June 13, 2016


Orlando (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
How did I feel when I first heard about the recent mass murder in Orlando? Initially, I'd describe it as overwhelming sadness. It was the sort of sadness that made my entire body feel heavy. I had checked Twitter after a long day, and it felt like I had merged with my sofa and was unable to stand. My thoughts were with the victims, their families, and their friends. The identity and motives of the perpetrator were completely irrelevant. At least 49 people were dead, and 53 more were wounded. Why? They had decided to go out to a local nightclub and have some fun. Any of us could have been there.

The next thing to come across my Twitter feed was the information that this was a gay nightclub. This had been included in the initial report, but I'd somehow missed it. Were these people murdered because of their sexual orientation? My sadness was now mixed with anger and a growing sense of outrage. It wasn't that the sexual orientation of the victims somehow made their murder more objectionable than it would have otherwise been, but I started flashing back to memories of anti-gay violence and trying to reconcile this new information with all the recent progress the LGBT community has made. I managed to pull myself of the sofa and make it to the bathroom, convinced that I was about to throw up.

The TV news coverage was poor, as it almost always is when there is pressure to report before the facts are in. Still, between the news and Twitter, I'd learn that "terrorism" was being used to describe this atrocity and that the alleged perpetrator was a Muslim who may or may not have had some connection to ISIS. I was aware of my anger building. Was this another terrorist attack motivated by the "religion of peace?"

Twitter was erupting and moving in two very different directions before my eyes. Some were placing the blame on Islam; others were insisting that this had nothing to do with Islam. I was not sure how anyone could already know whether either of these possibilities was the correct one. Many on the left had already decided that this was about gun control, and some were actually blaming this tragedy on evangelical fundamentalist Christians spreading anti-LGBT hatred in Africa. Many on the right were pointing the finger at Islam, and some were using it to attack Obama and Clinton. Clearly, all the usual scripts had been activated. I needed to turn off the TV and get off Twitter.

I decided that I would rather feel sad for the victims and those they left behind for awhile longer. There would be plenty of time for anger and finger-pointing later. Regardless of who committed this act and why, the reality was that it had happened and real people were suffering in the aftermath.

Here are some thoughts on what you can do to help if you are so inclined:
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