Tonight I struggle to find words...mostly because I have no way of understanding what happened in Orlando almost 48 hours ago. If I'm honest, I don't want to think about it. I don't want to admit that I live in a world where so much hate and anger not only exist, but do so with life-ending power. I truly can't understand how one man could harbor so much anger about something that truly had absolutely no effect on his life whatsoever, and then allow that anger to manifest itself into a hatred so deep that he felt he had the right to enter a public building and open fire on hundreds of innocent men and women who were just trying to live their lives. There are so many layers to this tragedy. It would be naive to say otherwise. Fear, hate, anger, judgement, persecution, ignorance, grief...ALL layers of shame, blame and pain. There is so much about this that represents all the horrific, dirty, judgmental thoughts we all have about one thing or another...the things we know nothing about that cause us to fear and to hate out of the need to try and control those things and people different than us. Be it the color of our skin, or the church we choose to worship in, or the man or woman we choose to love...this one, awful act reminds us that all those things we THINK we have grown past as a society still haunt us with glaring reality.
No, most of us do not hate on such a deep level. We don't go out buying automatic weapons intended for war and then walk into a crowded club with the desire to murder as many people as possible simply because we don't like their lifestyle. But we do judge. We do offer so much less than acceptance and love. We look at others and don't really see them, but rather we see them as we choose to see them...typically through skewed eyes that tend to see the worst rather than the best in those around us.
Friends...this isn't about politics or sexual orientation or even gun control...although that's what the media is going to try and make us believe. This is a hot, sensitive time...people's nerves are raw, we are facing an election year like no other, the underlying topics surrounding this disaster are already front of mind for most of us and we are faced - yet again - that evil truly exists. I refuse to place blame on ANYONE other than the coward (yes...coward. I refuse to even call him a man.) who made the decision to end 49 innocent lives simply because he disliked their lifestyle. This is not the President's fault anymore than it's yours or mine. It's not because he was ABLE to buy the weapon - because he WOULD HAVE FOUND A WAY. And it's certainly not because the men and women killed were gay and lesbian. It's because of one man's hate, fear and intolerance - nothing more.
Just like most of you, I'm struggling to put my thoughts and feelings into words...especially when speaking with my 12 year old daughter. How do we make sure this doesn't happen again? How do we show the victims, their families and all of the people whose lives are forever changed in an instant that those lives were not lost in vain? We love. That's it. We stop laying blame. We don't turn on one another. We don't seek ways to repay the injustice. We simply love. We teach our children to be better. We show them that people are not measured by the color of their skin, the God they worship or the person they love. We teach them to seek ways to make this world a little better. We remind them to always be kind. We help them to look deeper, to see others for who they are rather than the predisposed assumptions we often make based on first glance. We show them in word and deed that every life has value. We stop and take stock of our own thoughts and opinions and change the ones we know cause more harm than good. We seek intelligence rather than settling for ignorance. And, above all, we do not feed into the cycle of hate.
Friends...I pray we each find some sense of peace in the face of tragedy. I pray we open our hearts and seek to understand and accept the differences that make us each so incredible. We are all chosen, all created for a purpose, all put here to live...NOT to decide who is worthy and who is not. I'm not going to ask you to pay it forward, or go out and do some great act of kindness. This is so much greater, yet simpler, than that. This HAS to begin with you...with me...with each and every one of us. If we can't look within and see the things we fear, the things we distrust, the things we judge then we can't love without measure and that is the only thing that will help us heal and work towards making sure this never happens again.