My enthusiasm and joie de vivre are both pretty suppressed at the moment, and it’s taken me a while to compose my thoughts around recent events. The murders at Pulse in Orlando, and of Jo Cox MP in West Yorkshire are both resonating with me on two counts.
Firstly they both took place in or just outside what are generally considered as safe places. Gay clubs are often one of the few places where people can be themselves, especially if their families or neighbourhood are unsympathetic or outright opposed to their rights to even exist, let alone love who they love.
Libraries, despite what feels like a concerted assault by government, are community hubs serving everyone, helping those in need to help themselves with information, access to resources, and sometimes physical space to avoid a hostile outside world. Local and national politicians use them for surgeries because they know libraries are seen as a neutral meeting ground, and they go where people will feel safe enough to talk.
The second resonance comes because in each case, the perpetrators of the actual murders are being tarred with a variety of brushes to suit political ends. Mental illness has again been suggested as a factor in each crime, but at the same time there seems to be a reluctance to address whatever has triggered these horrific attacks.
On both sides of the Atlantic, rhetoric and hatred has been allowed to hijack public debate. Right wing media has joined in fanning dismay and prejudice, and the sad fact is that those of us who suffer from mental illness can find ourselves being even more sensitive to the outrage and bile than whoever cares to label themselves as ‘normal’.
In such a toxic mix of cheap outrage and manufactured hatred, it’s not hugely surprising that some people snap. Whether it’s due to self-loathing and feelings of powerlessness, an inability or unwillingness to ask deeper questions, or someone planting a seductively easy target in front of them in their confusion, there’s only so much frenzy that people can let slide off their shoulders before they begin to identify with it.
The real shame is that those peddling the hate won’t see that they’ve done harm, or do anything to change their ways. It’ll all just get used to justify the next wave of distorted crap that sells us all down the river.
So you’ll excuse my lack of humour at the moment I hope. Normal chirpy facemasks will be resumed in due course. Your challenge, should you accept it, is to see what you can do to level the playing fields and do some good in the world. What are you waiting for?