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.”
Beautiful. I stand with you as I’ve struggled this week also. No human on this earth has the right to say what other people do is right or wrong. Love is beautiful; it should be and must be shared openly and proudly.
Thanks, Leisha. Beautifully said. So glad we’ve been able to reconnect after all these years.
I couldn’t have said it any better. Orlando also shook me harder than any other tragedy. This one truly woke me up.
It’s a painful thing to wake up to, isn’t it? What would be great is a lowering of the volume on all the noise going back and forth that makes it impossible to have the quiet discussions that lead to understanding and compromise. We’ll never get everyone agreeing, but with effort we could at least come to some understandings.
Beautifully written, Michael. I’ve been in a funk this week as well. Alhough I’m sad that you were too – I’m a bit relieved that I’m not an anomaly. I hope that one day “we” can collectively evolve and understand that love is not bound by rules…
Thanks, Michele. At least I know now that I’ve been in good company this week.
Thanks, sensei. I appreciate hearing that from you.
Thanks, Kristine. You’re the best. 🙂
Thanks for your wise words,Michael. I thought our country was headed towards something better. Last year around this time we were celebrating the legalization of same sex marriage & now this horrible tragedy has occurred. It’s like we collectively took 3 steps forward & 2 steps backward. It is not lost on me that you ended your blog about what love is … In the end, love is what will save us all.
Thanks, Lisa. I agree 100% with what you said. I’ll plagiarize myself here from a comment I left on Facebook because fits well with what you said, I think. I try to remember that 5 years ago gays couldn’t marry, that in the 1980s Eddie Murphy could make faggot jokes onstage and everyone (well, probably not everyone) laughed, that fifty-ish years ago blacks couldn’t drink out of the same water fountain as whites, that 100 years ago women couldn’t vote…so we have progress, but why does it have to be so bloody and painful for us to do the right thing? Maybe that’s just how all births are. And you’re right: love will save us all.
Unmoored. That is about the most perfect word to describe how I have felt as well. Thank you.
Glad to know I’ve been in good company, Jefferoo.
Well put, Michael. I’m especially agreeing with you on being untethered, unmoored. I worry about the soulless legislators who find absolutely no compassion in the bottoms of their black hearts after reading the text exchange between a mother and her son about to be mowed down by the bullets, just to point out one story out of 49. Are they not human? Are they the same as the legislators of the past who had no compassion for people of different race? Have we learned nothing? I worry about this country, I worry about the human race. Mainly, I worry about the kind of world we leave to our kids, because it will be shaped by the same soulless politicians. I feel helpless, disillusioned and powerless. Where do we go after this? I hope we don’t end up just floating about, aimlessly….
That’s exactly how I felt too, Jelena. To your point about politicians: we recently went to an event called Will on the Hill, a fundraiser where members of Congress and other Washington insiders lampooned the Washington political scene left, right, and center. The humor was witty and satirical and it was a lot of fun, but while I was laughing T the comedy onstage there was a voice in the back of my head saying, “Yeah, this is great, this is fun, but these are also jokes about positions and policies and personalities who cause actual real life harm to actual real life people.” I would like to think our lawmakers see the human beings behind their discourse and their decisions…and I’m sure some do. In my heart, though, I think the majority only see and seek power.