Orlando. A city usually associated with mouse ears, minions and Harry Potter. A city that is a tourist beacon for the entire world. A place that has made its bread and butter off of people having fun and loving life. That city sits a little quieter now. That city sits wounded, in the wake of one of the most senseless tragedies in American history. What happened this past weekend in Orlando hit close to home for several reasons. My brother is gay, he used to live in Orlando and frequented Pulse often. He was supposed to be at a birthday celebration at Pulse on that very night. Orlando is not far from our town, and the town where that less than human stain on mankind lived is even closer. He attended the college I attend. My brother lost friends over the weekend. But more than that….parents lost children. Brother lost sister and vice versa. It also hits home because I have a child, and that child loves to go out into the world and enjoy it. And now, for a split second, I want to rescind that privilege. Because what if, she goes to the water park with her friends tomorrow and something awful and tragic happens? What if her uncle DID go to Pulse Saturday night? That is the definition of terrorism. When someone is willing to do something so drastic, so unthinkable, that it makes you question whether leaving your house is a good idea.
This isn’t about gun control, this isn’t about sexual orientation. It’s about the fact that, if we allow it, we will slowly become more and more hesitant to let our children experience the world. I actually had a moment of panic today at the thought of my child going a to water park with friends. Which is odd, because if something awful were to happen, she wouldn’t be any safer with us than she would her friends parents.
This will inevitably turn into a soapbox for Presidential candidates. Which it shouldn’t. They shouldn’t be allowed to exploit this tragic loss of life for their own agendas. This was meant as a way to further divide our already fractured country. It wasn’t just a loss of life. Pulse and its owner have done so much for Orlando and the LGBT community. To some it was a place a refuge in a world that can be unpredictable at best. And now that has been taken from them. It was mentioned that the sound of victims cell phones was deafening inside the nightclub as investigators were working. They will never be able to forget that sound. The sound of mothers and fathers desperately trying to reach their babies, praying to whichever God they choose that their loved ones might pick up. News outlets exploit distraught and devastated parents, who are clawing their way through police tape in an effort to locate their loved ones. And a news anchor grabs them and puts their suffering and tears on display for the world to see.
How do I explain this to my 7 year old? We had a conversation about it while playing catch Sunday night:
Me: “So some pretty bad things happened in Orlando last night.”
Her: “What happened?”
Me: “A man went into a nightclub with weapons and he shot a lot of people. There are a lot of people in the hospital right now and there are some people that didn’t survive.”
Her: “Why did he do that? What did those people do to him?”
Me: “They didn’t do anything to him. He didn’t agree with the way those people live their life and he thought his beliefs made him right.”
Her: “How were they living their lives?”
Me: “Well some boys like boys, some girls like girls. He didn’t like those kinds of people.”
Her: “But Uncle likes boys!”
Me: “Yes baby I know he does. And that is perfectly ok, because it makes him happy.”
Her: “I don’t want Uncle to get hurt! Why would anyone hurt people just because of who they like?”
Me: “Some people think that what they believe is more important than what other people believe. Some people believe in hate. Others believe in love. Some people think they have the right to tell other people how they should live.”
Her: “But it’s ok to believe in something, right?”
Me: “of course it is. What’s not ok is to force your beliefs on other people or for you to hurt people because of what you believe.”
Her: “What happened to the man who hurt the people?”
Me: (Throwing ball much harder than i meant to) “He was killed by police officers.”
Her: (thoughtful and quiet for a minute) “I could never hate anyone enough to hurt them.”
Me: heart grows 3 sizes from pride because in a world overflowing with hate, I’m clearly doing something right.
My belief is this: Beliefs and religion are like a penis. If you have and you love it, great! But the minute you start shoving it in my face or forcing it on me or the world…..we’re going to have a problem.