he Orlando massacre has rattled me.
I’ve wanted to write something for the last week, but I’ve not been able to. I don’t know why, but the massacre in Orlando has shaken me in ways that its many, many predecessors (e.g., Kalamazoo (6 dead), San Bernardino (14 dead), Umpqua Community College (9 dead), Charleston (9 dead), the Navy Yard (12 dead), Newtown (28 dead), the Sikh temple in Oak Creek (7 dead), Aurora (12 dead), Fort Hood (13 dead), Binghamton (14 dead), Virginia Tech (33 dead)…) did not. But I’ve wanted to get something out of my heart and onto the page. I don’t have confidence I’ll write this well, because I’m still working through how I feel, but here goes.
I feel unmoored. I’ve been listless and unable to work or write. My shrink tells me my reaction is normal…that I should be around people…draw strength from the common suffering. I believe he’s right: I seem to be ok when I’m around people. But when I’m alone with my thoughts I feel like I’m in a room full of ghosts.
I’m disappointed in people who rushed to protect their gun rights while barely, if at all, pausing to acknowledge the human cost of what had been wrought in Orlando.
I’m disgusted by a selection of Christian pastors who claim the massacre of gay people dancing in a club was God’s justice on an abomination of perverts. And then from the other side of their filthy, hypocritical mouths they proclaim to worship a God of love and forgiveness.* Having said that, I’ll say this: there is no reason to forgive a gay person for being gay. Forgiving a person for being gay is like forgiving a tree for having leaves.
I’m demoralized by, but not surprised by, Dan Patrick, the Lieutenant Governor of Texas tweeting “Do not be deceived; God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows.” hours after the massacre. Other people in other positions of influence and leadership have said similar reprehensible and insensitive things.
I can’t stop wondering if my values align with my country’s and if I should find some other country to call home. I feel untethered here, like a ship cast adrift far out of sight of anything not just resembling moral certainty but a reasonable moral suggestion. Perhaps that’s to be expected in a nation built on the genocide of one race, the enslavement of another, and systematic repression of most of the rest. But it didn’t used to feel that way. Maybe I’m just waking up to it. But America now feels like a nation of fear, fingerpointing, and frailty. (I would love to be proven wrong, by the way.)
One thing I am certain about is this: my gay friends and my gay family are not abominations. They are not shadows living in the dark. They are not punching bags, punch lines, or targets for small-minded bigots. They are not perverts or freaks of nature. They are not the product of a sinful choice, and I want to punch in the face anyone who says differently. My gay friends and my gay family are bold, they are beautiful, and they are brave—unlike so many others who cower in fear of and then lash out at anyone who looks/thinks/prays/loves differently than they—and I love them.
* – For any Christians unclear on the subject, this is your God: “Beloved, let us love one another: for love is of God; and every one that loveth is born of God, and knoweth God. He that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is love.”
For any Christians unclear on what love is, this is love: “Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends.”