After the Orlando shootings I could not even speak about it or cry about it. It felt like a strangely biblical moment. In the Bible, people wailed. . . and I wailed after the shootings. That’s what they immediately became, the “Orlando shootings.” That follows the “Charleston shootings,” the San Bernadino shootings,” the “Newtown shootings,” and on and on.
This last shooting LGBTQ people were targeted. They were. The shooter had his own sexual identity issues. It appears he was self radicalized, according to the press, who have helped us continue to blame someone else so we don’t have to look at ourselves in the mirror – yet again.
Our son happens to be gay and my wife and I love him ferociously, like all parents love their children. . . and beyond the limits imposed by words. And it was my son’s face that I saw in the faces of the 49 victims. But more than that, I saw the face of Jesus in the faces of all the victims in Orlando, the majority of whom, like Jesus, were people of color.
Jesus, forgive us, for we know not what we do.
We, as a nation, do our now tragically routine shtick after mass murders of our children and friends who are gay. Let’s get real. We don’t learn. LGBTQ folks have long been our country’s victims of convenience and choice and continue in that horrible role in this “shooting.” Don’t like that characterization? When will we as a self proclaimed Christian country muster the moral honesty and Christ like courage to own the madness that we continue to allow to happen? There is blood on all our hands. For that, I wail.
Pastor Heidi Neumark, a thoughtful Lutheran pastor I am proud to know, and who works at Trinity Lutheran Church of Manhattan in New York City, poignantly wrote these words after the Orlando shootings: “The killer may have been Muslim but the Church has blood on its hands. ‘The voice of your brother’s blood, your sister’s blood is crying to me from the ground,’ and like it or not, it’s crying from our bloodstained pulpits. It’s easy to move from – ‘This is wrong, this is a sin’ to ‘this is from the devil, this is evil. . . You are less than who God has created you to be. Less than human. Subhuman.’ Or ‘Untermenschen’ as the Nazis put it. This gives sanction to hate and violence even if that is not the intention. Intended or not, the results are deadly. So when queer young people are murdered in NYC, most often transgender women of color, I do blame preaching. When LGBTQ young people are slain in the night, I hear the ancient blood pulse of God’s beloved crying from the ground. And like it or not, it’s crying from our pulpits. Our churches seem to love slow, drawn-out debates while lives hang in the balance. While God’s children are slaughtered with abandon.”
The House had a moment of silence for the victims of the Orlando shooting and some of my fellow Democrats got pretty testy, some walking out and some chanting “where’s the bill.” Man, an entire moment of silence for victims who were slaughtered and silenced forever by a homophobic killer. Speaker Paul Ryan did not disappoint us, chiding the Democrats for essentially being out of order. Our House is way out of order. I wailed . . . again.
Then our Democratic Senators had their turn, staging a 15 hour filibuster – with their goal being to try and get Senate Republican leadership to even bring gun bills/amendments to the floor for a vote. My understanding is the Senate was to bring four such gun bills/amendments to the Senate floor tonight – with all expected to fail, largely along party lines. Two common sense amendments (background check amendment and terrorist watch list amendment) have already failed and my friend and former Senator (who my wife and I campaigned for and contributed to when we lived in North Dakota), Heidi Heitkamp, was one of three Democrats voting against one amendment and the only Democrat voting against the other amendment. Saddened and angered beyond words. Are you listening to this nonsense? Are you, too, wailing?
Another surreal part of this outrageous routine is that our President makes another trip to meet with those shot in Orlando and the families of those killed. . . an all too familiar pilgrimage that calls for wailing but that our country has now reconciled itself to being, disgustingly, routine. That pilgrimage took place this past week as well. Yet there is nothing “routine” about this to the people who were shot because of who they loved.
As our state legislative leaders continue to spend precious time arguing about where transgender folks should pee, LGBTQ people are slaughtered in Orlando, and these same elected officials offer their “thoughts and prayers” to victims and their families. But please, please, make people fearful, without any historical evidence, for the safety of your daughters entering bathrooms.
The Washington Post reported this month that state efforts to limit LGBT rights included the reality that since 2013 “legislatures have introduced 254 bills, 20 of which became law. According to data collected by the American Civil Liberties Union and analyzed by the Washington Post, the number of bills introduced has increased steadily each year. In the first half of 2016 alone, 87 bills that could limit L.G.B.T. rights have been introduced, a steep increase from previous years.”
These actions by our elected state lawmakers send the constant, horrible, inhumane and nonChristlike message that LGBTQ folks are “less than”. . . less than the lawmakers who continue to be mostly old heterosexual white guys. Because somebody has to be “less than.” This makes me physically ill. And we wail.
Yet, one thing about wailing is it necessarily means making some real noise. That’s where I intend to focus my energies and resources in the future, making some real noise. Unapologetically. Wailing through action means working to get rid of homophobic, racist leaders who thump their chests about their Second Amendment rights as our children, grandchildren and friends are regularly and needlessly slaughtered by assault rifles by a sick homophobic man who had no business being a gun owner.
When did we permit common sense gun control action to save lives to become equated with taking away someone’s right to legally own guns? If voters don’t act, and get rid of elected leaders who continue to target LGBT Americans with their homophobic fear mongering and worrying more about their own reelection than doing the right thing, than this is what we get – deserved or not. If we complain and don’t act to make changes to stop hateful discriminatory laws targeting our LGBTQ family, friends and neighbors, and implement common sense gun control, then we are complicit in this continuing American tragedy. There is then blood on all our hands. We have choices. Let’s consciously provide opportunities to choose another path.
Will you please join me in choosing to wail loudly?