When I woke up this morning, a single headline flashed across my phone: Largest mass killing in American History. My heart stopped. Where? Who? A school? A theater? Were there children?
Avatars across social media went up in a shield of rainbow, cries of #LoveisLove and solidarity with those that were lost. Fifty fatalities. Fifty-three injured. Only days after a YouTuber was shot point blank at a meet and greet after a show and died in the same city. Days after the historically ludicrous sentencing of a rapist to six-months (of which, he will likely only serve three). Still more, the story from last week of a gorilla who was sadly put down in order to save the life of a child –– and the horrific witch hunt of the mother and father that followed. And, of course, the last six months of protests and vitriol in the U.S. presidential election, from all sides.
But this morning, in a night club in Orlando, a man walked in with guns and took hostages; took lives. There are already a million threads all across Facebook and Twitter swirling the hurt and outrage into hate and conjecture. Lashing out, politicizing which government official’s fault it was, how parents aren’t raising their kids right, how terrorism is winning.
People woke up this morning and found out that their friends, their family, their loved ones were dead. Murdered. The sadness is deafening. The wound is palpable. How many lives does one person’s death effect? How many lives do fifty in a single community? Still dozens more fight for their lives in the hospitals: if you are O+. O-, or AB, you can save someone. Please.
How much hate can the world hold?
Unless one chooses to walk through life oblivious to anything but their own troubles, that hate will find them. It will scar them. It will try to change them. Hate is hate, whether it is on the right side of history or not.
I don’t want to think about the man that called 911 to identify himself before committing these horrific crimes. I want to think about the people who didn’t come home today. Like the children and teachers at Sandy Hook, like the people of Paris, like the missing and likely dead students of Iguala, Mexico. I don’t want to feed the hate and horror. I want to stop it. I desperately want to stop it.
But how can hate be stopped when we are told the world is a dichotomy? How can we reconcile differences if there is no gray area, ever, in discussion? How can we understand hate, and how to stop it, if we, as a world society, can not understand love? It is no longer about religion, or politics, or education. It’s about humanity.
Our society has blasted to the moon and stars; has explored the very rims of our galaxy. We have learned of the smallest and most amazing elements of life – the cell, the atom. We have eradicated some of the deadliest diseases in the world, and have finally created prosthetics that move exactly like human limbs. We can 3D-print skin and organ tissue. Some of us have learned to accept others even when they do not fit our moral code of virtue. Right now, this very generation, should be a new Renaissance of experience. But our world is still trapped in the societal response to the “other,” that should have become less of a threat over time in this interconnected world.
Orlando is not the only place this has happened. It is not the largest killing in the world by far. But it does not lessen the pain. It does not heal the heart to know it could have, and has always been, worse. People are dead. And those people were someone to somebody. No, even more simply, they were just someone. That should be enough for them to be valuable.
There are no platitudes, no words of comfort from me for these people. I am mute in my grief. My heart bleeds because it understands that fear. That as a member of the LGBT community, I am a target, too, to someone out there. My heart bleeds because this killing, this murder, was for nothing. There is no excuse, no justification, no righteousness in them.
I will take this pain because it is all I can do. I will take it, and I will not give it to someone else, because that someone matters to me. I can change the world more with an open hand than the projections of my pain.
To the people of Orlando; to the people of the world that hurt, my heart is with you, it aches for you, and I can only hope that a brighter day will one day come.
Until then, solace only comes in knowing that I –– you –– we, are not alone.