Anne Frank and the Orlando shooting, the same day 74 years apart: How far have we come?
On the 12th of June 1942 Anne Frank was given a diary for her 13th birthday and began writing what would become a symbol of courage in the face of abhorrent persecution. Anne Frank’s infamous diary was written in hiding, during an era defined by overwhelming hatred and violence, an era defined by fear. The atrocities of the Holocaust are recounted as a barbaric genocide, the likes of which will never again occur in a civilised society. It’s tempting, for our own sanity, to think of this kind of raw, faceless, harrowing violence as a thing of the past, a sign of a time when we were less evolved and morally deprived.
Nearly three quarters of a century later, on the same day that Anne Frank began recording daily life hiding from her hunters, came a stark reminder that we haven’t come nearly as far as we’d like to think. Yesterday, the world is watched in horror as the news reported that a gay night club in Orlando had been stormed and its patrons slaughtered. Omar Mateen massacred the crowd, at Pulse, murdering 50 people and injuring a further 53 people. The incident marks the deadliest U.S. mass shooting in modern history, the worst mass killing of LGBT people since the holocaust and the worst terror attack on U.S. soil since 9/11.It is an excruciating reminder of how little we have evolved as humane, loving, peaceful creatures.
There is an ISIS claim of responsibility, but uncertainty surrounding it, some claim he was a ‘lone wolf’ attacker, inspired by ISIS but not actually trained by them. Mateen’s father has stated the incident has “nothing to do with religion”, pointing to Mateen’s mental health issues. We know he was generally violent; his ex wife has stated he used to beat her. The incident has been described by President Obama as “an act of terror”. Others blame America’s illogical lack of gun control; where else could a mentally unstable, homophobe (and dubious ISIS fighter) so easily and legally buy a gun? It’s clear from Mateen’s views on homosexuality that the target was no accident, so whatever else the massacre exists as, it is certainly a cruel act of homophobic violence. The clear overarching theme for all of the above is fear. Fear that ISIS is closer than we think. Fear that neighbour Muslims are being radicalised. Fear that anybody could pull a gun at anytime. Fear that if we can’t buy a gun ourselves, we can’t protect our families. Fear that as Muslims we will be marginalised and persecuted ourselves for the acts of radical extremists. Fear that our LGBT clubs and bars are no longer a place of safety, empowerment and acceptance.
Whether it’s Nazi persecution of Jewish people in the 1930/1940s or the threat of ISIS today, what is distressfully clear is that humans are capable of horrific levels of violence towards each other. Perhaps our focus, then, should be on the other, less terrifying, capabilities of humans. In the aftermath of terrible events such as the Orlando shooting or the Paris attacks it’s easier than ever to allow a society of suspicion, blame, and hatred to be created. However, now is the time to come together as a brave, loving and unwavering society. Instead of blaming different communities for the atrocities of a few, we need a collective determination not to let fear erode the morality, the pride and the diversity which, as humankind, we should throw in the face of the violent terrorists of our time and show them we refuse to allow yet another era to be defined by fear. That is how we will mark our departure from the discrimination and fear mongering of the past and enjoy a society based on the tolerance and acceptance that Anne Frank herself represented: “I keep my ideals, because in spite of everything I still believe that people are really good at heart.”