Deciding what to write on this topic has been difficult. What with the news coverage, the blog posts, the Facebook comments, the in-home conversations, and everything else spinning about on the topic of the mass shooting in Orlando, Florida, I fear what I have to say will just be white noise. But despite the sense I might merely be adding to an overwhelming cacophony of thoughts and ideas on the subject, I can't just say nothing.
I won't go into statistics and research, there's enough of that to go around. Instead, I want to focus on the human and cultural aspects of America's latest tragedy in the hopes that if even one person considers new perspectives, the future will look a little less bleak.
The current attitude of America is, "We will do whatever it takes to combat terrorism--unless that requires changing ideas, laws, stereotypes, or policies, in which case we will do absolutely nothing except express how sorry we are over social media complete with hashtags and heart-shaped emojis." This attitude is sickening.
Fifty people are dead, 53 more injured. People who were living and thriving and loving and aspiring. People who had families and troubles and imperfections and dreams and laughter. People who sought peace in a place they knew to be a safe haven, a place to celebrate their Pride and the progress made in terms of rights for the LGBT community.
At church today I counted how many people were in Sunday School with me--it was about 50. Visually, this shooting was as if every person in that room had been murdered. It was a stark and terrifying and sobering thought.
To my LGBT friends, and LGBT strangers who might be reading this, I want to say you are not alone. You have an ally in me and so many other people. The disgusting acts of bigotry and hate that occur in our nation are not reflected in all of us--we love you and want you and we stand by your side. I will fight for you any way I can.
To those who would blame Islam at large for this act: Why do you sink to such low depths of bigotry? Most mass shootings are committed by white Christian males. Why does religion and skin color only matter when the perpetrator is part of a minority group? If you want to stem the tide of radicalization, why do you perpetuate hate? Hate feeds ISIS. People who feel unwanted and unloved and marginalized by the majority will turn to others for acceptance. If you want to stop terrorism, extend the hand of love even if you lack understanding.
To those who blame mental illness: Most mentally ill people do not commit murder. Blaming mental illness for the continuance of mass murder is merely a scapegoat, especially given that effectively no effort has been made to actually help mentally ill people. Mental health problems are still stigmatized, and blaming every major crime on mental health only feeds that stigma. Do not mistake, "I'm so horrified by what happened that I can't fully comprehend why someone would do such a thing so I'm going to call it crazy," for actual mental illness.
To those who continue to think gun laws should remain unchanged: Why does your need to obtain a firearm almost as easily as your groceries trump the safety of other people? One trend in these shootings is the perpetrators obtained their weapons legally, often despite having various warning signs on their records. So the argument that criminals will just get guns anyway doesn't stand--these people didn't commit a crime in buying their guns, even when they were on the FBI's radar as in the shooting in Orlando.
This idea that an average citizen with a gun permit will have the skills and wits to stop a predator is asinine. Police officers and military personnel go through extensive training to be able to handle weapons--owning a gun permit barely requires anything and does not prepare one to safely intervene in a tense or dangerous situation. Why don't we require regular safety and training sessions for people who want to own guns? Why don't we make it more difficult to obtain guns in the first place? It is more difficult right now to make an appointment with a doctor or therapist than it is to get a gun and license.
And how do you justify Congress forbidding the CDC from even conducting studies on gun violence? It is morally reprehensible to declare your sadness and horror about shootings while supporting laws that prevent research from occurring that could stem the tide of murder.
Shootings in America might be normal, but they are not normal worldwide. To shrug and put up our hands and think, "There's nothing we can do," is dangerous and wrong, both morally and in terms of capability. We can do something--as I type one of my brilliant friends is working on a letter/petition to the UN urging them to put pressure on the U.S. to take action against gun violence, noting that the failure to act is a human rights violation. That is only one thing--there are plenty of other options and ideas. We don't have to live in this horrific reality.
In closing I want to make it perfectly clear that mass shootings don't have to be an inevitability, but they will continue to be so if instead of love we embrace hate; if we do nothing to stem gun violence; if we choose to blame scapegoats instead of taking a good look at a culture that accepts this as normal though tragic; if we continue to do nothing but create hashtags on social media before moving on to the next big distraction. I implore every person reading this--liberal and conservative alike--to consider what is wrong in our nation. Consider what you can do to end this epidemic of terror. Consider what biases and stereotypes you can relinquish to make our world a little safer.