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The morning after…

This morning, I woke up and stretched as I usually do, but something felt different.

No, it was still the same grey sky that I’ve come to know and love in a city I know and love.  My room was the same, somewhat messy and in need of a dusting.  My kitchen looked the same, with the glass from my previous evening’s drink still sitting in the sink.  The light in the bedroom still didn’t work every single time (thank goodness the landlord is fixing that!).

I woke with a profound sense of sadness.  A sense of loss for 50 of my brothers and sisters in the community, who simply assembled to share their joy.  Maybe to meet the person that was destined to be the one for them.  To make new friends, to celebrate the ones they currently had, to simply be.  To dance without fear of judgment of who they were dancing with, or who they were kissing.

They were in their sanctuary.

For so many in the LGBT community who feel rejected by the standard church’s teachings, the gay bar is/was our home.  Our place of communal worship, albeit of a liquid god.  I say that in jest.  But seriously, it was a place for community, a place where one could go without feeling as though they were different.  Because everyone there was just as different and unique as them — making us all for those two-to-three hours somewhat “normal.”

I woke up feeling unrest.  I have been lucky in my life as a gay man.  I came out, and felt immediate love and support from my family.  From loving and being accepting of my boyfriends to recognizing that I am me, my family has been a stalwart supporter of mine, through words and actions.  I never felt the need to go to the gay bars to simply hang out to be around my kind.  I’ve always identified as a man who happens to be gay.

Today, I am a gay man, and the attacks in Orlando are having a profound attack on me.  Maybe I’ve lived in a completely isolated world where the hate and fear of myself for simply being who I am has tarnished my worldview.

You hear about things like this happening in rural Wyoming, where a young man is lured out to a roadside and beaten to death.  You hear about this happening in the deep south, where the world view is not as evolved as one would like.  Heck, their city view is not as evolved as one would like.  You hear about this in North Carolina, where people are afraid to pee next to someone who may have been born different, but went on their own journey to figure out and accept who they are.

You don’t hear about this in cities like Orlando.  LA.  Seattle.

These are large metropolitan cities known for their acceptance of our community.  Hell, our mayor, a gay man himself, painted several crosswalks in what could be called the gayberhood as a rainbow and the city rejoiced.  Two major airlines competed for the right to sponsor our never-ending pride parade (seriously, that thing is way too long but you do you, boo).

A Facebook friend summed it up best with, “They just wanted to dance.”

And that makes me filled with uncontrollable anger and sadness.  They simply wanted to dance.

Can you imagine any of the people who had made a choice to get ready, take a shower, pick out their cutest outfit, do their hair, looking forward to an evening of fun and frivolity, dancing to the latest music and simply getting the chance to express themselves with abandoned pretenses on the dance floor, sometimes finding the two and four, but having a good time and being around their contemporaries and peers — to suddenly have a madman come in and target this group of people with a semi-automatic rifle?  To go into the bathroom where people were hiding and shoot them down in cold-blooded murder?  To have people frantically sending text messages to their loved ones, letting them know he was there with them, waiting, to call the police now.  Saying their goodbyes, saying how much they loved their moms.

Can you imagine being on the other end of such a message, reading in real time the horror?  That your child had a very small possibility of making it out alive, and then, silence.  Nothing from their phone, no idea of whether they had made it, were injured, were in the hospital, but knowing in the back of your mind, that the last thing you had heard from them was them begging and pleading for help.

I want to blame things.  I want to blame people.  I want to blame the world for this.  I want someone to feel the brunt of my rage because I.AM.ANGRY.

I’m so angry that I don’t know that I can keep my emotions in check.  I’m sitting here at my desk, fighting back tears as I continually try to make sense of it, to figure out any silver lining in this massacre.  Or any massacre for that matter.

Newtown, Denver, Charleston.

I’m tired of it.  I’m tired and angry, and I want to do something.

What can I do?  Devote my life to ending gun violence?  That’s something I seriously am pondering.  Something where I can make a difference.

I’m not for taking people’s rights to have guns.  I understand it’s a constitutional right, one so ridiculously divisive.  I’m not one to take away anyone’s rights.  But I want the rights to extend just beyond the .300 gorilla in the room.  It’s not ONLY about guns and whether or not you should own them.

Someone said, “Let’s arm ’em all.”  What a fucking miserable and horrible idea.  No.  Let’s not arm them all.  Let’s not arm any of them, frankly.  Guns have one purpose:  to kill.  Not to be centerpieces on your table, not to be decorations on your wall.  Their entire purpose is to main, destroy, or kill.

I don’t want to live in a world where I have to worry about whether or not if I cut someone off in line, whether on accident or not, that I’m going to be shot because they had a bad day and are carrying a semi-automatic assault rifle.

I don’t want to live in a world where I wake up and hear that innocent school children are murdered, their lives cut short because someone was mentally unstable and unable to get the help they need.

I don’t want to live in a world where if you’re gay and you go out dancing, you have to fear that someone is going to come in and murder you in cold-blood.  Shooting fish in a barrel.

I don’t want to live in a world where if you go to church to worship, you have to be careful when closing your eyes that someone may open fire on you for worshiping your god, for trying to find peace and salvation in what is a very frightening world.

And yet, here we are.

I’m frustrated that people still cling to beliefs which promote hate and fear.
I’m saddened that innocents have to die because of madmen and women.
I’m angry because I deserve the same rights as anyone else, and I shouldn’t have to worry about my safety if I’m out dancing or drinking with friends.
I’m horrified that people believe and preach that their way is right, and yet they murder innocents.  How warped is their thinking that this has ever become an option?
I’m disgusted with our Congress who has refused to react.  Who turned their noses up when innocent children were murdered and accepted that as the new normal for our country.
I’m tired of having to watch our President — a man who has faced insurmountable racism and hostility while holding the highest office in the land — come out and give yet another press conference, to find a new way to say to the people who are supposed to help support us that this has to stop.
I’m horrified that a presidential candidate has the gall to take congratulations over the shooting in Orlando.
I’m mortified that people support said presidential candidate.

Mostly, my heart is heavy for the families of those people who were affected so tremendously by the actions of a madman.  Lives that are irrevocably changed forever.  Fathers, mothers, brothers, sisters, children who have to bury people now and say goodbyes that shouldn’t have had to have been said.  Husbands and wives who only less than a year ago were celebrating their joy and dedicating their lives to another who now have to say goodbye.

We chase the melodies that seem to find us until they’re finished songs and start to play when senseless acts of tragedy remind us that nothing here is promised, not one day. This show is proof that history remembers. We live through times when hate and fear seem stronger. We rise and fall, and light from dying embers, remembrances that hope and love last longer and love is love is love is love is love is love is love is love cannot be killed or swept aside. As sacred as a symphony Eliza tells her story. Now fill the world with music, love and pride.  – Lin-Manuel Miranda

In a naive sort of world view, I’d like to believe that this will finally spur some action on gun control.  We will finally have a conversation around what we are doing to ourselves as a country and to our fellow people.  That we cannot — will not — accept hate any more.  Demagoguery should be the exception, never the norm.
And that we should be free to be who we are, regardless of race, gender, sexual orientation, or anything else that makes us unique and individual.

Love is love is love.

To all my brothers and sisters out there, I stand for you because you cannot.

 

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Pride and Prejudice

This morning I woke up to Huffington Post notifications about the deadly attack in Orlando, Florida.  Fifty people dead.  Another 50 or so injured.  And I started crying.

Why does this keep happening?

There are no words to express how I’m feeling — but this is not about me.  This is about the hundreds – no thousands – of people whose lives have been forever changed due to one man’s hatred and prejudice, his irrational fear for people celebrating who they are.

I am shocked, saddened, angry, frustrated, and feeling powerless.  I don’t know how to convey what I’m feeling any more except through a series of erratic hand banging on my keyboard to get the point across.

Why does this keep happening?

Why is this okay?  Why is this the new normal that we as a society are forced to live with?

My heart hurts for everyone in Orlando today.  My heart hurts for my community, and the devastating loss we all feel — when our security is threatened even more.  My heart hurts for the families of the victims.  My heart hurts for all of us.

Money seems to be the only method of getting anything done.  Dear readers, if you can find it in your hearts to donate, please do so:

http://everytown.wecanendgunviolence.org/
https://secure.bradycampaign.org/page/contribute/center-enough

You may ask yourself “Why should I care?  It’s a bunch of gay people.  I don’t know them.”
You don’t know them today, but eventually you will.  If this madness continues, it will be someone you love.  A friend, a family member, your spouse, your daughter, your son.  And then it will be too late.

There is no reason in the world for someone to have an AK-47 assault rifle, unless you are in the military — and even then that’s questionable.

Guns are not meant to be conversation starters or decorative pieces.  They have one purpose and one purpose only — to kill.  Whether that be an animal you’re hunting or another human being, death is the designed outcome.

And we have become too complacent with the designed outcome that it numbs us.

It’s time to stop.  Donate now.

 

Great Power, Great Responsibility

I am starting off this post by saying that I am not really a fanboy.  I don’t buy comic books.   I barely understand the sprawling universe that exists in Marvel, DC …and if there is another comic book company, I wouldn’t even know what the name of it is.

However, I do love a good popcorn flick, and have seen the translations when they come to the screen.  Part of it could be because I have an enormous crush on Andrew Garfield and perhaps a fan crush on Emma Stone (who I think I would like to be friends with).

I saw the Spider-Man movies when they came out with Tobey Maguire, and the most recent incarnation.  I enjoyed them for what they were:  escapism from reality, a place where someone stands up for what they believe in, solves crimes, and gets the girl in the end.  (Even though I wish it were me Andrew Garfield got in the end…but that’s a topic for an entirely different posting).

It’s dialogue.  I get that.  But the one thing that resonates with me is this line from Uncle Ben Parker:

With great power comes great responsibility.

This is particularly relevant today, as I woke up and opened up my New York Times app as I do every morning, to read the stories.  And there was an article about how someone opened fire in front of the Empire State Building, fatally wounding one person, and injuring several others.

In light of the recent string of shootings that have been occurring, I find this to be abhorrent.  First and foremost, my thoughts are with the victims of the tragedy.  With the man who was shot by his former co-worker, but also with the victim for an entirely different reason that I hope to get into in this blog.

It’s a line that could be called cheesy from a movie that could simply be called fluff.  But why does Spider-Man, or any of these masked superheroes resonate with people?  I suppose the cool costumes, I suppose the special powers, their wits, maybe even their fancy toys.

But all of them — including Iron Man, the bad boy of the superhero world, are out to do GOOD.  They are the ones we root for.  We love watching a character like the Joker, because we know no matter how evil he is, the good guy will get him in the end.  At least, this is what keeps me flocking back to see movies that are basically the same retread of a script that I have already seen with an ending that I already know.

There has been a lot of discussion recently in the local and national media about gun rights, regulations.  As soon as a shooting like this occurs, people come out of the wood work saying, “Guns don’t kill people, people kill people.”  Yes.  Absolutely.  People make that horrific conscious choice to shoot someone else.  Whether in some sort of tiff or or whatever justification they have come up with for the killing of innocent people, it is still their choice.  They gun did not, nor will it ever, compel them to make that choice.  The shooter alone makes that decision, and the effects have a ripple effect felt for many years after they have turned the weapon on themselves.

I don’t know any of these people in New York City who were shot.  I find it repulsive, disgusting, and absolutely reckless what this man did.  Yet I can’t help but wonder where the system has failed him.  Have we failed to provide safety checks to make sure he was mentally sound to own and operate a gun with the firing power to hurt nine people?

No.

We have laws for driving cars.  You have to take a test, and prove to someone that you are capable of handling what is essentially a mobile weapon if used in that way.  Most people would never even think of it as a weapon.  It’s their daily commute to the grocery store, to work, to the movies.  But ask anyone who has ever been involved in a collision where the other party died.  It is an awesome weight, and one not to be carried lightly.  Cars are dangerous.  But cars don’t kill people.  People kill people.

It’s time for us to grow up as a nation, and stop shuffling this issue under the rug.  We need to have an adult conversation about weapons, and about their right to exist.  Our 2nd Amendment right guarantees us the right to bear arms.  Its exact wording is the following:

A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.

 

Therein lies the problem.  There was a nice article on Slate.com that addressed this issue much more clearly than I ever could.

I am not a legal scholar.  I couldn’t even begin to dive into every nook and cranny and dissect it.  But as someone who does value the weight of words, and what they mean in our daily lives, I do take issue with the statement, “The right of the people” shall not be infringed.  I have always interpreted this to mean that as a collective we, should our sovereignty be threatened, we have the right to bear arms and protect ourselves.  Whether this was the founding fathers’ original intent, I do not know.

Guns in all their variety have served as the original weapons of mass destruction.  And while there are statistics that say say more people are killed with cars than with guns, we have laws governing them.

We need more laws governing guns.  Proper training, a proper background check, a renewed sense of understanding of what is contained in these devices.  Nothing good comes from shooting someone.  You may think you’re doing right, but the person on the other end, their family, their community would disagree.

It’s time for us to have a real, honest conversation.  I’m just afraid that our politicians are too afraid of taking a stand and making a choice.  But a weapon is extremely powerful, and with great power comes great responsibility.