I’m writing this a day after the shooting in Orlando, Florida. It’s a quiet Monday morning at my favorite coffee shop in town (summer classes are in session, so there’s virtually no one here), and it’s easy to feel like the rest of the world is far away while I sit with my own thoughts on a thing that continues to be too common.
This is the largest mass shooting on US soil in recent memory. Fifty people are dead, and fifty-three are injured. The shooting targeted the LGBTQIA community of Orlando specifically, and the worldwide LGBTQIA community in general. Reports from the shooter’s father and his ex-wife (who also claims that he was abusive) suggest he was motivated by homophobia and was not a devout Muslim despite his apparent pledge of allegiance to Daesh before he went to Pulse (there’s no reason to assume he was actually connected with the terrorist organization; he was a natural-born citizen from New York; and of course, it must be said that Daesh’s ideology is not representative of the vast majority of Islam).
It’s a tangled mess of horrible things.
I spent much of Sunday combing my various news feeds for information about the shooting and taking time to simply watch the reactions of the people I know. I have family and friends who are LGBTQ, and it felt important to witness their pain. I have friends who are Muslim, and it mattered that their outpouring of love for others be witnessed too.
Wrapped up in all of this witnessing was also the inescapable feeling of helplessness. So much of the message of yesterday was that thoughts and prayers aren’t enough, and never have been. Faith without works is dead.
There was a massive call for blood donors after the shooting. I wanted to go, but I donated only a week ago, so I would have been turned away (it’s a bizarre, difficult feeling to process when you’re given a concrete way to help, but realize you can’t because you’ve already been doing that precise thing outside of emergency situations; in the moment it feels like you’re doing nothing). Unable to give blood, I looked for something else that I could do.
The thing I settled on was writing to my senators and representative in Congress about gun control. This feels like a futile effort, because Johnny Isakson, David Perdue, and Jody Hice, being deeply Republican and being recipients of campaign donations from gun advocacy groups like the National Rifle Association (Isakson, Hice; Perdue’s campaign donations show no record of receiving money from the NRA or associated groups), don’t have an interest in policy that could reduce the number of casualties due to gun violence. These men are all morally complicit in the Orlando shooting, whether they pulled the trigger or not. Hice is doubly so, as a conservative Christian pastor who openly derides the LGBTQIA community, comparing homosexuality to alcoholism, drug addiction, “tendencies to lie,” and “tendencies to be violent.”
It’s frustrating having these as my representatives. Writing letters to them feels like throwing bottles into a vast ocean never to be seen again. And yet, it’s what I can do here and now.
To my family and friends who are hurting especially in the wake of the Orlando shooting, you have my thoughts and prayers. You also have my voice for whatever good it can do, and my actions for as far as they can go.