All Too Human

So the truth slowly emerges in bits and pieces: Omar Mateen was not a one-dimensional caricature. He was not just “the Orlando nightclub shooter.” He was a real human being with complex motives he may not have fully understood himself. He felt used by others and was deeply wounded as a result. He was filled with pain and self-loathing. He sought salvation in jihadi martyrdom. At least these three things seem to be true, and there may be many other angles as well. 
It is comforting to say he is other than we are: perhaps you are not homosexual, or not Muslim, let alone jihadi Muslim. It is comforting, but it is also false. “Nothing human is foreign to me,” or in the biblical idiom, “Every temptation that has overtaken you is common to mankind” — as true for him as it is for me, or you.Which of us has never hated ourselves for things that we find ourselves unable to change? Which of us has never lashed out at someone else for exhibiting the traits we most dislike in ourselves? Which of us has never acted with total disregard for others because at that moment, we were so involved in our own pain that we had no room for loving anyone else? Which of us has not sought to hurt someone back, to give as good as we got? To be sure, most of us use words and petty slights, not bullets, but that’s a difference of degree, not of kind. 
The tragedy is not that Omar Mateen was so unlike us. The tragedy is that he was exactly like us. The tragedy is that there is an answer, and we didn’t reach him with it in time.


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