Another shooting…yet again in the USA. I am tired of reading about these senseless acts of hate and violence. For me, there are two issues that need handling here…violence against the LGBT community and gun violence. The only way I can see both being handled is through education….and Love.
Back in 1995, while a college freshman, I spent my Spring Break volunteering on a service project in inner city Detroit where the rate of gun violence was shockingly high…particularly amongst youth. We met children as young as 4 years old who had witnessed shootings, parents who had lost their children in senseless acts of violence, and a community that had had it’s heart ripped out. Then I was stunned and incensed…and I still am today. I simply cannot understand how we now here – 21 years later – no closer to resolving the issues.
There are SO many angles to this issue and in the midst of the rumbling anger that I feel within myself, I have to find the time and space to order my thoughts and get clarity.
First off, in this day and age, the fact that the US Government and pro-gun lobby is still divided about this issue is absolutely inexcusable. The rate of gun violence in the US is higher than any other nation in the West because of laws that give people the right to bear arms. I’ve heard gun carrying friends argue that having a gun gives them a greater sense of freedom….but I would argue that it gives a sense of fear.
In the past gun carrying friends in the USA have attacked me for speaking out about this and have even said that we have the same violence rates in the UK. Wrong. The USA leads the world in mass shootings. While gun related murders do happen in the UK they are drastically less than the USA and we have not had a mass shooting since the awful events at Dunblane in March 1996. After that our gun ownership laws were tightened further. I don’t own a gun – and never will – but in the UK you have to apply for and be granted a license after an application process. Guns have to be locked away in an approved gun locker and only certain types of weapons are available on the market. I have family members who use guns for hunting purposes only and know how to use a gun safely and responsibly. If I ever thought that they were not, believe me, I’d be the first one to say something!
Since I spend so much time visiting the USA and having attended college there, many people have asked me why we don’t live there so that we’re closer to friends….THIS is why. I just cannot get my head around why people don’t see sense and sort this issue out at a federal and state level. It’s just mind boggling!
We’re going about it the wrong way…if American citizens can successfully campaign for Civil Rights and Same Sex Marriage, then surely they can do the same with gun violence. It’s time to put some energy into this…to march on Washington and state capitols. Do we really value our fellow man so little that we can’t take a stand?
Perhaps the more shocking side of this shooting is that it was directed at the LGBT community. A community that have fought so hard to live openly. When I turned on the news on Sunday morning all I could think of was…what if that had been our best friends….our family, Joseph and Eduardo in the club? Ironically, we were all supposed to go dancing at a new gay bar here in SMA on Saturday night. But for once, I was a party pooper and didn’t want to go out – preferring a quiet night in. Violence like what we’ve seen in Orlando doesn’t happen here, but what if that had been us…having a great night out with our dearest friends and then to lose them…I simply can’t imagine. And I can’t imagine the grief of the loved ones of the 49 who passed in Orlando.
Again, I naively thought that mass violence against the LGBT community in the USA was a thing of the past.
As a species we have to take practical, spiritual and emotional steps to put a stop to this violence…NOW. We can meditate, pray etc for Love to conquer hate….but we HAVE to take a practical stand too. What that looks like for me….I’m not sure right now. If I was in the USA, even though I’m not a citizen, I would be finding out where the protests are, who is leading the charge, who to get behind and imploring government representatives to pull their heads out of the sand and get real.
To those who say it’s impossible to fight the gun lobby….I invite you to think back to when people said it was impossible for same sex marriage to be recognized…and yet it now is. Ironically in attacking the LGBT community, the gunman has brought the issue of gun violence to a community who know how to get things done. If any community can stand up against hate and fight for an end to gun violence…it’s this one!
Most of all, we have to educate each other about gun violence and we have to educate each other that LOVE IS LOVE whatever your sexuality. I look forward to the day when all our friends can walk hand in hand in public without being persecuted.
Take a stand. Love more, hate less. #prayingfororlando