It’s no secret that Orlando has had a very bad week. Which means we all have, doesn’t it? I, personally, feel like I have been hit by a truck, but have to get up and keep moving. Because there is no life for me in wallowing, and I have children to guide through these times. Children who need me, and need me fully, to be present and alert enough to be a gentle guide. They do not understand what has happened, or why, and, let’s be honest, neither do I.
What I do know, is that whenever tragedy strikes someone with its hot-fisted arrow, there are many responses. Many of them, those fraught with shame and hatred, are not worth writing about. I have no desire to give those things another bullhorn through which they can shout hurt at others. This is my microphone, for my own shaking voice, and right or wrong, I intend to speak into it with compassion. As much as I can muster.
There have been, in my opinion, very different responses to the three tragedies of the past week. The first, is probably the oldest way to distance oneself from terror. “Not me.” I hear so many people reassuring themselves that what happened to others could not happen to them. They are masons, building up a wall of false security, with Styrofoam bricks. Adam in the garden, shouting,”It wasn’t me!”
“I don’t live near there.” “I am not a celebrity.” “I am not gay.” “I would never take a two year-old to Disneyworld.” “I watch my kids.” I don’t drink.”…. On and on they go. A million ways to justify why what happened to others will not happen to them. A thousand ways to say, it couldn’t happen to me. One hundred slow pats on their own back, to tell themselves what everyone wants to hear; “You are safe.”
The truth is, you aren’t safe. None of us are. And separating ourselves from these tragedies, only makes us out there by ourselves. Self-righteous gazelle, galloping past the lions, alone.
We have more in common with the victims than we are willing to admit. Let me prove it. Have you ever sang? Have you danced? Are you a parent? Were you a child? Do you like to go out with your friends? Do you love? Have ever congregated in public? Are you online? In any capacity? Have you pursued any of your dreams? Do you vacation? Do you breathe? Do you have things that you want, or things that you need? Have you ever been surrounded by people who don’t judge you? Do you listen to music and feel the beat move you? Do you have a heartbeat? Have you ever had anything to drink? Are you a human? Are you alive at this time, or any time, in history?
If the answer is yes, to any of that, then your glycerin bubble is on shaky ground.
Though I make my home thousands of miles away, it could have just as easily have happened to me. I have sung in public, I have been to bars, both gay and not, I have even taken my then two year old son to Disney World on vacation. The fact that it didn’t, the fact that it hasn’t, makes me humbled by gratitude. I get to go on living, at least for this morning. I think.
The thing is, it’s not about me. It’s about us, and them, and what happened to some. It’s about life going on, in the midst of its grieving. It’s about hanging our heads and shoulders in sorrow, then picking them up, and striving to make a better tomorrow.
It is about recognizing that the tragedies that unfolded, were senseless, and horrible, and never should have happened.
People were targeted, by monsters human and not, and then they were taken away from us. Us, we, all people, as a whole. We have lost parts of us that mattered, their lights violently, and too quickly, extinguished. And we are grieving, whether or not we knew their names. We are taken aback, by their inexcusable fate. We are mourning the lives of their family and friends, those left shattered by this, not knowing when they will feel hope crack through this big ball of ache.
So let me just say, that you are not alone. Though the path is rocky, and the way is long. We are all together walking through this life. It is dangerous and fierce, but so is our light. There is strength in numbers, and there is, absolutely, hope. We are all Orlando, because we are all human. It’s time that we remembered that. It’s time to grab hold of one another’s hands, and acknowledge what makes us strong. It’s time to stop withholding grace, like chubby toddlers with a treat behind their back. It is time to open our fisted hands. It’s time to say, “Me, too.” To be vulnerable in our love. It is time, my friends, to stand up for others. To say, “No matter what, I’m with you.”