In the wake of today’s horrifying news that a domestic terrorist mercilessly shot 103 people, killing 49, a familiar sequence of events has begun to unfold. We’ve been here before. Whether it’s a movie theater, a classroom, a house of worship, or- now, a nightclub, the story is never substantially changed; because at its core, innocent lives are lost and our inefficient response to their deaths always shame this country.
Here’s how it will go down:
First, the media will begin covering every sliver of detail they can get their hands on. They will dissect it. They will reiterate it. They will cite sources, some named and some not. All the while, bright red banners proclaiming “Breaking News” will light up our television screens.
Misinformation will be reported, as is inevitable in the early moments of investigations when any answer is better than the right answer. Those flawed pieces of information will continue to blur the facts for weeks to come because they will immediately be shared, tweeted, and tagged into an ever growing snowball of confusion.
Within hours, politicians around the country will weigh in on the situation. Some will rightfully ask what we can do to keep people safe in the future. Their opponents will swiftly condemn their responses as politicizing a tragedy.
From there, we each step in line as we have done a multitude of times before. We will align ourselves with whatever preconceived idea we have regarding gun control. We will make all the same arguments we have always made. We will share articles and screen shots that align with our own world view and scoff at friends who do the same with their contrary opinions.
Out of anguish, some will lash out at the wrong people simply because they are easy targets. There will be frenzied cries of faux-outrage that the President is out to steal our guns. Rest assured, rampant Islamophobia will be made as evident as ever. And the LGBT community will undoubtedly feel a sharp pang of fear as pride events nationwide become a target for copycat criminals.
For a time, we will be pitted against one another on a political front, forgetting the human lives at the center of our fiery debates. Their names will be invoked, their stories may be told; but their humanity will be lost. Because it’s not them we are fighting for – it’s ourselves.
And then, after several weeks, the chorus of voices will begin to fade. There will be calls for reform from the passionate few who remain but, in the end, obstruction will win out over justice because pride no longer yields to reflection in this country; at least not for those whom we have elected to be our collective voice.
And, perhaps, that is as it should be; because, as a whole, we have grown ever jaded, ever entrenched in our beliefs. We have been lead to believe that ‘compromise’ is a dirty word and that refusing to budge is an act of principled disobedience.
Nothing will change. Nothing. Because this is the America in which we live.
When the blood of innocent school children is not enough to wake up this country to the threat that continues to assault our loved ones with alarming regularity, we have proclaimed-loud and clear-that we simply aren’t ready for discussion. If we didn’t act on their behalf, what rationale is there to believe we would act now? We are not adult enough to ask the hard questions, let alone work to solve them. We have failed our children and one another. It’s been made exceptionally clear.
So in this, the worst mass shooting in American history, I expect no real change; for this situation requires an abundance of tempered response and a strong ability to analyze its multi-faceted realities. This situation requires us to synthesize our understanding of LGBT rights, history, and threats, along with radical terrorism and the gun debate. All three explosive issues, loaded with emotional attachments and knee-jerk reactions; the depths of which feel impossibly out of reach.
We have consistently proven our inability to work together on a single one of these issues independent of another, so I won’t be holding my breath for a giant cultural maturation in the coming months. My heart longs for it but my head sighs with pessimism.
Today is hard. It is heavy. And, unfortunately, it brings out the cynic in me. But if there’s one thing you can do today to honor the lives of those lost, it’s this:
Prove me wrong.
Be a voice for the maligned and an advocate for the oppressed. Stand with the LGBT community in a visible way, no matter how uncomfortable it may feel. Encourage rational discussion about gun safety and educate yourself on its history. Do not be content to spread the misinformation that halts these discussions at each and every turn. Step aside from whatever political affiliation you adhere to and listen without reservation. Decide today to be an ally of every person in this country, no matter who or what they worship. Recognize that religious conviction is meaningless when devoid of good acts. And be kind to one another.
Don’t lose sight of the fact that we are all fighting for freedom: the freedom to love, the freedom to worship, the freedom to live out our constitutional rights, and the freedom to be safe. Ensuring these freedoms requires thoughtful consideration and meaningful discussion.
Make it happen.