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The Family Research Council shooting and the impact of words and heads in the sand about violence

Thank goodness that I’ve been offline all night and most of today. I needed time to reflect upon the tragic shooting at the Family Research Council, where 28-year-old gunman Floyd Corkins of Virginia shot a security guard Wednesday at organization’s Washington, D.C. offices.

Yesterday — when there weren’t a lot of details available at that time, I posted a few Facebook links and Tweets to news links, the reaction by LGBT orgs, and later proceeded to go on with a ton of day job work, then I went home completely spent and went to bed without turning on news.

I woke up this AM to all sorts of reactions on the right and left, and find out that Corkins had been a volunteer at the DC Center for the LGBT Community, and had not only expressed his political disgust with the anti-gay mission of the Family Research Council, but his backpack also contained materials about Chick-fil-A restaurants, indicating his issue with the anti-gay public policy supported by the chicken sandwich purveyor. The reaction from the DC Center:

David Mariner, the Executive Director of the DC Center for the LGBT Community, released the following statement regarding today’s shooting at the Family Research Council: “I was shocked to hear that someone who has volunteered with the DC Center could be the cause of such a tragic act of violence. No matter the circumstances, we condemn such violence in the strongest terms possible. We hope for a full and speedy recovery for the victim and our thoughts are with him and his family.”

My first reaction on Wednesday was of complete sadness, even before knowing the shooter was gay or had political motivations behind his heinous act. After all, this is just another in a series of senseless violent attacks in recent weeks by men wielding guns to act out without any regard to human life, and in the end feeling that killing people is the answer to personal or political issues.

It’s too easy to just say that these people are crazy; yes mental illness may be involved here, but it’s a far cry from legal insanity where someone does not know the difference between right and wrong. I’d hazard a guess that in some of these instances, they know exactly what they are doing. They believe that gun violence is an acceptable form of political expression.

The fact is that the political discourse in this country is at rock bottom — dehumanizing people so that it is easier for those who are filled with rage to act out violently. We see it with the numerous rage-filled hate crimes against LGBTs all the time, race-based preposterous acts claiming to be religious freedom, and comments from public figures like Joe the Plumber’s recent guidance on immigration reform to “Put A Damn Fence On The Border Going To Mexico And Start Shooting.”

This security guard at the Family Research Council and others put in harm’s way are innocent of any crime (how would the gunman know what the political affiliations or beliefs of this person are?), and even if they held beliefs different than his, what is the point of the violence? How does it advance LGBT equality or activism? Certainly that couldn’t have been in the forefront of his mind.

Not ONCE did it cross my mind that “they deserve it.” Or that this is somehow payback for the myriad lies told by FRC,  designated a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center. As Alvin said earlier:

The Family Research Council will have people to believe that it is an organization which simply stands up for family and morality. But we all know not to be true. Somehow, consistently comparing gays to pedophiles or terrorists, claiming that gays in the military will molest their fellow officers, expressing a desire to deport gays or put them in jaildistorting studies to demonize gays, and all around falsely branding members of the gay community as the “dreaded other” which must be kept away from doesn’t strike me as standing up for morality and truth.

Violence is not an appropriate reaction to the crap generated by FRC and the other anti-LGBT orgs that consistently try to turn calling out their bigotry as persecution of Christians. It’s hard to be persecuted if you’re in the majority and wield much of the power in this country — and besides, FRC is a political professional anti-gay organization, it is not a church or religious group. And lo and behold, Brian Brown of the National Organization for Marriage “went there” on the victim tip:

BROWN: NOM has always condemned all violence and vilification connected to our ongoing national debate about the meaning and definition of marriage. For too long national gay rights groups have intentionally marginalized and ostracized pro-marriage groups and individuals by labeling them as ‘hateful’ and ‘bigoted’ — such harmful and dangerous labels deserve no place in our civil society and NOM renews its call today for gay rights groups and the Southern Poverty Law Center to withdraw such incendiary rhetoric from a debate that involves millions of good Americans.

This kind of reaction from Brown is so tiring, so predictable that writing a response seems almost pointless. This is the bottom line, from Zack Ford at Think Progress LGBT:

Those who advocate for LGBT equality do so for the express purpose of reducing harm. They advocate for marriage equality so that same-sex couples have the same opportunity to care for their children and loved ones. They advocate for nondiscrimination protections so that LGBT people have the same opportunity to work for a living, maintain shelter, and participate in their communities. They advocate for hate crimes laws and bullying policies to protect LGBT people from the violence and harassment that plays out daily across this country. And at every step of the way, they work to reduce anti-gay and anti-trans stigma, to free LGBT people from the psychological stress that limits their ability to live and love freely in society. Groups like NOM and FRC intentionally work against that vision of inclusion, and regardless of their motivations, the effect of their efforts is indistinguishable from hate, bigotry, and intolerance.

Violence is not the answer to solving any conflict and nothing justifies the actions taken Wednesday by Floyd Corkins. But any attempt to use the shooting to justify reinforcing the inequality LGBT people experience everyday is intolerance at its most basic.


Sadly, we see over and over that we’re a country with way too many low-information, hair-trigger-reaction people out there with easy access to weapons. When I posted a link to a news piece about the FRC incident and then made this comment:

Violence can never be condoned – and that includes toward a @SPLCenter designated hate group. Just wrong.

Someone said this to me on Twitter:

Okay, but it’s maddening that we’re forced to condemn this violence as if we had anything to do with it. Seriously.

My response over a couple of Tweets:

From my POV it’s simply the right thing to do; it has nothing to do with my politics. That’s the point.

I can’t be bothered being resentful at this point about the fact that others have no conscience. It’s too prevalent.

That’s where I am now most of the time. So sick of nearly everything seen first through a political lens, that even when it’s clear that for some, their weariness has turned into difficulty seeing human tragedy first, because it feels somehow like it is political capitulation to feel sorry for that security guard and those put in danger by this gunman. If you feel that, it’s time to step away from the keyboard and reconnect with the world around you.

That guard, Leo Johnson went to work on Wednesday, and never expected to end up in the hospital because of the misguided, violent behavior of Floyd Corkins. Yes, he puts his life on the line as part of his job, but Corkins could have unloaded his weapon on anyone there that day. Johnson — the human being — wasn’t the target. We have a subculture of people who are out of control, in desperate need of anger management and basic self-awareness in order to address their frustrations about the political state of things. We’re not talking “crazy” or “lone gunman” either — that’s too easy a reaction to distance these shooters from those of us who wouldn’t think of engaging in this behavior. The fact is these folks live among us, watch TV, surf the Internet and decide that the best course of action to relieve their frustration is to open fire. What are we as a society going to do about it? Apparently our leaders don’t want to lead on this issue.


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Pam Spaulding

Pam Spaulding