There is no feeling of such spectacular impotence as the one that wilts your heart after a tragedy has occurred and you have nothing with which to respond but a keyboard.
Grieving is not something anyone does well. It isn’t a skill you can hone. Emotions churn into a veritable hash of sorrow, fear, despair and unbridled anger, flailing about in wild, unfocused directions. Certainly not with the clarity one needs to assign them into a logical order of words. There is so much I want to say and writing this post has been an exercise in deliberate procrastination because I feel the thoughts rolling around in my head and I’m afraid of saying them clumsily and badly, in a way that will somehow further tread upon the broken feelings of those who are closer to what happened in Orlando than I am. Be that as it may, I would like to take a few moments to talk about it. Every member of the human family needs to grieve, either publicly or quietly. Callous leaders bought by lobbyists can only offer the oft-repeated, ready-for-prime-time pablum of “thoughts and prayers” to assuage their guilt, to feign the appearance of caring. To mollify the simmering masses in the hope that this too shall pass and they may return to their regular agenda of screwing the people who voted for them with due dispatch – after the duly required moment of silence.
I don’t pray. So here are my thoughts.
I think about our LGBT friends and family and I feel sorrow. I think about those 49 people who were at Pulse that night to celebrate life and love in the arms of their partners and never imagined what was to come. I think about the dozens more who will carry the trauma and scars of that night to the last days of their lives. It is painful to know that despite recent steps there are still too many human beings throughout the world who have to rely on safe spaces in order to be who they are and to be with the person they want to be with. As Lin-Manuel Miranda so beautifully put it, love is love is love is love is love. It is a divine gift, beyond anyone’s capacity to define, and certainly not within anyone’s rights to deny to anyone else.
I dream of a day when queer men and women can live their entire lives without having to ever stop and wonder, even once, if there is something wrong with them. When a teenage boy never has to feel ashamed about the crush he has on the guy he plays football with; when a teenage girl can easily summon the courage to approach the beautiful young woman she’s written about longingly in her diary. When a queer couple stealing a kiss in the park is regarded with as much indifference as the sight of a straight couple cuddling on the bench across from them. When the closet is a long-forgotten memory of an ancient, more primitive era, regarded as foolishly as the time when the earth was flat. When gender fluidity is merely a fact as indubitable as the turning of the seasons, and never derided by tiny minds as a “lifestyle choice.”
When safe spaces aren’t needed anymore because every space is safe.
Week after week, the people of Pulse had a small part of that world for their very own, until hate stole it away. I hope that if we reach that world in my lifetime, we will stop to remember those who did not live to see it, and dedicate that future time to their memory.
I think about the state of humanity and I feel fear. I see the hatred rippling on the edges of the fraying seams of civilization, I see the insatiable greed driving every transaction, and I wonder about the planet my son will inherit. I see one of the loudest voices in the aftermath of Orlando belonging to a clueless, catastrophically incompetent, badly spray-tanned demagogue who stands within a horrifyingly short leap of becoming the leader of the free world. A vile ogre utterly bereft of any redeeming features, who draws his support by appealing to the worst of human instincts and who cares little for the consequences of the bile spraying from his mouth wherever there is a microphone within spitting distance. The idea that after eight years of progressive, steady and sane leadership under President Obama, the American people could swing the pendulum back so hard to put a moron in charge of their nuclear arsenal with the world trending ever more in the direction of powder keg, does little to reassure one’s faith. I fear that we may look back on 2016 as a relative idyll in the face of what comes next. I fear that fear will usurp rationality and compassion and that we will begin to regard everyone who passes by or gives us a sidelong glance as a threat to be immediately put down. I worry about my darling, compassionate son trying to make his way in a world like that.
I worry about watching this unfold with nothing I can respond with but a keyboard.
I look at the legislative response to this massacre and I despair. That after much sound and fury, nothing will happen, just as nothing happened after Sandy Hook and nothing happened after any of the mass shootings in the United States that have become too numerous to count. As encouraging as last night’s filibuster on the floor of the U.S. Senate was to see, I despair that the final votes will fail and that insane, irrational adherence to the whims of the gun lobby will once again carry the day. I despair that for millions of people, the right to possess a weapon that can shred precious human flesh into ribbons of bloody meat in milliseconds is more important than the rights of others to live their lives without being shot – more important than the rights of the children of Newtown to attend school safely, more important than the rights of the people of Pulse to have a safe night full of music and fun and love. I despair at the bull-headed obtuseness of gun rights advocates (or ammosexuals, a favorite, well-suited term) bellowing on Twitter that this “isn’t the time” to politicize or even talk about guns, or suggesting that the answer to a gun massacre is always to increase the gun supply.
I despair that certain American politicians and the people who support them are more worried about who goes into a bathroom than the fact that they can do so legally with an assault rifle strapped to their back. I despair that no number of innocent people gunned down in the prime of their lives will ever be enough to turn back from this escalating path of self-destruction, that the odd mass shooting has merely been factored in as an acceptable cost of American freedom. I despair that others with hate-consumed hearts will be emboldened by these acts and like an army of Mark David Chapmans, ratchet up the body count in order to secure themselves a piece of infamy. I despair that what may very well be next is what Salman Rushdie once worried about – a mass shooting in a maternity ward, with calls to arm nurses and mothers and babies in response.
I think about how we’ve arrived at this point and I’m angry. I’m angry that it’s so easy to murder and so difficult to love who you want to love. I’m angry at the right for throwing up roadblock after roadblock to gun safety and gay rights. I’m angry at them for staging empty moments of silence when half of them are probably reciting Leviticus in their heads and thinking that those queers deserved it. I’m angry at the voters who enthusiastically throw their weight behind unqualified, undeserving lightweights simply because there’s an (R) next to their name. I’m angry at people who think it’s more important for their frail old grandma to have a handgun to protect her from a possible intruder rather than working to build a more equitable society where the guy doesn’t have to try to break in in the first place. I’m angry at the uneducated “get your government hands off my Medicare” types who pledge allegiance to Fox News and mindlessly follow the subliminal orders of manipulative billionaires. And I’m furious at the National Rifle Association for grinding progress to a halt in the name of preserving profits for merchants of death – for ensuring that the owners of Beretta and Glock and Smith & Wesson can continue to sip champagne on obscene yachts in the company of bikini-clad arm candy while the people of Pulse are cut to pieces.
But I’m angry at the left too. I’m angry at them for thinking that just one vote for Obama in 2008 and another in 2012 was enough to secure salvation. I’m angry at them for not staying engaged, for not continuing to knock on doors, write letters, start petitions, stay involved at every single level of government. I’m angry at them for sitting on their hands in non-presidential elections and allowing control of Congress to slip into the slimy hands of a jug-eared empty shirt and a turtle-faced, obstructionist jackhole. I’m angry that with millions of people of all classes demanding gun control, there’s no massive, well-funded National Anti-Rifle Association lobby to wrest House and Senate seats away from small-penised dipshits who run boastful election ads where they blow away targets with assault rifles that have no purpose or place in civilian hands. I’m furious at people who say they’re going to either stay home or vote Trump out of spite because Bernie Sanders isn’t going to be the Democratic nominee. I’m angry at people who say that both parties are equally bad and that meaningful change isn’t possible so why even bother trying.
I’m angry that people don’t understand that apathy lets the other guy win every single time.
And I’m angriest of all at the irredeemable scumbag who did this. The creature I won’t deign to call a man, whose name I won’t mention lest it grant him even a smidgen more of the fame he certainly must have craved in setting this atrocity in motion. The hideous, hateful wretch who strolled into Pulse in the guise of a human being, whom dismissing as merely mentally ill is an insult to those who are genuinely mentally ill. The thing who decided to turn his loathing and bitterness outward and murder everyone in sight, an embarrassment to humanity whose name should be scorned and forgotten, while we remember and celebrate these people forever:
Edward Sotomayor Jr., 34
Stanley Almodovar III, 23
Luis Omar Ocasio-Capo, 20
Juan Ramon Guerrero, 22
Eric Ivan Ortiz-Rivera, 36
Peter O. Gonzalez-Cruz, 22
Luis S. Vielma, 22
K.J. Morris, 37
Eddie Jamoldroy Justice, 30
Anthony Luis Laureano Disla, 25
Jean Carlos Mendez Perez, 35
Franky Jimmy Dejesus Velazquez, 50
Amanda Alvear, 25
Martin Benitez Torres, 33
Luis Daniel Wilson-Leon, 37
Mercedez Marisol Flores, 26
Xavier Emmanuel Serrano Rosado, 35
Gilberto Ramon Silva Menendez, 25
Simon Adrian Carrillo Fernandez, 31
Oscar A Aracena-Montero, 26
Enrique L. Rios Jr., 25
Miguel Angel Honorato, 30
Javier Jorge-Reyes, 40
Joel Rayon Paniagua, 32
Jason Benjamin Josaphat, 19
Cory James Connell, 21
Juan P. Rivera Velazquez, 37
Luis Daniel Conde, 39
Shane Evan Tomlinson, 33
Juan Chevez-Martinez, 25
Darryl Roman Burt II, 29
Deonka Deidra Drayton, 32
Alejandro Barrios Martinez, 21
Jerald Arthur Wright, 31
Leroy Valentin Fernandez, 25
Tevin Eugene Crosby, 25
Jonathan Antonio Camuy Vega, 24
Jean C. Nives Rodriguez, 27
Rodolfo Ayala-Ayala, 33
Brenda Lee Marquez McCool, 49
Yilmary Rodriguez Solivan, 24
Christopher “Drew” Leinonen, 32
Angel L. Candelario-Padro, 28
Frank Hernandez Escalante, 27
Paul Terrell Henry, 41
Akyra Monet Murray, 18
Christopher Joseph Sanfeliz, 24
Antonio Davon Brown, 29
Geraldo A. Ortiz-Jimenez, 25
And yet despite all of this, as I grieve I still feel hope. I see lines around the block to donate blood for the survivors and I am lifted. I see tributes offered by all castes of society and I am encouraged. I watch the rainbow flag flying and see a lasting symbol of resolve. I know, that as John Oliver said, the perpetrator of the Orlando massacre is vastly outnumbered. Ultimately, the impotence the rest of us may feel in the aftermath is largely self-imposed. The possibility of making things brighter awaits, and is a tantalizing prize we should all try to reach out for.
Let’s do it.
I want to close with a simple request. Remember that tomorrow is promised to no one. So forgive your loved ones and your friends, be grateful for the privileges you enjoy, and let slights slide off your shoulders. And don’t let go of the hope that things can and will get better. Because we’re all we’ve got, and the world will become what we make of it.
Thanks for listening.
The Star Trek Countdown series will return next week.