Partner of San Bernardino gay hero asks America to look in the mirror after Orlando

HERO: Daniel Kaufman, 42, pins a flower on his partner of 3 years, Ryan Reyes. Kaufman was killed during the attack in San Bernardino.
SAN BERNARDINO HERO: Daniel Kaufman, 42, pins a flower on his partner of 3 years, Ryan Reyes. Kaufman was killed during the attack in San Bernardino.

COMMENTARY BY RYAN REYES  |  There is a major threat facing our country and I think anyone who lives in America can agree on that.

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I know my partner, Daniel Kaufman, a hero who was murdered after saving several people’s lives during the terrorist attack in San Bernardino last December, would agree.

What happened in San Bernardino and in Orlando is, to put it mildly, an incomprehensible tragedy that cannot be easily explained.  But it represents a threat to our nation, one that is much greater than the proliferation of guns and of mass shootings and terrorist attacks.  

I see a whole lot of finger pointing and hear a whole lot of talk about other issues, but they all seem to gloss over a very important fact about America’s role in both of these events — they were planned and carried out by American born Muslims who had become radicalized.  

Neither attack was ordered or planned by the organization to which they pledged their allegiance. 

The problem is NOT merely gun control nor the easy and legal access to weapons of mass carnage.  The problem is most certainly NOT Muslim families being allowed to enter and live in the country.  The problem is NOT the general population of Islamic faith.  

So, then, what is the REAL problem? The answer, I am afraid, is not easy to swallow.  

WE (as a collective whole as Americans) are the problem: the problem is pundits, politicians and their followers who sit and point fingers at Islam, who escalate tensions by placing uneducated and wrongful accusations, placing blame, scapegoating and refusing to discuss America’s role.  

As gay, bisexual and transgender men and women, we are all too aware of what it is like to feel like an outsider in our homeland.  We know what it’s like to be hated, despised and treated far less than equal.  We have experienced first hand what happens when you ostracize and spew hate against a community.  We have paid the price for our freedom and equality with our lives, our blood, sweat and tears many times over.  Yet we stayed strong, persevered and won.  We continue to win using love and non-violent methods.  We have come so far, I mean look at what we have accomplished in just the last 5 years.  

You might be asking yourself what this has to do with what happened in Orlando, and to a lesser extent (as far as gay community is concerned) San Bernardino.  It is simple.  

America’s toxic anti-Muslim environment is fomenting a home-brewed, radical fundamentalism among young, American born Muslims.

Muslim-American’s are increasingly hated, ostracized, feared, treated with indignity and inequality.  Is it any wonder that fundamentalism has found a home among some young American Muslims?  The ground is fertile “see how American society treats you? See how they are?  Join our cause, fight them and you will be loved and be a hero.” It becomes an option.  Who doesn’t seek empowerment?  

The only way that we are going to be able to defeat fundamentalism is by standing together and against hatred of Muslims.

Fundamentalist Christians love to justify their hatred with “well it says this in the Bible,” but then ignore the rest of what the Bible says.  They use the very same tactic when it comes to people of other faiths. 

Fundamentalist Muslims say “well, it says this in the Qur’an” but ignore the rest of it’s teachings.

The Bible is filled with hateful rhetoric, calling for the stoning death of people who do not follow fundamentalist rules.  Fundamentalists of both faiths do not care whether following ancient dictums makes sense in a modern context. The modern context is what they despise.

Non-Radicalized Muslims as well as non-radicalized Christians do NOT believe that those “laws” should be enforced.  

The Muslim community is desperate to put an end to fundamentalism.  Fundamentalism misrepresents their faith (much like the Westboro Baptist Church does with their interpretation of Christianity), and causes innocent people grave sociological and psychological harm. 

The Muslim community is just as innocent as the people that have lost their lives in the recent attacks.  

I implore you, brothers and sisters, EMBRACE the Muslims in your community.  

Show them through love and acceptance that we support their right to Freedom of Religion.  Do NOT lower yourself to the level of the same people that have tried to keep us down and silent for so long.  Do NOT resort to violence and hate.  Do NOT jump on a bandwagon and make false generalizations like our enemies do.  The enemies are the extremist and radical groups, not an entire religion or nation.  Do NOT be confused about the very real difference between a person that practices Islam verses The Nation of Islam, for instance.  Those are two VERY different things.  The Nation of Islam is a radical group and does NOT speak for all people of the Islamic faith anymore than the Westboro Baptist Church speaks for all of Christianity.  Yet people use those terms interchangeably like they are one in the same.  

When the right wing groups talk about “the gay agenda” we laugh and scoff at them because we recognize it for what it is…..anti-gay tripe and propaganda.  Yet we fall victim to the same ploy when it comes to Muslims.  We need to wake up.  We need to help the country wake up.  

We need to make sure that people who are peacefully exercising their rights are safe.  We demand that for ourselves and so we need to insist on that for others.  

Stand with me against Donald Trump in the TRUE fight to “Make America great again.”  

One where ALL Americans’ freedoms and rights are secured and protected.  One that truly believes in “equality for all” and “the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.” 

— Please give me 24-48 hours to respond.



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