How could I not write about this?
Two nights ago, 49 individual worlds were lost. 53 more people were injured. A single shooter wrecked or ended the lives of so, so many people in the deadliest mass shooting in US history, and the whole nation feels it.
These were just people out on a Saturday night, looking for a good time. They were at a gay club in Orlando, Florida. One of the witnesses/survivors recalls that when he first heard the gunshots, he thought they were just part of the music.
The shooter, who was killed by police, is suspected of ISIS involvement or at least of sympathies with the radical terrorist group.
There is also reason to believe, given reports of the way the shooter had spoken about seeing two men kissing, that this crime was motivated by hatred toward LGBTQ people, and indeed ISIS and other Muslim extremists are very much in possession of anti-gay sentiments and have committed other acts of violence toward LGBTQ people in the past.
It seems selfish to talk about my own reaction, but then again, we are all feeling things after this. I learned the news almost immediately upon waking up on Sunday, as I found it hard to get out of bed and decided to read the news for a while on my phone before getting up. My boyfriend was in the bathroom brushing his teeth while I just sat there reading, stunned, and crying. When he came out I told him what had happened, and as I tried to put my reaction into words, I realized that one of the strong feelings I had was “like these people haven’t been through enough.”
I identify as bisexual, so maybe it’s a personal bias to consider this particular group of people more tenderly than most. But I don’t think you have to be LGBTQ to be heartbroken by them being targeted.
Heinous crimes such as these leave us all devastated, but there is something extra sinister to senseless murder when it is motivated by a hatred that is still so common in the world. And before we go pointing fingers at the radical Islamists, like they are the only problem, we need to consider ourselves and the culture we have produced. Many have been pointing out that in the midst of a call for blood donations to help the victims of this attack, it is still against USDA regulations for gay men to donate blood in this country.
There will be a time for debates about gun control, and about our country’s response to ISIS. That time is not right now. It is important that we take at least a couple of days to honor the victims, mourn their loss, and self-reflect. It is important to give police and journalists time to gather and share the facts. It is important to support one another, to offer aid to the families and loved ones of those lost or injured, and it is important to grieve.
It is supremely selfish to respond to a tragedy like this with “I told you so,” and every time a mass shooting like this happens, I see it from both sides. Your ideas and your passions about these sensitive political issues have a valuable time and place, but this is not it. Be gentle. Be patient. Love first, debate later.
Please feel free to share your own feelings and reactions in the comments. This is a friendly, loving space.
And if you want to do something, check out this CNN article about the ways you can help Orlando victims and their families as well as donate blood and plasma.
Shanti Shanti Shanti