Originally posted to The Burning Bridge
In the aftermath of the Orlando shooting, I saw some of my fellow queer folks decrying the neigh immediate politicization of the victims. While I understand, sympathize with, and respect their desire to mourn, I find myself returning to the old mantra, that the ‘personal is political.’ Try as we might to live otherwise, our very identity as queer, and our persistent struggle to merely exist, marks our entire lives, and our legacy, as political.
However, it is important to understand in what way our dead friends are being politicized. In the wake of such explicitly directed violence, both members of the LGBTQ+ community, and non-members of the community, are seeking answers to the issue of ‘violence,’ although it is coded in the mainstream as either ‘terrorism’ (opening an avenue for reactionary forces to oppress immigrants) or as ‘gun violence’ (allowing the state to increase its surveilling and policing powers, and further increasing the state’s monopoly on violent force by hoarding the tools of violence to itself). Either of these options will only serve to increase our subjugation. The Stonewall Riots were brought on by this same oppressive policing, and when mourners gathered post-Orlando, the New York Police Department responded with arrests and heavy handed crowd control tactics. The cops are not, never have been, and never will be, our friends.
Our demagogues center their search on a ‘policy solution’ to violence, which seems to me an oxymoron, as policy is one of the most significant forces for violence in this world. Policy functions by centralizing power to an authority, a process which excludes the ‘other,’ allowing for authority to appropriate the ‘others” power for its own self-preservation. Later, the safety it promised is revealed to be empty at best, and an outright lie at worst. It is this alienation from power, wherein violence begins to take form. This is one of the state’s cleverest tricks: it can dole out what looks like power to sectors of the subjugated to diffuse their discontent. In reality, what is handed out are simply the tools to further oppression along the very same axis the newly promoted subjugated are trying to escape, alongside continuing the oppressive work of the state on every other axis the state operates upon. At the San Fransisco Pride Parade, we watched this play out in such an explicit example it seems to be made for teaching. The more liberal minded queer groups literally beg the government to increase the presence of their occupying force, despite the fact that this poses a very real threat to everyone at the parade, and especially to the People of Color at the event.
Violence doesn’t end or begin with this shooting, or any shooting. For many, it is a daily occurrence. This shooting is the most extreme reflection of the same behaviors that we struggle against on a daily basis. Not simply being physically attacked, nor even just a weird look from a stranger at the supermarket, but continuing to the intrusive thoughts that live within our own heads. All these external and internal conflicts are the result of learned behaviors, and function to diffuse our personal power, via self-doubt and confusion.
What is needed, in fact, is an understanding that governance can only come via the exclusion of a people from their own power. This is what we talk about when we say oppression. Liberals would like to believe that ‘checking their privilege’ is enough to dismantle oppression, but the truth is that while it is easy to say, it’s hard to enact, and even then, nowhere near enough. No matter how hyperaware individuals become of how they benefit from oppression, so long as institutions attempt to centralize or formalize power, oppression will persist.