The Lee Harvey Oswald-ization of Omar Mateen

Some cold, hard facts: even as gay rights have become more widely accepted in the United States, and even after the U.S. Supreme Court legalized same-sex marriage nationwide, many conservative Christian Republicans continue to resort blatantly homophobic scaremongering and promote anti-GLBT policies – especially “bathroom bills” aimed at transgender people, a harsh solution to a problem that does not exist – as a wedge issue to fire up their base.

Another cold, hard fact: Omar Mateen, who brutally murdered 49 people at a gay nightclub in Orlando, was not a conservative Christian Republican.

Mateen was a Muslim who told a 911 operator he was acting in the name of the Islamic State, and there are reports that he cheered on the September 11 attacks back when he was in high school.  Needless to say, his actions should not be used to tar all Muslims as terrorists, but Mateen was a self-professed Islamist.  Simple as that.

You’d never know that from reading this New York Times editorial, though, which denounces the GOP (not undeservedly) for its anti-gay politics while not mentioning Mateen’s own motivations.  Or from this widely shared political cartoon, which makes it look like some NRA-supporting white redneck  carried out the massacre.  Or from the twitter lefties trying to smack down any suggestion that Mateen’s belief system had someing to do with his actions.  (Sarah Palin’s map was directly responsible for the Gabby Giffords shooting, though!)

After President Kennedy was murdered, his widow allegedly said, “He didn’t even have the satisfaction of being killed for civil rights. it had to be some silly little Communist.”  And before long, a cottage industry of JFK assassination conspiracy theories sprung up, alleging that Lee Harvey Oswald was completely innocent or was a patsy for radical-right wing conspirators who wanted Kennedy gone.  Notably, very few of the conspiracy theories alleged that, say, Fidel Castro had a hand in the assassination – it was all about businessmen, the mafia and possibly Lyndon Johnson.

That’s how vaccine conspiracy lunatic Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. can still declare that a climate of “right-wing hate” caused the death of his uncle, even though the guy who did it actually attempted to assassinate extreme-right activist Gen. Edwin Walker with the very same gun eventually used to kill the President.

(By the way, if you continue to believe Oswald did not kill JFK, read Case Closed and get back to me.)

Lee Harvey Oswald’s actual politics have been airbrushed out of history, and we’re already starting to see the same thing with Mateen’s actual beliefs.  That doesn’t mean anti-gay conservatives and Christians shouldn’t be called out on their often-hateful rhetoric.  This shooter wasn’t one of them; the next one might very well be.

There were likely many factors contributing to Mateen’s murderous rampage, including easy access to high-powered weaponry (a subject that is to American conservatives what Islamism is to American liberals) and even his own conflicted sexuality.  But if he had professed to be a disciple of the Westboro Baptist Church, no one would be running interference for his religious extremism.

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