I just watched President Obama address the nation on the attacks at the Orlando night club. Clearly heartbroken. Clearly out of words. He struggled to get through the monotony of what has now become a routine address. His posture and inflection echoed our thoughts and feelings: we are all exhausted, and we are all out of things to feel. As a nation, we are imploding emotionally. We are scared, and we are losing hope.
I tried to look at it intellectually. I asked myself what could come of it? Is there any lesson to be learned that may spin our country in a better direction? I'm not looking for a silver lining, of course -- because there isn't one -- but something not entirely despicable and hateful has to come of it, right?
My only thought was this: maybe Americans who have been outspoken against LGBTQ people will now think twice about their beliefs. These were not simply LGBTQ people that were murdered -- these were human beings. These were Americans.
It’s possible, however, no matter how often the word “terror” is used in headlines and newscasts, this shooting may not resonate as an attack on Americans. It’s possible people might see this as “just another shooting.” Or, worse, it could be passed off like AIDS in the 1980s as “only a problem of homosexuals.” As I write this, from my perfect, safe, white, heterosexual world, I wonder to what degree must human beings suffer persecution before learning sympathy and compassion.
Because here I am, sipping a mojito, writing my thoughts that no one can stop me from writing, in a country where any hatred directed my way has nothing to do with the skin or sexual preference I was born into. If I'm hated, it's because of something I did. Even then, little if any repercussions are received. I don’t have to fear violence simply for existing in my own body. And because of that, I don’t have to care that bad things can happen to people with different skin colors, religions, and sexual orientations. I could just shrug it off and have another mojito. This is white privilege -- more specifically, straight white privilege.
But, like every privilege, it comes with a responsibility to be thoughtful. I have to think about what it’s like for my LGBTQ friends to live in fear because of who they’re attracted to, and because of who they love. I have to imagine living in fear of being killed for it. I have to imagine the discomfort of openly displaying affection for fear of turned-up noses, whispers, and possible violence.
Understand, this thought process isn't a conscious responsibility -- it's simply what happens when you’re a decent, albeit imperfect, human being. Yet, many Americans will not venture the compassion. Many Americans are too uncomfortable -- or too hateful -- of homosexuals to extend their humanity. This is why, very often, Americans are killed for whom they love at the hands of other Americans. Is has been commonplace, and the reactions have been more often than not, complacent. A shrug. Just something that happens.
Well, now it’s happened to Americans, on American soil, at the hands of an ISIS extremist due to the same exact brand of hate and intolerance. I have to believe this will yield a change in perspective.
Maybe knowing such hatred is shared with the most extreme, violent, and misled religious group the world currently knows, anti-gay Americans will reconsider their beliefs. Maybe in the shadow of this massacre, such hatred will be seen for what it is: not only anti-gay, but anti-American. Maybe, with this perspective, we can start respecting every individual’s right to love without persecution. Maybe, anti-LGBTQ Americans will be ashamed of their intolerance, and see their beliefs as un-American. Maybe they’ll want to change. Maybe they'll apologize and ask for guidance on a journey towards enlightenment. In return, maybe the LGBTQ community will take a deep breath, and guide with forgiveness and patience these lost souls into a compassionate future.
It sounds like a fantasy. Some of you are rightfully rolling your eyes. I feel foolish for even writing it -- admittedly to seek some semblance of calm from the anger and heartache.
But, I can’t say it’s a tragedy, because I can’t use that word anymore. That word has lost its weight. Due to constant use it means nothing. What is happening to this country, and what happened in Orlando, is emotionally and morally cataclysmic. In the absence of moving towards understanding and accepting one another, we will soon be unable to turn away from where we’re headed -- which is self-imposed fascism. Again, saying anti-LGBTQ Americans might learn something from this is no silver lining. Just as easily, this massacre could endorse discrimination and further divide our country. But, some change could come from it, and I want to believe it’s possible.