Panel discusses the different issues, perspectives about the Pulse Nightclub shooting in Orlando

Published by adviser, Author: Daniel DiFabio - News Editor , Date: December 1, 2016
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A panel of professors and a student held a discussion Wednesday night on the after-effects of the shooting at Orlando’s Pulse nightclub in June, where 49 people were killed and 53 were wounded.

The panel, called “The Pulse Nightclub Mass Shooting: Unpacking the Intersecting Issues”, was held in Vincent Science Center and started at 7:30 p.m. The event was originally scheduled for Oct. 19, but due to the faculty strike, it was moved.

The panel was organized by Emily Keener, psychology professor, and Cindy LaCom, gender studies professor. It was co-sponsored by various organizations, including the psychology department, gender studies (advocacy), the President’s Commission on Gender Identity and Sexual Orientation (GISO), Department of Housing and Residence Life, the philosophy department, the Center for Public Humanities, RockOUT and the Pride Center.

The featured panelists were LaCom, psychology professor Jennifer McGraw, psychology professor Catherine Massey, RockOut President and SRU student Morgan Scott and philosophy professor Andrew Winter. The panelists discussed the multiple perspectives on the events, such as how different communities experienced it, as well as perspectives on why events like the Pulse shooting happen.

The panel started with a video from Democracy Now! to remind those in attendance of the event and the feelings that were felt at the time.

LaCom spoke about the shooting from a perspective on masculinity, and began by giving statistics on mass shootings, saying they are a United States phenomenon. LaCom gave a statistic from the F.B.I which stated that 98 percent of mass shooters are male and of the 98 percent, 90 percent were white.

“When people like Trump are talking about how we have to keep Muslims about, what you need to know is that most mass shootings are perpetuated by white men who are U.S citizens in this country,” LaCom said.

LaCom said her point was that mass shootings are gendered.

“Mass shootings are gendered, both in terms of victims but also in terms, clearly, of perpetrators,” LaCom said.

LaCom said that the U.S needs to look at reliable data about who commits mass shootings, which points to the mass shooter being a male. LaCom used the term hegemonic masculinity, which describes how males are trained to be dominant in society, to describe the perpetrators in mass shooters.

“Men are trained by a myriad of cultural factors to try to always be that hegemonic man, that means a lot of boys and men are constantly trying to assert their dominance over other boys or men,” LaCom said. “In other words, boys and men are rewarded for acts of aggression and violence. In this model of masculinity, boys and men can see others as the enemy.”

LaCom said this cycle affects women and boys and men, with boys and men having higher rates of suicide and drug and alcohol abuse, which are signs of self-harm.

LaCom also discussed aggrieved entitlement, which states that men need to avenge any humiliation they feel.

LaCom used these terms to describe possibly some of the Pulse shooter Omar Marteen’s thoughts and his reasons for the shooting. LaCom encouraged those in attendance to think about how Marteen could have seen the same-sex nature of the nightclub as “not manly”, therefore wanting to take action against it.

Massey spoke from the LGBT perspective of the shootings, giving a brief history of the violence against the LGBT community throughout the U.S.

“In my view, the LGBT community has been violated over centuries and put to death for being gay,” Massey said. “In 73 countries, LGBT people can still be put to death for being gay, so there’s a lot of work to do.”

Massey also said that when Mateen went into the nightclub and started shooting he pledged allegiance to ISIS, which Massey said executes anyone who they think might be gay. Massey said that although it’s unknown if he chose the nightclub for the reason that it featured an LGBT community, the statistics of bars could make a correlation.

“Considering there are over 1900 bars in Orlando and only 11 gay bars, I find it very interesting he would choose this one gay bar,” Massey said.

Massey said that there is evidence for Mateen being both against and for homosexuality, but that because of the choice of nightclub it seemed that he was against the gay community.

Massey also compared the advances Obama made with supporting the gay community with that of President-elect Donald Trump, who is appointing a cabinet largely against gay rights.

“This is a concern for the LGBT community because you’ve always been up against violence,” Massey said. “When you talk about LGBT violence in this country it’s a big issue. There are people everyday who are victimized because they are LGBT.”

Massey said that she went to Orlando for her undergraduate degree and that it was a safe city, commending the local government there for how quick they set up vigils for the victims.

“We really have to be activists to stop anything like this from happening ever again,” Massey said.

McGraw spoke about the shooting from a mental health perspective and where it played into the shooting. McGraw said in this case there wasn’t a history of mental illness, other than a history of violence, which McGraw said did not equate to mental illness, with mental illness requiring patterns.

“Being violent in and of itself is not one,” McGraw said.

McGraw also discussed how some citizens suggest restricting rights on those with mental illnesses, specifically when it comes to acquiring guns.

“Regardless of where you fall on the issue of gun rights it’s about rights and the question of what rights are you willing to restrict for people if they meet the criteria for mental illness,” McGraw said.

McGraw said that if gun rights were restricted for those with mental illness, it could eventually include other rights as well.

“We need to be very careful in the association of mental illness and violence,” McGraw said. “It is a very complicated and complex and nuanced conversation and it’s not a straightforward one. I always want you to go home when people talk about restricting rights and remember that it’s a very slippery slope. Once we start taking away people’s rights in one area we would be very quick to take away their rights in other areas and that society would be very different from the one we live in now.”

Scott described the day of the shooting when Scott was going to a pride event in Pittsburgh.

“The first thing I thought was it’s another day in America,” Scott said.

Scott said how the main performer of RockOut’s drag show was in Orlando at the time, but was safe. Scott described how at the parade 49 seconds of silence were given to those killed in Orlando.

Scott said that it’s normalized in society to be aggressive towards certain groups of people. Scott said he still sees some of this on violence but encouraged those in attendance to stop this normalization.

“I ask that you step in anytime you see some form of hate against them,” Scott said.

Winters spoke on the shooting from a cosmopolitism perspective, which holds the belief that the cosmos includes all of humanity and the citizens of the world. Winters said the shooting allowed for a reflection of the issues.

“Think of our world, our cosmos as being humanity and that in being a citizen of the cosmos that we’re all participants in some general project, and this project should be one to foster a greater sense of community for just being a human being in general,” Winter said. “Reflect and think about the potential threats to this community and the goals of this community that we’re all striving to attribute to and to consider how some of these threats contribute to fear in our global communities.”

Winters also encouraged students to use compassion, not xenophobia, and help those who are struggling by becoming their assistants and giving them a place to belong.

After the panel, a question and answer session was held for any questions audience members still had.

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