Hi, friends. I sat down and started to write a touching and poignant and passionate essay on my feelings in the wake of this latest unspeakable tragedy but I just don't have the words. I used them all up, six months ago. And here we are.
If you’re anything like me, may the lord bless and keep your neurotic soul, and also you’ve probably spent the last three days in an absolute haze, wildly shifting between sadness and anger and confusion and back, flailing at any possible opportunity to make sense of things. Wondering how we got here and where we go. I keep telling myself to step away from the internet, to not click another link. It’s all too much to bear.
But here’s the thing, I think we have to bear it. We cannot – CAN NOT –allow ourselves as a collective human community to file this away as another entry in the Mass Murder in the United States Wikipedia page (real thing. Do not read.) and move on with our lives. We can’t.
As with many national tragedies, I turned to the evening news to help guide me through and there were two particular voices that resonated with me. Samantha Bee managed to say everything I was thinking and feeling – only better and funnier – and drop the goddamn mic on the way out:
And Stephen Colbert, as always, encouraged me to look inward, to find the moral lesson:
"Let us remember," he says, "that love is a verb. And to love means to do something."
A verb! Love is love is love is love is LOVE, yes, but it is a verb and if we want to truly love we must do something.
I had to take a hard look at myself and the lovin’ I’ve been putting forth. In the face of these crises in the past, here is what I have done: cry, write occasional blog posts, hit like on dozens of Facebook posts and…that’s about it. That’s not enough, guys, it’s not enough. If I’m going to ask the government to take a stand on gun violence, on hatred, on fear, I have to be an active participant in the conversation.
So I extricated myself from the depths of a hateful facebook conversation I probably shouldn’t have been reading in the first place (I can’t stress this enough: NEVER. READ. THE. COMMENTS.), put on my Democracy Panties, and got to work. I wrote to my senators, my congresswoman, my presidential candidate of choice. I made financial donations to a few organizations I believe can help fight the good fight, I paid a visit to the Stonewall Inn to stand for a few moment in silence and remembrance of the lives lost on Sunday, and all the other souls taken too soon by gun violence. And now I’m using my platform of approximately 12 readers (17 on a good day!) to encourage you to do the same.
I know it feels like small drops in a huge, horrible bucket but I think that the moment we give up hope in the good of humanity and give up trust in our government and give up the belief that our own tiny voices can make a difference, that’s the end. We might as well give everyone an AK-47 and go full The Purge and just burn this whole place to the ground.
I’m not quite ready for that yet.
So here are a few ways I'm working to love as a verb. I hope you'll join me!
1) Write: I used this helpful website to track down information on how to contact my representatives, to see how they’ve aligned with gun control measures in the past, as well as to find a template of what to say. If you need help figuring out where to start, I'd be MORE than happy to assist you in locating your particular government officials or sharing my emails with you as a template. Feel free to email me: firstname.lastname@example.org.
2) Donate: If you are able, consider making a financial donation. Here are a few causes I have chosen to donate to:
· Equality Florida – a GoFundMe page set up to directly assist the survivors and families of the victims of Sunday’s tragedy.
· Everytown for Gun Safety – a tremendous non-profit organization working towards ending gun violence in America.
· The Center Orlando – a local organization serving the LGBTQ community right in the heart of Orlando.
· The Trevor Project – a national organization providing counselling, support and other services to the LGBTQ across the country.
You could also look into donating to a politician you think is fighting the good fight, an LGBTQ organization right in your hometown or hey, any cause you think brings love as a verb.
3) Mourn: There was one article in particular that rocked me to my core. One of the victims of Sunday’s massacre was Luis Vielma, a 22-year-old employee of Universal Studio’s Harry Potter World. “He was a Gryffindor,” his friend wrote in tribute. “He was a kid.” This sweet, sweet boy believed in magic and believed in goodness and he’s gone. Like the He-Who-Shall-Not-Be-Named villain of Luis’s beloved stories, let’s not speak the name of the killer, but the names of the victims. Let’s not let their deaths be in vain. Read more about those lost in Orlando here. Remember their names.
4) Listen: This is the hardest thing for me to do, but I think it’s important. This is clearly a hotly debated, difficult to solve issue with ideas on both sides that are probably valid and terrible and somewhere in between. There is so much media chatter and political chatter and internet chatter and I fear we’re not really listening to each other. We all have to be willing to have hard conversations, to try to hear what the other side is saying. I straight up DO NOT want to hear one more person tell me that people kill people or that all Muslims are evil or that gay people are no longer oppressed...but I have to be willing to put myself in that painful place and hear the core of the opposing argument and hope that my friends on the other side would do the same for me. This blind bipartisanship, this othering of ourselves needs to end. We have got to try to come together and listen, really, really LISTEN, to each other and to find common ground and move ahead.
5) Hope: A sweet friend shared this moving poem by Maya Angelou, which I’m going to leave you with today. Without hope, what’s left?
Lift up your faces, you have a piercing need
For this bright morning dawning for you.
History, despite its wrenching pain,
Cannot be unlived, and if faced
With courage, need not be lived again.
Lift up your eyes upon
The day breaking for you.
Give birth again
To the dream.
Women, children, men,
Take it into the palms of your hands.
Mold it into the shape of your most
Private need. Sculpt it into
The image of your most public self.
Lift up your hearts
Each new hour holds new chances
For new beginnings.
Do not be wedded forever
To fear, yoked eternally
The horizon leans forward,
Offering you space to place new steps of change.
Here, on the pulse of this fine day
You may have the courage
To look up and out upon me, the
Rock, the River, the Tree, your country.
No less to Midas than the mendicant.
No less to you now than the mastodon then.
Here on the pulse of this new day
You may have the grace to look up and out
And into your sister's eyes, into
Your brother's face, your country
And say simply