On an unexpected weekend in June, the city of Orlando was rocked with a string of violent attacks that created an earthquake of shock, grief, fear, hurt, and a sadness too terrible to name, that all ends of our globe have felt. It started with the shocking shooting of the young YouTube celebrity, The Voice reality contestant and established musician 22-year-old Christina Grimmie, gunned down by a deranged young man before he in turn killed himself. It ended with the horrific mass shooting at the gay bar Pulse, where 49 men and women lost their lives, and countless more saw their lives forever altered, shaken, and shattered.
Sunday marked the 18th mass shooting in our country since President Obama has been in office. As a person who lived 9 miles away from the last mass shooting, who had to shelter in place for over 30 plus hours as police, SWAT, and enforcement agencies safely removed countless pipe bombs and gun stashes, someone who remembers life before the innate fear and vulnerability that came with the aftermath of September 11, I am deeply shaken with this new attack. I went to bed on Friday night with the news that Christina was shot, and I awoke Sunday morning to the terror filled news of Orlando. This weekend in June echoes with the loss of vibrant lives, of another senseless act of hatred, violence, bigotry, and even of apathy.
As the country was still reeling with the information streaming in, news broke that police thwarted another attempt before the start of the LA Pride Event. It comes in the same month of the anniversary of the Stonewall Riots. It comes after countless men, women, and transgendered persons have been bullied, threatened, attacked, raped, and killed. The massacre at the club is a visceral billboard that in the year 2016, a large number of people live in constant fear that their actions, their appearances, their displays of affection can be used against them, can be used as a petty justification of someone picking up a weapon against them.
What is it about our society, about how we are living, that dictates that violence and the way of the gun is a great solution? Is it the fact that our popular culture is saturated with violence, is it that we still have a “fight or flight” instinct, is it the fact that we function in a compare and contrast mindset – which will always seem to have a form of othering, regardless if it is in a positive light? What is it about the “other,” the different, that provokes such violent reactions? Why is there a need to tear down, to destroy, to force conformity to those who are different, those who choose to shine? What other space will be infiltrated by gun violence before we as a people actively change this grim reality?
I write this, in the sincerest hope that the more we rise up in the face of hatred and violence, the more we talk about how we can be better as humans, that future generations will never know the fear and sorrow we have lived with for the last few weeks, months, and decades and that we can start to live in that reality. In the midst of the mire of frustration and sorrow, we can do something incredible: we can band together, we can become knitted as a solid human unit, that preserves all lives, genders, races, religions. Despite threats, people came out in droves to stand with each other, to walk with love and pride, to be in a community of solidarity. Countless lines of people that flocked to donate blood, while the Chick Fil A restaurant, an organization that has been very public in their anti-gay business practices, called in its workers to prepare free food to be given to the blood centers (which could be understood as an attempt to reverse negative public opinion or merely to act decently.) Communities across the globe, that have stood, walked, and voiced their solidarity, have voiced their sorrow, and have voiced their commitment to ensuring that love has the last word.
Senators stood up to a filibuster to address these devastating issues when the House wanted to carry on business as usual. Countless people found solidarity in sorrow, in mourning, and in hope. It is as Lin Manuel Miranda stated in his speech hours after the events:
We live through times when hate and fear seem stronger, we rise and fall and light from dying embers, remembrances that hope and love last longer. Love is love is love is love is love is love is love — cannot be killed or swept aside…Now fill the world with music, love, and pride.
I end this post with honoring the names of the lives, to show that no matter the gravity and weight of hatred and violence, it is love and light that means more. It is in remembrance, in speaking their names that we partake in solidarity, in defeating the darkness of hatred, anger, and violence.
Edward, Stanley, Luis Omar, Juan Ramon, Eric Ivan, Peter, Luis, Kimberly, Eddie, Darryl,Deonka Deidra, Alejandro, Anthony Luis, Jean Carlos, Franky Jimmy, Amanda, Martin, Luis Daniel, Mercedez Marisol, Xavier Emmanuel, Gilberto Ramon, Simon Adrian, Oscar, Enrique, Miguel Angel, Javier, Joel, Jason Benjamin, Cory James, Juan, Luis Daniel,Shane Evan, Juan, Jerald Arthur, Leroy Valentin, Tevin Eugene, Jonathan Antonio, Jean, Rodolfo, Brenda Lee, Yilmary, Christopher Andrew, Angel, Frank, Paul, Antonio, Christopher Joseph.
This blog was originally posted at feminismandreligion.org