Monday, November 21, 2022

Another Mass Shooting in an LGBTQ Club: Stochastic Terrorism and Eliminationist Rhetoric

Detail from Rogier van der Weyden's "Descent from the Cross," 15th century, Prado Museum, Madrid, at Wikimedia Commons

Daniel Victor reports ("Drag events across the country have often faced threats in recent years") that Club Q in Colorado Springs, where the mass shooting has just occurred, was scheduled to host a drag lunch on Sunday in commemoration of Transgender Day of Remembrance. He writes, 

In states across the country, drag events have been threatened with violence in recent months. Some have been canceled over safety concerns; others have been disrupted by protesters. An event in Oregon last month drew about 200 demonstrators, some of whom carried semiautomatic rifles. The Proud Boys, a far-right nationalist group, has protested events in California, Maryland and North Carolina.

Janelle Griffith and Jo Yurcaba write ("Anti-LGBTQ sentiment in Colorado Springs had some in the community anticipating tragedy") that the shooting in Colorado Springs comes as hate is being vented and exploited by Republicans in Colorado against LGBTQ human beings, and as other acts of violence against the LGBTQ community are proliferating. Coloradan Parker Grey says that "violence is a major part of LGBTQ people’s lives 'and it’s happening continuously, and you hear all these half-assed apologies from these politicians on their Twitters and then we see no action.'”  

David Neiwert reports ("When the right freely wages stochastic terrorism, killings like those in Colorado will happen"):

We don’t know a great deal yet about the young man who walked into a queer club in Colorado Springs late Saturday night and opened fire on the people inside with an AR-15, killing five and wounding 18, before he was subdued and eventually arrested. We know his name and his age. We also know he was arrested last year after threatening to blow up his mother’s house with a homemade bomb, but that the charges were dropped and the case sealed. But we know next to nothing about his motives.

What we do know, however, is that this horrific act of domestic terrorism occurred in a cultural environment in which the LGBTQ community has been under siege by an American far-right apparatus wielding eliminationist rhetoric: Demonizing and dehumanizing them (particularly transgender people and drag queens) as pedophilic ‘groomers,’ attacking specific events that are targeted by far-right social-media influencers, and setting them up for a range of levels of violence, including the extreme and lethal kinds. This is exactly how stochastic terrorism works.

The killer, 22-year-old Anderson Lee Aldrich of Colorado Springs, was arrested last year after he kidnapped his mother, Laura Voepel, threatened to kill her with a homemade bomb, and then engaged responding SWAT team officers in a standoff at a nearby house for nearly an hour. The incident forced police to evacuate his neighborhood, and he was initially charged with felony menacing and kidnapping—but the charges were mysteriously dropped, and the case sealed.

Aldrich is the grandson of a far-right California legislator who has praised the Jan. 6 insurrection. Laura Voepel’s father is outgoing Republican State Assemblymember Randy Voepel, who represented the 71st District in the San Diego area. After Voepel—the former mayor of Santee, California—made comments comparing the Jan. 6 attacks to the Revolutionary War, some constituents called for his removal. He lost his primary in 2022. Laura Voepel has written posts on Facebook praising her father; Anderson Aldrich is in a family photo taken with Randy Voepel that she posted on Facebook in 2014.

Ramon Antonio Vargas and Kari Dequine report ("Two barmen among the dead in mass shooting at gay nightclub in Colorado"):

Social media posts left under his [i.e., shooter Anderson Lee Aldrich's] mother’s name, Laura Voepel, describe former Republican California state assembly member Randy Voepel as Aldrich’s grandfather.

Some called for Randy Voepel’s expulsion from the state assembly after he compared the 6 January 2021 attack on the US Capitol to the American Revolutionary War. Voepel lost his seat to a primary challenger in August.

NPR is reporting ("Two patrons confronted the man who opened fire at an LGBTQ club in Colorado Springs") that the local district attorney says the shooting will be invesigated in the light of a possible hate crime and the FBI are involved — which suggests federal authorities are investigating whether this is a hate crime.

Club Q in Colorado Springs, in which the shooting occurred, has issued a public statement calling the shooting a hate crime.

Francis DeBernardo ("Catholic LGBTQ+ Ministry Calls on Bishops to Speak Out After Colorado Shooting") writes,

In 2016, when 49 people were killed and 53 more were injured at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Florida, few Catholic bishops spoke out to condemn the tragedy, though many usually do for other violent attacks.  That record is shameful. The Catholic Church’s clear doctrine unconditionally condemns violence against LGBTQ people. Catholic bishops should not hesitate one second to respond to this tragedy.

The Colorado Springs killings impact LGBTQ people everywhere, causing fear to grow in their hearts and erode their lives.  Such violent acts also sadly and sickly encourage other people to continue attacking LGBTQ people, whether through name-calling, ostracization, physical attacks, or murder.

New Ways Ministry calls on every bishop to condemn such violence in all its forms.

Given that the U.S. Catholic bishops just elected as their president Timothy Broglio, who has a proven track record of supporting clergy attacking LGBTQ human beings, I'm not going to hold my breath while I wait for a statement from the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops or from most U.S. bishops. As a body, the U.S. bishops are, in a word, a disgrace.

For that matter, it's not only the bishops. I well remember, following the shootings in the LGBTQ nightclub Pulse in Orlando in 2016, a leading Catholic commentator mentioning that event in an article in a leading "liberal" U.S. Catholic church and not using the word "gay" or "queer" or the acronym LGBTQ at all. She erased the people murdered in that mass shooting by turning it into "a" shooting in "a" nightclub. A deliberate silence, in my view….

This is a Catholic commentator with a high profile, who writes about women's issues and the Catholic church. She was appointed by Pope Francis to a papal commission to discusss women's place in the church. She is routinely featured in this "liberal" Catholic publication. And she has a demonstrated history in statement she has made — and in her studied silence about some people and topics — of hostility to LGBTQ human beings. 

If this is the best that so-called "liberal" Catholic commentators and publications have to offer LGBTQ human beings, then it's no wonder so many of us are no longer willing to pretend to listen to anything the Catholic church may have to say to us about anything at all.

Though this fact is seldom reported in the news currently, things are getting worse for LGBTQ people in a lot of states totally controlled by the Republican party right now. Since Trump's election in 2016, some people — in medical offices, hospitals, and clinics, to take one example among many — feel free to say just about anything they want to say to us and to treat us like dirt.

I think in places like my red, red state of Arkansas, things are only going to get worse, and if I could advise young LGBTQ people in my state about their future, I'd tell them to get the heck out of here as fast as their feet can carry them, as soon as they have grown up and can make decisions about their adult lives. 

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