We just finished the last Harry Potter book when I heard about Orlando. We’d been listening to it in the car and then stayed up late on Sunday night to listen to the last 30 minutes. When it ended, my daughter cried and said, “NOW what are we going to listen to?”
Then I checked the news and wanted to cry again because I wished so badly to be in a Harry Potter book, where the bad guy was defeated and Good won and the world was put back together. Because this real world that I’d come harshly back into is broken.
And I don’t mean one person–as in, “that shooter was broken.” I mean us. We are broken. We are broken because we continue to allow this to happen. Because we sit back and debate policies without offering alternative solutions while other people’s children are shot like pop-up characters at a carnival shooting gallery, again and again and again. It’s broken because our response is to lash out at the victims: they were out late, none of them had their own gun to shoot back, no one tackled the shooter, the club should have had better guards.
We’re not immune, none of us. Sociologically speaking, it’s our human response. When we’re scared, we resort to blaming the victim because it gives us the illusion of safety. If we can somehow qualify what happened, then we can continue to pretend that it can’t happen to us. We can tell our children, “It’s ok, that doesn’t happen here.” We don’t have to face the fact that it does happen here, and it could happen to us—that it could even happen to them.
Then, sometimes, we do something equally human, and equally wrong: we’re silent. We’re silent because we’re too far removed. We’re silent because this act of horror happened in a nightclub at 2:00 a.m. and we’ve never even seen the inside of a bar at that time of night. We’re silent because it was Latino night, and we’re not Latino. We’re silent because it was a gay club and we’re not LGBTQ.
We reacted intensely to Columbine, and Sandy Hook, and Aurora, and Paris because we can imagine ourselves in those places. We go to movies, we go to work, we were children once and some of us have children now. We were outraged and grief-stricken because it could have been us. But this—this is outside of our experience. As someone commented, “I’m sad but I’m not horrified the way I should be.”
I have no judgment of this. In fact, I’m in awe of this generous soul who could recognize his numbness as a spiritual failing. Friends, this is exactly why we have engage. If we “weep with those who weep” only when the dead look like us, then we’re failing. If we only love our neighbors only when our neighbor loves like us, then we’re failing. If we sit back and let minorities bear the brunt of changing a world that oppresses, marginalizes and endangers them, then we’re not followers of Christ in anything more than name.
Over that past two days, I’ve had the immense privilege—and it is a privilege—of hearing the stories of some of my LGBTQ friends and I am emerging a changed person. I didn’t understand all of this: the taunts, the looks, the bullying, the unacceptance, the fear of openly being yourself. And I had to hear these stories in order to understand why they are shaken to the core. Every single day they have faced fear while doing the things that straight folks do without thinking twice. Things I do without thinking twice. Holding hands at the movie theater, renting an apartment, grocery shopping as a family. And now they know how right they were to be afraid.
These stories of fear are also stories of courage and bravery. Above all, I hear that. But strong and brave as they might be, they shouldn’t have to bear this burden alone.
By the time you actually read this post you will have already read many other blogs and articles on the topic. This is the blessing of the information age. And perhaps in doing so, you will have begun to feel saturated, or hopeless, or resigned. Perhaps, like me, you will even feel like it’s not worth jumping in at this point—all the words have been spoken, all the ideas have been shared, all the caring has been done.
You would be wrong.
This isn’t the time to fall silent, trusting that others have spoken already. This is the time to be loud. It’s the time to be redundant. It’s the time to say over and over and over again that we are a people of love. Because as long as the voices of love are willing to be meek and humble, the voices of hate will drown us out.
So do something today, anything. Call your local LGBTQ outreach center and find out what they need. Tweet, Facebook or Instagram a message of love. Call your Congressperson and demand a bi-partisan solution to gun violence epidemic. (Honestly, I don’t care whether you think we need more guns or less guns, I care if you act in a real, tangible way to make sure that this doesn’t happen again. Research, maybe, would be a good place to start.) Listen to an LGTBQ person. Teach your children about love, acceptance and differences. Do it today and then do it again next week.
Whatever you do, don’t do the easy thing. Don’t remain silent. Because like the old camp song says, “They’ll know we are Christians by our love, by our love” and love doesn’t retreat. Love is loud.