Words are not my strong point, but here goes…
So, it’s happened again. Another mass shooting. This one is the biggest in U.S. history (though why do I fear that that record won’t stand long?).
People are in shock…again.
Voices are raised on both sides of the gun issue…again.
Politicians are spinning the event to their advantage…again.
And we shed our tears and hold vigils and comfort the survivors…again.
But take another look at that last item.
We shed our tears and hold vigils and comfort the survivors…
This time it wasn’t an audience in a movie theatre, or a prayer group or a school full of kids. It was a club that catered to the LGBTQ community. And yet, we’re still shedding tears—as we should be. But not so very long ago, this wouldn’t have been the case. In 1973, an arson attack took place at a gay bar in New Orleans in which 32 people died. The crime was never solved and it was largely ignored by the media. There have been many similar events before and since. The tragedy in Orlando is not being ignored. Yes, I know, it may be because it’s the latest mass shooting, or maybe it’s the 24-hour news cycle, but I’m watching the CBS news and seeing a young man who was at the club telling anchor Scott Pelley about the event, and he’s barely holding it together. Pelley reaches out to comfort him; not a manly pat on the shoulder, but grasping his arm and holding it, trying to be strong for a young man who is not feeling very strong at the moment. You wouldn’t have seen that fifteen or twenty years ago. You wouldn’t have seen vigils being held and rainbow flags being held up in solidarity around the world. There were no openly gay actors or CEOs or members of congress. And just a few decades ago, the only gay characters on TV or in movies were either comedy relief or mentally disturbed. Gay marriage was unheard of. LGBTQ people are being accepted by much more of the population as people, as valuable members of society, as a group that can and should be mourned for their loss. Racial minorities and women have been and are still struggling with the same issues and it is likely they will be for a while yet, but they too have made great strides (A black or woman president? Unthinkable until recently). It is easy to become pessimistic, and maybe I am naïve, but I think about how things were 50 years ago and I can’t help but wonder, are we perhaps stumbling toward grace, making lurching steps toward that more perfect union?
While it has been coming for a long time, the turnaround from a societal point of view has been sudden, almost something of a revolution, really. And tragically, in revolutions, sometimes innocent people die.
But at least now we can hold our candles in the dark and weep openly.