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Guest Editorial: Creep of the week: Matt Barber

By D’Anne Witkowski | Guest Editorial

Another week, another mass shooting at a school here in what so many claim to be the greatest country on earth. Spoiler alert: when your gun obsession makes children being gunned down in school a regular occurrence, you’re not the greatest country on earth.

One of the kids murdered in Texas was an exchange student from Pakistan. She was to return home in June. I can’t help but wonder how many American parents would refuse to send their kids to Pakistan.

“Look what happened to that Malala,” they’d say. “It’s too dangerous. Sure, you could argue that Malala Yousafzai was shot by the Taliban and that is totally different from what’s happening in America.”

But is it, though? How is the gun lobby and the predominantly straight white males who perpetuate gun violence not a terrorist threat in the U.S.? And in this current political climate that gives racists, misogynists, homophobes and gun fetishists the green light to operate without impunity, the threat of violence has only intensified.

Right now, #IfIDieInASchoolShooting is trending on Twitter. Go read what young people are saying. It’s astonishing that our kids are literally begging lawmakers for their lives. In America. In 2018.

I’m beyond tired of the excuses.

“It’s not the guns, it’s not the guns, it’s not the guns,” we hear ad nauseam. We have more guns than we have people in the U.S. It’s definitely the guns.

“But what about mental illness? Surely mental illness is the reason why these insane people go on shooting sprees. We need to talk about mental illness, not guns,” they say.

The vast majority of people with mental illness never hurt anybody because they aren’t violent. And if they are prone to violence, people with mental illness are far more likely to hurt themselves than they are anybody else. I’d also like to point out what utter bullshit it is to pretend to care about mental illness but not proposing funding for mental health professionals in all public schools; for trying to tear apart the Affordable Care Act, which is the only way some people who need mental health care are able to get it; for not adequately staffing agencies that are supposed to help children and families by connecting them with social workers and other professionals who are under compensated to boot; for not seriously questioning how this country rewards men who are cruel and abusive.

And so, I have no patience with so-called religious conservatives who are wringing their hands over proposed bans on “conversion” therapy for gays. If only they’d show as much concern about making dead kids undead as they do about making gay kids un-gay. Yes, mental health care is important. But conversion therapy is mental abuse, not care.

It’s astounding to me that people like Matt Barber call themselves Christians while preaching not only intolerance, but hate, and then turning around and claiming that anyone who disagrees with them wants to ban Christianity.

During a recent conversation with Gordon James Klingenschmitt, Barber gave props to Luis Ruiz, a Pulse Nightclub shooting survivor who has declared himself ex-gay.

“I love this story,” said Barber, “because it’s a story of redemption and freedom from demonic oppression and persecution and a sin lifestyle that I believe frankly is spiritual in nature.”

Note what he loves isn’t that Ruiz survived one of the worst mass shootings in U.S. history. He loves that Ruiz fits his anti-gay narrative.

Matt Barber (Image courtesy RenewAmerica)

Klingenschmitt and Barber lamented the fact that if conversion therapy is banned then Ruiz might be arrested for talking about his ex-gay experience. This is not true.

I don’t know Ruiz. I don’t really care how he identifies. I’m not the boss of him. But it’s pretty striking that folks like Barber look at the Pulse shooting and see the problem as the guy dancing with another guy, not the guy with a gun.

— D’Anne Witkowski is a poet, writer and comedian living in Michigan with her wife and son. She has been writing about LGBT politics for over a decade. Follow her on Twitter @MamaDWitkowski.

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