Sunday, June 12, 2016

Tonight, I Am In Despair

Early this morning, a deeply disturbed man took an automatic weapon and some other instruments of murder into a gay club in Orlando, Florida, and embarked upon what is to date the worst mass killing in the history of our nation.  I will not name him.  I also will not engage in listing the other "top" mass killings.  I do not believe that any of them deserve so much as the merest footnote of a mention in history.  They need to remain in utter anonymity.

The reasons for this morning's tragedy are all snarled up in hatred.  Hatred for the other, for the different, for those who disagree with someone else's notions of morality or propriety; of what is or is not sacred; of what is or is not "right" and whose deity is the "only" deity.  We know from the killer's own father that he was recently "set off" by the sight of a gay couple kissing.  We know that he called 9-1-1 to declaim his allegiance to the Islamic State, whose repugnant philosphies degrade women, gays, lesbians, and transgender people; a "state" who calls for the deaths of all whom they deem different or who subscribe to any beliefs not theirs.

As I said, tonight I am in despair.  As a so-called child of the 1960's, I once had hopes of a world of universal peace and tolerance; a world which would someday see the triumph of the Golden Rule and the ideals of "Star Trek" (yes, "Star Trek") which say that we are greater because of the infinite diversity in infinite combinations of all people.

Instead, I find myself living in a society which is increasingly divisive.  I remember that in the past, on the day after a presidential election, the two sides shook hands and got on with the nation's business.  Now I live in a country where disagreement leads to paralysis.  I go (or I should say "went" because I have resigned my membership) to a church which destroyed itself because the congregation disagreed over whether or not to buy a property in a neighborhood that was not very nice.  I can think of no situation these days where when the votes are counted, the losing side shakes hands, accepts the results, makes the best of it, and gets on with life.

Like any parent, I fear for my child in this horrible society.  It's a society where my daughter cannot go out alone safely; where she must be paranoid about what she drinks and eats if she wants to be safe; where she has to hide behind headphones and books to escape harassment on public transportation.  Any father these days fears for his daughter's safety.  But when you add to this the fact that my daughter identifies as bisexual, and that she is in a relationship with a transgender female, I transcend fear into utter terror.

Tonight on the Tony awards, Frank Langella said, "When something bad happens, you have three choices: you can let it define you, you can let it destroy you, or you can let it strengthen you."  He meant it as a message of hope and solidarity.  But while I refuse to let this tragedy define me, I fear that it will destroy me, because I can take no strength from living in a country which utterly, absolutely, and completely refuses to acknowledge the danger and the damage caused by the insane permission of the sale and use of automatic weapons with large magazines.  These weapons serve no purpose other than the killing of human beings.  They are not used for sport, or for any other purpose.  All they do, despite protestations to the contrary, is kill as many people as possible.  And we have no political will whatsoever to end this.  If the murder of dozens of elementary school children could not galvanize us into action, the deaths of fifty-some gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people certainly will not.

Earlier I spoke of the repugnant philosophies of the Islamic State.  The philosophies of so-called gun rights activists are no less repugnant.  The philosophies of Christian extremists who are already expressing the repellent idea that those gay clubgoers somehow deserved to be murdered are also no less repugnant.  The hatred and misogyny are overwheming.  They are fueling and fueled by in all too many cases religious belief and the idea that "my god is the only god, and anyone who believes differently needs to die."  Moreover, that to die in the process of killing for this idiocy will somehow grant favored status in the next life.

I cannot believe in a next life.  I cannot believe in any god.  I cannot bear to hear even the survivors thank a nonexistent "invisible friend" for their "miraculous" escape, because the implication is that those who did not survive were somehow not deserving of the miracle.  Not one of the victims of the latest tragedy, or any of the tragedies, deserved what happened to them.  I am trying desperately not to let this latest horror define me, but I feel no strength.  Only despair.

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