Monday, June 13th, 2016
Countless loved ones.
An entire country.
49 people gone from this world forever.
49 families left with nothing but a hole in their heart and the hope for a reunion in eternity.
Countless loved ones left hurting and scared.
An entire country rocked by the violence and the pain and the horror that mars this human existence.
My heart has been heavy since I woke up yesterday morning to the horrifying news of the shooting in Orlando. With each news story, each social media post, each picture and update, my heart sunk lower, and my anxiety increased. One of the things I handle worst in the world is stories of death and harm. Being so acutely reminded of the fragility of life and the evil of the world gives me anxiety attacks. My mind fogs, my stomach knots. I worry for no reason at all and every reason all at once. My hands go cold, my brain beckons me to give into the fight or flight response. I want to hug my loved ones and never let go.
Perhaps my brain reacts in this way in part because I can imagine, if only in a small way, what those in Pulse were feeling that night. Please, before you go on reading, imagine for a moment the terror those club goers must have felt. Imagine for a moment the despair experienced by their loved ones. I know it is hard to do that. But you should do it anyway.
Do the hard things and experience the hard feelings. Don’t try to separate yourself from this event. Don’t harden your heart towards this event because you don’t want to identify with your fellow Americans.
But this isn’t really about me or my anxiety. Except that it is.
It is about me, and you, and all of us, and the way we respond to acts of terror.
It is about how the media insists on plastering the name and the picture of the gunman on every available media outlet. Giving him what he would have wanted. Recognition. And power. Power over our hearts and minds and emotions.
It is about the disgusting way that some would use this event to push their anti-gay or anti-Muslim agenda.
It is about the way that there were far fewer social media posts about this event than there were about a dead gorilla.
People are dead. DEAD. They aren’t coming back. They were alive one moment and brutally murdered the next.
49 people went out for a night of fun and never went back home.
53 people were left wounded and putting the pieces of their life back together.
What is wrong with this country? What is wrong with us that this senseless violence continues to happen? What is wrong with us that some would say “Good, the less gay people the better.”
What kind of savages are we that some might side with the gunman because he killed gay people, and they hate gay people?
You know what? The “gay” part of that sentence matters in the context of the shooting (because it was a hate crime) but it isn’t the most important part of the phrase “gay people.”
“People” is the most important part of that phrase. Other human beings, just like you and me.
Other human beings with hearts that beat and veins that bleed. Other human beings that need and desire relationships with other people. Other human beings that feel fear and insecurity and joy and pain. Other human beings that deserve to be loved and treated with dignity and grace.
I don’t know if you believe in a higher power, but I do. I believe in Jesus. I am a Christian. I don’t hate gay people. I do hate evil, and I hate the hate that we level at each other every. single. day.
If you believe in a higher power, then perhaps you will relate to what I am about to write. And, even if you don’t believe in a higher power, you will probably relate if you are a decent person with a functioning moral compass.
Because I believe in God, I also believe that he created every single person on this planet.
Psalm 139:13-16 sums up my feelings on the workmanship evident in all of humanity.
Each person is covered in the fingerprints of our Creator. He doesn’t make mistakes.
If God doesn’t make mistakes then I must conclude that every person has infinite worth and potential. Each person deserves to be viewed the way that God views them: as beautiful creations that need love and grace and compassion.
I fall short all the time of treating others in this way. But I do try to live my life in a way that reflects my belief that I am no better or worse than anyone else. I know all too well that every person is fighting battles that I can’t see or know.
I know that every person I encounter is living life just like I am in a mess of feelings and experiences and intersectionality.
When will the hate stop? When will we decide to start removing the walls we put up between each other? When will we learn to view each other as partners all fighting the same battle?
Orlando victims, you didn’t deserve this. I love you. This was senseless. Your life was valuable.
Orlando survivors, you didn’t deserve this. I love you. This was senseless. Your life is valuable, and I hope you get the love, and the support, and the help you need to move through your life as a survivor dealing with what you experienced.
America, we can do better. I love you, and I want to live in a world where fear doesn’t lurk in all of the shadows. This senseless violence that we foster is despicable.
Make it stop. Make it all stop.
I don’t understand it; I can’t understand it.
I will do everything in my power to spread more love and grace, everything in my power to stand with those who are marginalized and those who can’t stand on their own.
I will stand with my friends and loved ones in the LGBTQ community because they have been wounded. I will stand with them because they deserve support and solidarity and community just as much as anyone else. Their sexual identities do not inform how I treat them because I treat them as I work to treat all people: with dignity and love.
Friends, we are not islands. We need each other. Don’t let the horrific events in Orlando foster hatred in your hearts. Let the events foster even more love and compassion for our hurting and broken world that needs you to be a beacon of hope.