On November 30, the panel discussion “The Pulse Nightclub Mass Shooting: Unpacking the Intersecting Issues” took place on the Slippery Rock University Campus. Four professors and a student took turns discussing the tragedy that took place in Orlando back in June, where 49 people were killed and another 53 wounded. The event received such a significant turnout that the auditorium was at full capacity, some even had to be turned away due to safety risks.
The panel participants were Cindy LaCom (Gender Studies), Jennifer McGraw (Psychology Department), Catherine Massey (Psychology Department), Andrew Winters (Philosophy Department), and Morgan Scott (SRU student and RockOut President). Each panelist took turns discussing different perspectives on phenomena leading up to incidents like the Pulse shooting.
Before the panel began a video from Democracy Now was played for the audience to add perspective to the shooting.
Dr. Cindy LaCom was the first to offer a perspective on the shooting by discussing the issues of gun violence and its connection to hegemonic masculinity in the U.S. She provided many statistics discussing how mass shootings are a U.S. phenomenon that is carried out by men 98 percent of the time, where 90 percent of them were white. She discussed the issues of aggrieved entitlement, which leads men to feel a need to avenge any humiliation they may feel.
Dr. Catherine Massey gave a perspective as a LGBT community member. She discussed the history of violence and discrimination towards LGBT members. She cited how 73 countries today still put LGBT people to death for being gay and how Mateen (the perpetrator) pledged his allegiance to ISIS during the shooting. She spoke of the predominance of LGBT discrimination that can still be seen in the U.S. today by referring to two of the cabinet members that President-elect Donald Trump has appointed who are on record saying things in opposition to gay rights.
Dr. Jennifer McGraw offered a prospective which discussed the relation between mental illness and violence. She discussed how it is a common misconception to think that those people involved in such violence like that of the Pulse shooting are mentally ill. There has been little correlation between mental illness and violence, but large correlations between environmental factors and violence. She raised awareness of the dangers of restricting gun rights from the mentally ill and how it can lead to a slippery slope of restricting many more serious rights of our “mentally ill” citizens.
SRU student Morgan Scott gave the perspective of a LGBT student on the day of the shooting. Scott discussed a personal experience account and what impacts the event could leave on members of the community. Scott concluded by asking people to stop normalization and to please step in when witnessing instances of hate towards LGBT.
Dr. Andrew Winters ended the discussion by speaking from a cosmopolitism perspective. Cosmopolitism holds that all of humanity and the citizens of the world are included in the cosmos. Winters encouraged students to think of themselves as citizen of a community, where the goal is for each individual to do their part so that all can experience the maximum flourishing. When members of the community feel alone it pushes them to dark places, allowing them to expose themselves to radical ideas, which can account for (at least partly) many of these tragedies our world has experienced.
Students were then allowed to ask questions they had to receive insightful feedback.
This event was sponsored by the Psychology Department, the Gender Studies Department, the President’s Commission on Gender Identity and Sexual Orientation, the Department of Housing and Residence Life, the Philosophy Department, the Center for Public Humanities, RockOUT, and the Pride Center. The panel was organized by Emily Keener, psychology department, and Cindy LaCom, gender studies department.
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