”, saying had the US tightened its borders, this wouldn’t have happened. First of all Trump, you sputum-sucking sack of horse shit, the gunman was an American-born man so that doesn’t work and secondly, he was not indoctrinated by some foreigner coming in and egging him on, he was inspired by online content and his own personal disgust for the LGBT community, his own father said so. I cannot be civil when it comes to Trump, the man is a buffoon to say the very least but to take a tragedy and use it as a moment to boast that you were the prophet of this, he is not only a buffoon but an amoral pus-filled sore on the face of the United States of America.

Politicise this, I said this of Paris attacks, I will say it of this, this is a matter to get worked up about. Be angry that the media is overlooking what this venue once meant to the LGBT community, be angry that the far-right feels the victims were struck down by God, be angry that the US is so backwards, an assault rifle is fine but an abortion is murder. Our modern world forgets things fast, we digest what we can and leave things behind, be it memes, memories or stories of tragedy but not this one. Almost twice as many people died in this attack as in the Sandy Hook shootings, more than twelve times as many people were injured in this attack as in the Binghamton shootings, this is not some bullshit story about a Kardashian or a Game of Thrones twist nobody saw coming, we are not going to just talk about this for a week and then move on to the uplifting story of a pug that rescued a drowning kitten or whatever, we are going to demand justice.

Now that I have you riled up or afraid, let me end on this note that I want all of you to remember, especially those of the LGBT community. In the wake of this, you may find yourself scared and uncertain of the future, you may want answers or vengeance or security. Firstly remember that your enemy is never a religion or a race, all religions and races are capable of good and bad. You may have friends or neighbours who are Muslim and feeling vulnerable so I implore you to reach out to them. Secondly, do not let this fear rule you. The LGBT flag is a rainbow, reflecting all the colours of the sexual spectrum, a world beyond the black and white of the gender and sexual binary but the colours stand for more than that, they stand for hope, pride and freedom. If you let this tragedy scare you into being someone different, terrorism has defeated you. Don’t shy away from going out. Go out more. Have some fucking sensational parties and drink to those who aren’t there to share the drinks with you, to the siblings you never met or the siblings that the hate in this world stole from you. Be louder, be prouder, be especially queer and never let hatred win.

Solidarity in Sydney

Trigger Warnings – Death, Sexual Assault

I have done a lot of posts revolving around Britain but the biggest issue in the news at the moment is the tragic resolution of the hostage situation in Sydney. For those of you who don’t know, just yesterday a lone gunman took a cafe full of customers hostage and the crisis lasted sixteen hours before commandos stormed the building and found three dead bodies – one of a lawyer, one of the manager and the body of the gunman himself. The gunman, Man Haron Monis, was a self-proclaimed spiritual healer but was also charged with over 50 counts of sexual assault in his time and was in the news last year for writing offensive letters to the families of dead soldiers. Monis said the charges made against him in the past were for “political reasons” and it is believed this attack was a last-ditch attempt by Monis to grab the attention of those seeking his imprisonment to negotiate having all charges made against him dropped. Truly, a tragic story, one that opens the floor to discussion and so here I am.

The Police Commissioner on the case said that this was the work of an individual, no bomb was planted anywhere, the guy had no associates, nobody at the cafe called him saying it was a good time to turn up and he walked in alone with a weapon, not pulling up with a van full of machete swinging buddies. Considering the man’s origin as an Iranian and being a Muslim, it is important we remember that this was just one madman and not an act of religious martyrdom by extremists. I think back to the beheading of the soldier in public that happened here a few years ago, an issue I wrote an article on which you can find with a little nosing around, and many many people stood by the opinion it was an elaborate terror plot and that these extremists were just a small example of a horribly corrupt religion. Of course, common sense prevailed for most of us but it’s no surprise to us by now that the moment you hear “An Iranian/Pakistani man killed…”, you then hear various colourful expletives being exchanged about Muslims and where they belong, usually being either in their own country or in the ground.

Extremism corrupts the world’s view of anything, mainly because extremism is news worthy whereas “Well I’m kinda more partial to this opinion” is pretty dull. You wouldn’t read a news article saying “MAN LEAVES CHURCH SERVICE BECAUSE HE FELT IT CONFLICTED WITH HIS OWN BELIEFS”, you’d instead read “MAN BURNS DOWN CHURCH, CALLING IT A DEN OF SIN”. The Muslim faith is a peaceful religion, it is not a religion that encourages violence because no organised religion would do such a thing, it’s preposterous and even if the texts say this or that the Bible has passages saying slavery and selling your daughter on the market are fine but I’ve never met a Christian doing one of the above. Religion does define a person but not in the sense that a religion compels people to commit murder or take hostages, that’s the person’s decision, these are the acts of individuals or like-minded radicals, there is nothing in any sacred text that says you can make the world a better place by holding up cafes with guns.

However, this is not all doom and gloom because in the wake of this tragedy, concerns over a growing intolerance towards the Muslim faith or those of Middle-Eastern origin has sparked the #illridewithyou initiative. Basically, if you are likely to be the target of harassment for your faith or such like, you can take to Twitter or Facebook and there will be tons of people posting information about their commutes and how they are willing to travel together with you to ward off people wanting to give you grief. The people of Sydney, in general certainly, have used social media to express their desire to be ‘bigger than this’, to not judge an entire race or religion by the actions of one man and it is not often I get to say this on my blog but this is an act of pure brilliance and humanity that makes me beam with delight. As a man who tries to be accepting of all walks of life, I always fear news pieces like yesterday will set the world back a step in being tolerant of all classes and creeds but the spirit of Australia isn’t one of judging a stranger, more a spirit of camaraderie, the idea that a stranger is a friend until they give you reason to think otherwise. Obviously I am generalising but it’s a positive image and it is the impression one gets when you read the tweets these people have put up on the public domain.

What happened was a tragedy, a truly horrific thing to have happened and my heart goes out to those affected by what has happened, especially the friends and relatives of the deceased. However, the people of Sydney had two paths to choose, the understandable low road of hatred and retaliation or the harder to walk but much more righteous high road and they chose the latter, it is a beautiful thing to behold. We are so quick to judge and rise to anger but rising even higher is a difficult feat that these people are uniting together to achieve as a community. The world can now watch and learn from the example set by a few good people – revenge begets a cycle of violence and anger that only escalates but if you see this incident and you see it is an isolated case of one lone madman, you can move on, you can be so much more and you can forge a brighter future in which we see people as people, not merely an extension of their background.

Thank you Sydney, for restoring our faith in the kindness of humanity in the face of tragedy.

Past Iron

I would like to think the people who read my rants also do their best to follow current issues in the news, if only from Facebook statuses, but my British audience at the very least should know that the “Iron Lady”, Margaret Thatcher, has passed away from a stroke and this has left the nation divided once again, between people grieving as they munch on Rivita with weepy eyes and the underclass gathering together their tuppence to throw little parties. Now, I have said I would respect the dead but frankly my dears, I didn’t respect her when she was alive. However, I’m a man of controversy, not plain and simple bullish vulgarity, so I’ll be as nice as possible about this… or try to.

Death is always tragic, that can’t be argued and I don’t think the world has ever waited with baited for anyone to die since Hitler, though you’d be forgiven for thinking Thatcher received the same reception. In Thatcher’s case, her death was received with cheer by anyone who works for a living but otherwise politicians across the world shed a tear. John Major, Barack Obama, Nick Clegg and even her former opponents, the Labour party, all paid their respects to the late Baroness but I just couldn’t get myself to feel a sense of loss here. What has Britain truly lost here? A gay-bashing dinosaur that made everyone who wasn’t middle or upper class into starving tramps? Excuse me for not paying my respects with a glass of wine at a dinner party, I was too busy living in a hovel.

Ok, so some of you probably just choked on some caviare at my tasteless remarks but why don’t you get off the high horse and listen to my tale? Cue tragic back story. I was born your typical son of a man who made his living with his hands, not due to a lack of intellect but because he left school in the same year Thatcher came to power and changed the system so drastically the floor vanished. My father, Mark Leese, was in the top 2% for IQ in the country, as tested by MENSA themselves, and has such in-depth knowledge of motoring that he could probably build you a functioning motorcycle from spare parts with his hands tied together and an angry squirrel in his boxers. However, being the son of a bus driver, my Dad’s starting place in life was the equivalent to starting a 70 metre sprint against Britain’s finest runners whilst paralysed. As a result of Thatcher’s changes to the system, my starting place in life was less than that and my Dad went from door to door to get them all slammed in his face so hard he got splinters in his nostrils. Tell me, oh wise Thatcher, if you need experience to get a job and a job to get experience, how  in the name of Christ do you break into the cycle? I wasn’t born with a job waiting for me by birthright and seeing as I live in Shrewsbury, one of the worst towns in the world to be underclass and starting out in life, I’ve struggled to get anywhere fast and am currently a drain on my family’s minimal resources because there just isn’t work anywhere.

Jacob, I hear you say with disgust, you can’t blame Thatcher for all your problems. You may well be an unskilled monkey child and the only reason you can’t get anywhere in life is because you aren’t trying hard enough, you just want to live off the state don’t you? Well to that I say why don’t you try living without your privileges and start from scratch as a man without anything to fall back on. If I fuck up, that’s it, I’ll be searching the slums for the cosiest gutter but if you were born with a silver spoon in your mouth, you might not even learn what a gutter is, let alone sleep in one. A generation lost out to Thatcher’s regime but that’s not all I’ve got against her, not by a long shot. Oh ho, in case you didn’t know, she wasn’t the nicest of folks about gay rights either: ‘Here, as with most of her achievements, it’s a mixed bag. As a member of Parliament (MP) in the 1960s, she was one of only a handful of Conservatives to vote for the decriminalization of homosexuality, a truly forward-thinking and brave gesture that she deserves a great deal of credit for’  Sounds lovely right? She supports gays? Wrong, in 1988, Thatcher’s government legislated Britain’s first new anti-gay law in 100 years: Section 28. At the 1987 Conservative party conference she mocked people who defended the right to be gay, insinuating that there was no such right. The stigma surrounding the homosexual community as ‘the reason STDs exist’ was not something she aimed to disprove, but rather confirm. As a friend and relative to a number of gay people, I instantly feel the urge to stab someone viciously if they’re so ignorant about sexuality. I don’t mind ignorant people that are just ignorant, but a powerless idiot pales in comparison to one that runs a country. I find it ironic that she did so much to support equality abroad in Africa, but in her own country she sees fit to be a prejudiced dragon.

Erhem, I was being nice wasn’t I? Sorry, I’ll calm down. A dragon as she is, she had her uses and did a lot for this country, unless you’re a mechanic, shelf stacker, student, cleaner, builder, plumber, electrician, honest human being… Pardon? You cry all you want, you latte-sipping, horse-racing, house-owning, people-firing biggots, but if you’re like me, born with nothing that you can’t take by force, you probably find a slight smidgen of comfort in the idea this woman, who fucked you so hard you weren’t even born a virgin, has passed away. However, she’s not the first or the worst so I’ll leave it be like this and I won’t get up in arms about a death again hopefully but this woman was the bane of my life when I was a fetus, allow me to feel relief she’s gone from this Earth. If you disagree, buy my silence.