I can’t stop thinking about the 49 dead young people and their grieving families, who are forever changed. I can’t stop thinking about the police, firefighters, and social workers who stepped into the nightmare created by the shooter. As someone who has worked in hospitals for three decades, I imagine the difficulty of triaging multiple patients at ORMC and the other two hospitals. (Reports say the first responders and hospital personnel were awesome, total professionals.)
I am afraid.
For four decades, I’ve been an ally for my LGBTQ friends. In the late 1970s, my dear college friend came out to me on a Tuesday night in the Chug-A-Mug bar. Tuesday night was Dollar Pitcher Night (yes, it was a long time ago.) I was the last of our group to find out what everyone else knew. He was afraid to tell me because I was (and still am) a Pollyanna. We drank a couple of pitchers, and he shared with me his secret. My first reaction was to tell him, “I love you,” and I meant it. His sexuality made no difference to me, and it makes no difference to me today, 37 years later. (You know who you are, and I love you madly.)
Dear friends have confided in me about their sexuality over the years. My love for them trumps everything. I don’t care who my friends love. I’m proud to be an ally. I’m proud I married an ally. I’m proud that our son is an ally, who marched against Westboro Baptist Church at American University in 2011.
I have been a passionate ally for marriage equality and a fighter against discrimination. I choose the pen over the sword. When my home state made news for its anti-gay business stance, I wrote a piece for “The Broad Side” called “Is Same-Sex Marriage Good for the Economy?” A companion piece in the same publication stated, “Marriage Rights: Give My Friends What I Have.”
Until this weekend, I believed society was making progress. Were we becoming more accepting of others? More tolerable? My beloved Hoosier state even recognized same-sex marriage in 2014. Many friends received the blessing I and others enjoy, a legally-wedded partner. I celebrated these unions joyfully, as I honor the marriage of a straight couple.
Have the safe spaces disappeared as a result of this new evil? Did we lose something last weekend? The security zone of Pulse, like many places, has been breached by a madman with a gun capable of killing and wounding many innocent souls in minutes.
I believe in the power of prayer. But, prayer isn’t enough this time. While our faith may bring comfort, it hasn’t brought answers. We’ve been praying since Columbine. After 9/11, I allowed my fifth grader to get a cell phone. Children were not allowed to have cell phones at school. Every parent I know broke that rule. Our kids needed a quick way to reach us if the madmen breached their safety.
I live in a country where military-style firearms are easily purchased by anyone of age. Does this right overshadow others of the inalienable rights of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness? My husband cannot take his contact lens solution on a weekend flight to DC. Yet, a person whose been on the terror list can buy a military-style assault rifle.
Listen to what I’m saying.
- I grew up in farm country where many owned guns. I am not anti-gun. Hunting is a major hobby for people in Indiana, and for many, it is how they feed their families. Trucks with gun racks are a common denominator of my northern Indiana hometown and my current home in southwestern Indiana.
- When my son was of age, I encouraged him to take shooting in Boy Scouts. He should not be afraid; he should know how to handle a gun and understand the use and appropriate storage of firearms.
- I respect an individual’s right to own a gun or two or three for personal protection or hunting.
My objection is not to a person’s weapon; I object to the military-style assault weapon. Guns made for killing the enemy in Vietnam are overkill for an errant coyote. Let’s keep the assault weapons for military and government use. Many police from Sandy Hook, Connecticut suffered greatly with PTSD after seeing the twenty boys and girls ripped apart after the shooter used an AR gun, the same type employed in Orlando. Perhaps my modest proposal should be that we publicly show photographs of those children, or those from Columbine, or Aurora, or Orlando so that everyone can see what these weapons have wrought?
One life lost is too many. Forty-nine is unthinkable. Why is ownership of a gun, made specifically for military use, worth more than one human life?
The deaths in Orlando (and the hundreds of thousands since 9/11) are senseless. Prayers are not enough. We need action. I urge you to write or call or Tweet your Congressmen and Senators until your hand hurts. Here’s the link to your representatives and senators.
The 20-year-old Pollyanna, who learned her friend was gay, is still there. I know we are more good than bad. Our Creator makes us in Her image, and that is an image of love, not hate. We are knit together by love. Our shared humanity demands we make positive change so that this never happens again.
I’ve written this out of the kind of rage Dylan Thomas spoke about, but I won’t end with his famous poem. Rather, I ask that you read this work by Sara Teasdale, called “Barter” which describes a world of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, in the smallest of things. None of us deserves to lose the right to appreciate the smallest flower over a silly piece of metal.
By Sara Teasdale
Life has loveliness to sell,
All beautiful and splendid things,
Blue waves whitened on a cliff,
Soaring fire that sways and sings,
And children’s faces looking up
Holding wonder like a cup.
Life has loveliness to sell,
Music like a curve of gold,
Scent of pine trees in the rain,
Eyes that love you, arms that hold,
And for your spirit’s still delight,
Holy thoughts that star the night.
Spend all you have for loveliness,
Buy it and never count the cost;
For one white singing hour of peace
Count many a year of strife well lost,
And for a breath of ecstasy
Give all you have been, or could be.