How do you explain a mass shooting to a survivor of a genocide 22 years prior?
Moreover, how does the description of hate translate through linguistic nuances; the conception of struggle expressed through words; the acknowledgement of pain vocalized with storytelling? Like an assembly line issuing product after product, I can’t help but wonder if the hate I meet in the world and the hate you meet in the world might actually be different manifestations of the same damn thing.
As the fuzzy line of long-distance calling creeps in and out, I realize that you don’t even know where Florida is – much less the magical city of Orlando – and yet, I explain, with as much gentleness as I can, what has happened. My voice cracks in the middle –
Tears fall – and I say nothing.
And though you are seemingly millions of miles away, I know you feel what I feel. Tragedy like this – loss of life – is not a stranger in your life. You comfort me, even in our distance, and it makes me feel less alone.
There are no words for this. Loss aches in the soul and the utterances of our spirit are the only fragments of sentences we can muster.
Tonight, I’m glad we have Skype. I’m glad we can talk. I’m glad it isn’t too late.
I am done standing on the fence.
For me – and for so many of us – we can’t stand idly when acts of evil like an Orlando shooting, a Stanford rape, a Syrian war, or a San Bernandino attack happen and fill the wavelengths of mainstream consciousness. It’s been there for so long, hasn’t it?
Guns, bombs, human rights abuses, and sloppy, venomous words of judgement are killing us.
I know the second amendment, but I also know the first. Freedom. Just two weeks ago, I pressed my hands upon the finger-tip stained glass case protecting the Constitution, The Bill of Rights, and the Declaration of Independence in Washington D.C. I was emotional; I saw the worn wrinkles of time and prayed: I hope it’s not too late. For us. For Americans. For the world.
I am a child of Columbine, of September 11th, of Sandy Hook, and of Charleston and yet I choose to be a woman riding Cat Steven’s “Peace Train” – cause out on the edge of darkness/there rides a peace train/oh, peace train take this country/come take me home again/oh, I’ve been smiling lately/dreaming about the world as one/and I believe it could be /someday it’s going to come.
I don’t know answers to some of the hard questions. But. I know God. I know hope. I know solidarity. Our world, is defined too much by what is wrong, and deeply, I want to echo and establish what is right. And what is right is that LIFE MATTERS. No labels, identifiers, or markers change that.
If we seek righteousness on this earth, please, stop looking for a code of law to be your rigid guide. Look. Open your heart.
Righteousness is before you;
it’s in beating hearts, celebrations of a new life, of love between soulmates, in inspiring teachers, in the care of a child, and within the tender touch of a grandmother. As humans, we all live part of this.
Like swirling dandelions, turning over in summer breezes, life moves all around us.
Righteousness is not building walls, subjugating people groups, or creating “the other.”
Unity is not a call for perfect agreement on issues, ideas, or preferences. Unity rises higher – higher than political stakes, higher than our own edifices of morality. Unity asks us to see the humanity in another human. Not a naive utopian desire – it’s a call to action.
A beloved community for all. Loving the people around you. It’s not perfect; love is complicated, messy, frustrating, and confusing. But my, it’s the most worthy cause we have.
No more fence standing for me. Nope, not anymore. If it looks like hate, I am running as fast as I can, like Usain Bolt propelling his muscular legs towards victory. Paul envisions a community filled with fruits of the spirit (Galatians 5:22-23); Martin Luther King Jr. called this “his dream”; and the power of the South African philosophy known as “ubuntu” is derived from such understanding.
Ubuntu means simply: I am because you are.
I can’t stop weeping because friends, sisters, and brothers died this week. And today. And tomorrow. Orlando, perhaps, is challenging us to look in the mirror and ask if we like what we see. Orlando has victims. Families. Hurt. Pain. Loss. Life has been taken – in an egregious manner. I read the stories of each victim last night and couldn’t help but think what their last moments on earth were like. In stains of sadness, I could only pray, pray, and pray again that redemption would be made possible.
This must stop. Legislation is necessitated. Attitudes are called for change. Our hearts cry out and we must, must pray. God, please. Will you come and comfort our friends and family in Orlando? And beyond, God, will you heal our broken, broken world?