standing with Orlando

vigil for Orlando victims at the Stonewall Inn in NYC (photo copyright the New York Daily News)

vigil for Orlando victims at the Stonewall Inn in NYC (photo copyright the New York Daily News)

I'm sad today.

I'm sad because we let this happen.

We think we are not a part of the problem. That that man, whose name doesn't deserve to be uttered, was "a psychopath." That his ideas came solely from ISIS. That he was an outsider, not one of us.

The truth is that we let him know that this behavior is permissible. Our smallest, most minute actions, or lack thereof, speak volumes.

This man did not live his life in solitary confinement. He was a participating member of American society. He saw. And he learned.

He saw as, month after month for the past few years, a shooter's face was plastered all over CNN, Fox, MSNBC, and Twitter. He saw as the media groveled for information about the lives of the attackers, while the victims' lost lives were a mere afterthought. 

He listened as people made disparaging comments about his religion. He listened as Donald Trump announced that a ban should be placed on Muslims entering the United States. He heard this, and he realized that he wasn't welcome in his own country. That people saw him as a terrorist, not another human being. He saw as a white mass murderer in South Carolina was called misguided, while people of his race who committed the same acts were called terrorists. 

Perhaps he thought, "If they assume I am a terrorist, why not become one?"

His hatred and disgust with the LGBTQ community did not emerge from nowhere.

North Carolina passed House Bill 2, dictating that citizens must use the bathroom that aligns with the sex on their birth certificate, just last month. The shooter saw this, and his misguided idea that LGBTQ citizens are a hindrance to public safety was affirmed. 

He saw as Kim Davis, a Kentucky judge, was celebrated as she emerged from prison for refusing to marry gay couples. He saw the praise that she garnered from people for "defending her morals." He thought about defending his.

His violent ways were not an accident.

He watched carefully as the NRA donated millions to our politicians, in exchange for their aloof behavior in times of crisis. "The victims are in our prayers," year after year, tweet after tweet. Our senators pray that night with their daughters and sons in their million dollar mansions. They pray for an end to violence, yet that prayer is not translated into action when they awake from their slumber and vote on the next gun control measure on the Congress floor. He knew that after his massacre, no legislative action would be taken, paving the way for more shootings inspired by his.

He wiped his brow after the US congress decided not pass a gun control measure that bars people on the FBI's terror list from legally purchasing weapons. The NRA smiles, and the senators pat their full pockets. He begins to plan his attack.

We will never know everything about this ill man, or what really drove him to commit such a horrendous act of terror. We can speculate all we want, but the only thing that we can change is where we go from here.

None of us live solitarily. We are all products of this society we live in. Every comment we make, every action we take (or don't) reflects a view. It has an effect. We can't afford to be silent anymore.

The next potential attacker is watching this news coverage right now. We have the opportunity to show them that there is more compassion in the world than hate. We can stop broadcasting every detail of the attacker's life, and focus on honoring the victims. We can stop pointing fingers at specific groups and join hands and minds for common sense gun legislation that both parties can agree on. Laws may not save us from all tragedy, but they can save us from a lot. We can stop perpetuating harmful stereotypes and start seeing one another as fellow Americans worthy of life and happiness. We can pray, pray, pray, and act. We can hold vigils, we can weep together, we can honor the deceased and determine the best course of action to protect the living. 

No one, no matter what faith, gender, race, political affiliation, sexual orientation, or age, deserves to be murdered. Gun violence is an epidemic. We have the opportunity to stop this. We must be loud and unwavering, honoring our fallen fellow Americans by shouting from the rooftops that this won't be accepted anymore. Not another shooting. Not another death. Not another tear shed. Not another family broken by the terror of gun violence. We must stand together, because together is all we have.


Emily Neff1 Comment