I’ve hesitated to write this post. It feels as if all the heartbreak, anger and confusion about the recent mass shooting of the Pulse night club in Orlando has already been better expressed than I could attempt. But I can’t get the Pulse shooting out of my mind.
I am sad. I cried while listening to a story about one of the 49 victims of the shooting. The details shared about his life, cut much too short, drilled home the reality that the people who were murdered were real people. They were not statistics; they were sons and daughters and brothers and sisters and friends and lovers. They leave behind a wake of grief.
I am furious. Using this tragedy to stump for hate, intolerance and exclusion—the very sicknesses that inspired the Pulse shooter—is unforgivable. It makes me sick that Donald Trump is using the victims of this massacre to stoke the fear of his followers and persuade people that we should exclude an entire people from the United States.
I am frustrated. The candlelight vigils that follow a mass shooting or terror attack are so familiar that they have almost become routine. I attended my first candlelight vigil when I was 13, when a teen not much older than me opened fire in his high school mere miles from where I went to school. That first school shooting—Thurston High, in Springfield, Oregon—was, as we all know, not the last, despite repeating, “Never again.” Not even close. If anything, the atrocities of mass shootings become even more horrifying as the years pass. Yet nothing changes.
I am sickened. Politicians’ tweets of sympathy do not make up for our country’s inaction. 140 characters is not enough. Lip service does not bring back the 49 people who were murdered at Pulse, nor does it revive the more than 6,000 people killed with guns in the US so far this year.
I am an ally. Pulse can’t have been targeted randomly. It is a gay club that was celebrating Pride: The shooting was an act of terror and hate against the queer community. Our country has made strides in LGBTQ rights, but we have so far to go.
“This attack was meant to remind queer people, specifically, that despite all of the progress of the last two decades, we can still be made to feel that we exist only at the mercy of others,” writes Sebastian Deken on Upworthy.
I am straight, and I have never endured the abject fear, uncertainty and prejudice too many gay, trans and gender non-conforming people have. I can’t fathom the tsunami of sadness and confusion and horror the Pulse shooting sent over LQBTQ communities.
I am afraid. So many mothers and fathers lost their children needlessly. A night club is not safe. A movie theater is not safe. A school is not safe. How long until another tragedy strikes even closer to my home?
And I am outraged. We should not have to fear celebrating a night out with friends. We should not have to fear taking a college class or going to work. We should not have to fear being gunned down by a weapon of war in our streets, our homes, our neighborhoods.
So what to do?
I sign petitions. I write and call my elected representatives to demand meaningful change. I listen to the news as we learn more about what happened Sunday night, but I also learn about the 49 people who were murdered. I reach out to my gay and trans friends to let them know I love them.
Yes, love is love is love is love is love. But we can’t stop at professing love. We can’t hide from the sadness. We must do something.
I’m not entirely sure what that Something is—The Thing that will make a Difference and stop the mass shootings that we must not become numb to. Until then, I will do as many small somethings as I can.
The alternative—doing nothing—is not an option.