Monday, June 13, 2016

COMMENTARY: After Orlando, I'm still not ready to give up hope

Posted By on Mon, Jun 13, 2016 at 1:50 PM

I am tired. I am so tired and yet I can’t sleep. I’m tired of the hate and rancor toward members of the LGBT community. I’m tired of people who use their religious beliefs to justify horrific actions against others. I’m tired of those who exploit our differences instead of celebrating our common humanity. I’m tired of seeing loved ones grieve over the lives of those lost to the senseless and preventable gun violence in this country.

And most of all, I’m tired of politicians who make empty statements about prayers and condolences for the families of victims. Their words incense me, and then I start to feel myself become hateful.
Orlando vigil
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Orlando vigil

Photos from last night's vigil for the victims of the massacre in Orlando. The vigil was held at Bachelor Forum on University Avenue.

Click to View 16 slides

Like so many Americans, I thought the events of September 11 would lead to a re-evaluation of our policies concerning the Middle East. I thought the election of our first black president would change our attitudes about race. And I thought after the mass shooting in Sandy Hook Elementary School we would surely address senseless gun violence in this country.

But the changes I anticipated didn't occur. 

America is at a crossroads much like it was in the late 1960’s and early ‘70’s. Almost every institution we hold dear is under intense public scrutiny. Our values, freedoms, and lifestyle are being tested both abroad and at home. We often don’t trust those who don’t look or speak or love like us over there and next door. It’s as if our national psyche is undergoing some kind of transition, and we don’t know where we’re headed or what we really want. It’s a bit scary.

While watching the news coverage about the mass shooting Saturday night at the gay nightclub in Orlando, my thoughts focused on the raw fear and horror those men and women in the club must have felt. I could imagine them begging for their lives. For several hours I watched the blinking red and blue lights and images of people embraced in sadness outside of the club. I watched the alleged shooter’s father speak about his son’s actions, his ex-wife recall his propensity for violence, and the crawl across the bottom of the screen saying that Donald Trump thinks that President Obama should step down.

I thought of my husband, Daryl, and the life we’ve had together, and all the changes we’ve seen in our lifetime: the end of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell and the Supreme Court’s decision on marriage equality. And then I thought of Walt Whitman and the first lines to his epic poem “Leaves of Grass.”

“I celebrate myself, and sing myself,
And what I assume you shall assume,
For every atom belonging to me as good belongs to you.”

Whitman was an enigma to me. He experienced such deep rejection and he witnessed the unimaginable horrors of the Civil War. He sat with soldiers dying of disease and injuries and wrote letters home to their loved ones for them. Still, I always hear optimism and hope in Whitman’s words. He believed in the human spirit and he had hope for America.

As tired as I find myself today, I have hope. As I told my editor, Chris Fien, I believe we’ll someday find cures for cancer and AIDS. One day we’ll even figure out how to live on the moon and deep in the ocean.

And I still hope we can find a way to love each other and live peacefully, without prejudice or hate. If we lose hope, we lose everything. 

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