We follow the script.
When you wake up the morning after a mass shooting, you find out when you check Facebook, or Twitter, or a news channel. There’s an email in your inbox urging action. An investigation is ongoing into who the shooter is, how he was armed, what his motivation was. There are thoughts/prayers.
The next day, or maybe late that afternoon if the shooting happened over night, someone will say “Don’t talk about the shooter, talk about the victims.” They’re not wrong.
You don’t need to wait for that article, though. I can tell you about who was shot in Orlando.
Some of them are regulars. They’ve been going to that club for years. Clubs are a big deal for the LGBT+ community, not because they are a place to drink and dance but because they are a place that is safe. They are a haven where no one will tell you you don’t belong. People feel welcome there, and the regulars go because it is one of the places where they can be exactly who they are without worrying. Without anxiety. Without doubt.
Some of them are advocates. They are the best of us, and they speak when we are afraid to. They show the world that it isn’t strange to be queer. If you meet one of them, you understand how silly it is to hate gay people. They appear in local newspapers and at the front of rallies and on morning talk shows to explain our humanity. They are friends to those with questions, mentors to those who are afraid. They love unconditionally to lead by example.
Some have never been to a gay club. They don’t enjoy that kind of atmosphere, or they aren’t comfortable in large crowds, or they just prefer to stay home most nights. But sometimes you just want to be around other people, and your friend is always asking you to go with him because it’ll be fun, promise. And dammit, it’s Pride month, so tonight’s as good a night as any.
Some of them are in love. Some are single. Some are searching.
Some have been out, loud, and proud since they were teenagers.
Some are still in the closet, and nobody knew they were going to the club that night. They’re proud in their own way for working up the courage to be there.
Pulse has a strong latino turnout. It’s part of the club’s identity, and it’s important to give people the chance to find solidarity from within. You have to have a safe place to say “Me too.”
We have to pick our own families after a point. We’re genetic cul-de-sacs, so having opportunities to meet other people without fear is vital to our survival. There are so many people who have worked for such a long time to establish those places. They are night clubs, support groups, volunteer centers, community organizations, chatrooms, forums, and more.
These places are not different from schools or movie theaters, office buildings or shopping malls, churches, concert halls, city streets, and private residences.
As a society, we have an expectation of safety. In 2016, there is no guarantee that we are safe anywhere. Not at school. Not at work. Not in public. Not among loved ones.
The 2nd amendment guarantees everyone in this country the right to death by firearm. A rogue political organization pumps millions of dollars into our electoral system to protect that right for all of us.
Gun control is a central issue, and it is one reason I will be sharing this blog post with the men and women who claim to represent me.
But there’s always more to it. Don’t let anyone tell you it’s a complicated issue, but there’s more to it anyway.
It is prohibitively difficult for most people to get mental health care in this country. Above that is the sweeping rhetoric from demagogues who evangelize hate and legislate violence. There are unceasing efforts by reactionary groups to spread fear for anyone they label “other.” There are old laws in the books and new laws up for vote every day that enforce that label, and meaningful change will not come so long as they are there to legitimize that line of thinking.
Fear and hate can’t be overcome with more of the same, though.
I am tired of telling people to love each other. Tired of waking up to news like the Orlando shooting. Tired of being even the least bit nervous. I still got out of bed.
Today, tell your parents, your children, your neighbors, your friends that you love them. Hold them close and cling together like we must, like we always do.
Tomorrow, say something. Speak. Write a letter, an email, a blog. Make a phone call.
Spread love and work for change. Read that article that shows up, the one about the victims, not the shooter. Remember why this is so important. Make someone else feel safe, even if it’s with a smile or a wave.
Don’t you dare be silent. Silence = death. That hasn’t changed, and it never will.