• Zachary Blair

Love is Blinding: Emphasizing Love and Ignoring War in Response to the Pulse Shooting

Updated: Jun 12, 2019


Last week, the City of Orlando released the 911 calls made by Omar Mateen, the shooter who killed 49 people and injured 68 at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Florida. You can read the full transcripts here.

Omar's main message, which he repeated over and over, was to end the airstrikes in Syria and Iraq. Here are some excerpts of what Mateen said to police while still inside of the club:

  • "... You have to tell America to stop bombing Syria and Iraq. They are killing a lot of innocent people. What am I to do here when my people are getting killed over there. You get what I'm saying?"

  • "You need to stop the U.S. air strikes. You need to stop the U.S. air strikes, okay?"

  • "They need to stop the U.S. air strikes. You have to tell the U.S. government to stop bombing. They are killing too many children, they are killing too many women, okay?"

  • "What's going on is that I feel the pain of the people getting killed in Syria and Iraq and all over the Muslim (unidentified word)."

  • "Well, you need to know that they need to stop bombing Syria and Iraq. The U.S. is collaborating with Russia and they are killing innocent women and children, okay?"

  • “This went down, a lot of innocent women and children are getting killed in Syria and Iraq and Afghanistan, okay?"

There have been numerous U.S.-led coalition airstrikes that have resulted in the civilian casualties, including the death of women and children. While this reality in no way takes justifies Mateen's actions or takes Mateen's agency, local and national responses to the Pulse shooting have almost completely ignored the role of the U.S. in violence in the Middle East. Even after the release of these 911 calls, where this military violence is Mateen's primary message, conversations about the connections between local violence and wars overseas continue to be absent.

Instead of a movement against war and military violence, which would seem like a logical next-step considering Mateen's repetitious clarity, there has been a movement to spread love: a feel-good idea that promises nothing more than healing and greater understanding, yet that really falls short of even those promises. Major social and political organizing has happened since the shooting at Pulse, including a significant anti-gun movement, raising millions of dollars for the families of victims, and various artistic endeavors for communal healing. Yet in mourning and in activism, love continues to be the dominant theme, in art, in memoriam, and in politics.

While images of rainbow hearts or the proliferation of messages akin to "Love Trumps Hate" provide feel good messages that appeal to our emotions and lighten the burden of trauma, they are not only problematic intellectually, but they are also destructive in the movement against anti-LGBT violence. This is because continued messages of love ignore state and military violence, as well as so many social, political, and economic inequalities that surround the Pulse shooting. Messages of love inundated conversations and social and political movements that have grown out of the Pulse shooting, in turn, making invisible the real work that needs to be done.


For more information, please see The Pulse Nightclub Shooting and The Neoliberal Trap of Gay Space.

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© 2016 by Dr. Zachary Blair