There won’t be any offers or promotions in this post. Just some thoughts I couldn’t help but jot down. A confession of sorts, so bear with me, or feel free to skip this if you like.
I live in a smallish place on the Atlantic, roughly an hour and change away from Orlando. Frankly, I’d never liked that city. The parks, the perpetual presence of all things touristy, the crappy overpriced food, the traffic on I-4, not because of too many cars, but because of the few who always choose to drive too slowly in the passing lane, and the rather ugly, always unfinished looking skyline—the dark buildings with their dark windows jutting into view as if to remind us of all things commercial and cheap and somehow impenetrable. But I’d never lived there, and I have a hard time having an affinity, an emotional connection for places I’d not lived, or lived through via novels, movies, dreams. Mine had never featured Orlando as a place, simple as that.
I woke up to the news of the shooting about two hours earlier than I ordinarily do on a weekend via a BBC alert on my cell. It said 20 people died. It said they were considering investigating it as a terrorist act. (emphasis mine). They implied such a designation was contingent on the perpetrator’s roots, religion, id, what have you.
One of my very best friends is gay. She’s been a family friend for the last decade and a half. My boys grew up with her almost constant presence at my house on the weekends and on most evenings. We ate, drank and played board games. We laughed and, at times, cried over something or other that happened in our world. And once, we drove to a gay club in Daytona Beach, a shorter drive than to Orlando from where I am. They were having a Latin night. My husband and I didn’t think twice about going to an ostensibly gay bar. We both got hit on. We had a few drinks. We laughed off the flirts and had a decent enough time. We were not afraid. We were not worried. We simply went out for a few drinks and a show. It was normal. All of it. For us.
On Sunday, it all changed for so many people. We are too old to go clubbing, but if we weren’t, I don’t know if we’d go now. And if we did choose to, in some ways, it would be as an act of defiance; it would be us convincing ourselves that we are not afraid. But the thing is, it’s not the fear of the Islamist extremists for me, so much as it is a fear of someone, anyone who self-righteously believes some lives are meant to be taken and has the means to take those lives.
This isn’t about ISIS. It isn’t about guns, per se, though I wish we’d finally grow the balls we need to have a reasonable conversation on availability of those weapons. What it is most deeply, most intimately about is the ever-escalating hatred of otherness.
My family saw it and experienced it first hand when Mike Brown was killed. Forgive me, for I should really say murdered. And Freddie Gray. And Eric Garner. And so many before and after. The headlines referring to them as thugs.
And all the mass shootings in between Sandy Hook and now. And the headlines, invariably excusing the American born and raised young white males as mentally ill and labeling everyone else as either a terrorist or a thug, depending on skin color, name, religious affiliation et al.
So my fear at the moment isn’t that some other bigot would walk into a different gay club in a different city and start shooting. My fear is simply that we’d forgotten who we are as a people. That from almost every pulpit we spout hate and we wish for revenge and we threaten an entire people and nations, because we somehow genuinely believe OUR lives and beliefs and sorrows are worth more.
This isn’t political. This is human. W.H.Auden’s September 1st, 1939 has been stuck in my head on a loop:
“Faces along the bar
Cling to their average day:
The lights must never go out,
The music must always play,
All the conventions conspire
To make this fort assume
The furniture of home;
Lest we should see where we are,
Lost in a haunted wood,
Children afraid of the night
Who have never been happy or good.”
How does this tie into writing or my books, you may ask. It doesn’t really, except for this. I’m not in a position to change any of the above, not in any meaningful way, beyond words. Words is all I have; all I know how to use. So for any of my subscribers who write, maybe words can have a bit of impact on the kids of our kids, if we’d already failed the current generation. Maybe, just maybe, what we write can inspire a youngster not yet born to look at the world with hope in their eyes, and to look at all human beings as human first and only.