So in my office, I have a poster of President Obama’s speech in Selma Alabama for the 50th Anniversary of the March on Montgomery. This particular passage highlights his emphasis on the term “We”. It begins “That’s what it means to love America.” Some form of the term “We” appears 40 times after that. Near the end, President Obama notes “Because the single-most powerful word in our democracy is the word “We.””
I write this while reflecting on the terrible events that have occurred recently in Orlando. While I have previously laid out my thoughts on gun violence in this country and people are fighting for their personal stances to be heard (some calling for stricter gun laws, others crying foul on current gun laws) please keep in mind the words of our President. No matter your stance on his policy, him as a person, or anything else, he is our President. And more than that, he has had to respond to these shootings far more than other presidents. And he has done so rather eloquently time and again, considering the disgusting nature of these events. And it isn’t just when these events happen that he has to respond.
Let me start by saying this. I tried to write this piece without letting my emotions get involved. That lasted until I read the first piece about it. So as you read this, if you feel frustration, if you feel outrage, if you feel sadness or anger, good. I am right there with you. I was going to write this piece, talking about don’t politicize this, let’s work together, yada, yada, yada. Here are the facts. 50 people dead because of legally obtained guns. 53 more wounded because of legally obtained guns. I’m done. This is bull. This is stupidity. This is America. Aren’t you proud of standing up for those second amendment rights? Aren’t you proud of creating this culture where a “safe” place for LGBT individuals is shot up? Where we then turn and blame it on a guy claiming to be Muslim who seems to know next to nothing about actually practicing Islam, therefore proving how terrible Muslims are? Proud that there is more blood on our hands and the only action currently happening, donation of blood, is actually one of the most ironic and terrible factors in this whole thing?
Then there are people running for President currently who seem to believe that events such as this are more about proving themselves “right” than about the event, the people affected, or a nation mourning. I mean seriously people, what is going on?
See, regardless of how you feel, President Obama does get one thing very right. This is a democracy. It is built on WE. Our own constitution opens its preamble with that word. The founding document of our society as members of the United States of America BEGINS with those two letters. Does that give you any idea of not only their power but their importance?
Yet, at a time we should be coming together to find answers, a nation is seemingly seeking to find itself more divided. People either avoid the topic or become too vehemently opposed to have a discussion. Believe me, I know the feeling. I have incredibly strong feelings about gun violence. These are grounded in personal examples that nearly no one knows about. So yes, I know how hard it can be to keep emotions out of this discussion. I’m going to be honest, I probably wont.
But please, for the sake of all of those lost in this tragedy, those hurting now, and a nation seeking to understand, breathe. It is time for action of some sort. If you feel outrage, good. If you feel anger and frustration, fine. If we as a nation move forward on this, it needs to be based in what those of us that are part of the WE find to be just, not because someone wants to be “right”. What does scare me is what some consider ‘just.’
I kept reading. I kept seeing new things. After a while, I felt my body shutting down, my emotions overrunning me. I felt myself unable to stand it anymore and wanting to stop looking. But that is my privilege showing. Being able to just take a break and recover? That is a benefit I have in this situation from being a White heterosexual male who is not Muslim. Being able to turn a blind eye, even for just a few minutes? A privilege that many people do not have in this exact same situation. This is literally the life they lead. They deal with this day in and day out. And your ability to deny it and believe your denial? That too is privilege.
So, where do we go from here?
I leave you with this article from the Onion. It was written some time ago, yet it seems to be pertinent even still today. The Onion thinks so. It happens time an again, yet we shy away from it. It happens in theaters. It happens in Elementary Schools. It happens in Colleges, Churches, and Clubs. It doesn’t change who is killed. It certainly doesn’t change the fact that WE are killed.
And it hurts. It hurts to watch as a part of this nation dies and we find it more important to yell about personal rights. It hurts when we lose a life and people fight harder to enforce a bathroom restriction. It hurts when I feel the bile rising in my own throat at how some people who like to consider themselves a part of this nation have reacted to this.
See, these are people I have never met. I did not know the victims. I had never been to the club. But these were still human beings cut down, not by some religion, not by some political preference, but by a gun that “legally” found its way into the hands of a homophobic person. And you aren’t outraged?
Want to call yourself an American? Where is the WE?