The Last Pulse
The views on this post belong solely to Terrance.
Fifty. Fifty heartbeats. Fifty people. Someone’s friend, lover, cousin, sibling, child. Dead. Fifty. And just as many have been injured. Fifty dead. Let that number sink in…. Someone will never make it to their college graduation. Someone will be missing around the Thanksgiving and Christmas table. Someone will never make it to see the birth of their niece or nephew…or their own child. Fifty. Fifty people will never laugh again, will never bathe in the sun again, will not show up to work on Monday, will never kiss the person they love. Fifty people will have fifty funerals across Florida. Fifty dead. Gone. Because of the actions of one person. Fifty.
To my LGBTQ+ brothers and sisters, I hurt and cry with you. In this dark time, I will stand with you. I love you and mourn with you. For now, though….hear my outrage and anger.
It’s June, which means Pride is in full effect across the nation. It’s time for colorful parades, romping festivals, dance and merriment and a celebration of a community that for the longest has been treated as less than second-class. It’s the time of year when we celebrate how far we, as an LGBTQ+ community, have come…..But we have so far to go for true equality. Fifty.
In more than 50 countries around the world, being homosexual is punishable by a variety of sentences, up to and including death in several.
And yet, in the United States, it seems the violence against LGBTQ+ persons becomes more commonplace and a standard event compared to many of these nations even though many laws against homosexuality or homosexual acts have been either abolished or aren’t really enforced (read Lawrence v. Texas as an example). Fifty. Fifty people were targeted for simply being outside of the “norm” in society. It seems like even as we fight and get more rights and equality as a queer nation, we still are never truly a part of the mainstream. WE were targeted on this day. Fifty.
This shooting now marks the biggest body count of mass shootings in the US. Fifty people are dead and I am OUTRAGED! We live in a nation where it’s completely normal for a citizen to obtain a near-military grade assault weapon. His weapon of choice wasn’t a simple glock or other small firearms. The AR-15 is not simply for minor deterrent: this is a weapon BUILT to do one thing…kill. Nothing else. And the shooter obtained it completely legally because “this is America and anything that tries to curtail the 2nd Amendment is inherently unconstitutional”. This shooting brings up a variety of issues: gun control, violence against LGBTQ+ people and hate crimes in general, and terrorism (both domestic and foreign). And the sad thing is, literally the day before this happened, singer Christina Grimmie (rest in peace) was shot and killed at HER OWN autograph signing. We live in a nation where a shooting in Florida is just another weekend. We live in a nation where a woman has to go through more hoops to get an abortion than does some deranged individual to secure a lethal weapon.
Is this the standard that we’ve decided to set for ourselves? Where average citizens can just blatantly obtain deadly weapons, carry them out in the open, and kill innocent people? And, more often than not, the rhetoric of the political right is “more guns mean less violence and the government is going to take your guns” or as Texas Lt. Governor Dan Patrick puts it “a man reaps what he sows”. Really?! A Christian nearly endorses the sin of one person because he’s ridding the world of people that he sees as sinning too. I’m sorry; but when did one sin begetting another become God’s new normal. And that’s the issue with the conservative right. They’re so busy politicizing their own hypocrisy that they fail to see us as people. And what’s so depressing is that part of their voter base, whether actively or passively, validates these actions, despite the fact that these very same voters would sooner see all Muslims subjugated to the same bigotry as queers. Because welcome to America. 50 people rapidly killed (and some held hostage) by an AR 15 because we don’t want the inconvenience of reloading mid-massacre.
And that brings me to ISIS. Yes, ISIS is our enemy. And whether or not the shooter really was a part of ISIS or had dealings with other terrorist groups is a whole separate issue and warrants further investigating by authorities (even though the shooter had previously been interviewed by the FBI and was, at a minimum, on their radar — but I digress). The larger problem I have to address, unfortunately, are followers of Islam.
To my Muslim brothers and sisters…. your silence only advances the ideals of ISIS and other Islamic terrorist groups. Your silence only allows a small sect of those who share your religion to speak for you. To my Muslim brother and sisters: you have to speak up. I know in my heart that a great many of the 1.5 billion of you are not violent. But, to not recognize that by not addressing your own community, you become a threat to the rest of us. And more so, those of you that may be non-violent but also share similar views of the extremists of your religion and don’t speak up, your reticence validates the violence committed against us.
These are my Black and Brown and Queer family that were targeted. You MUST stop letting ISIS speak for you. It’s not enough for us to have Muslims like Nihad Awad and Shuja Shafi to condemn ISIS; we welcome and expect that from our political figures and activists (and to the near 200 that held a prayer in Orlando after the shooting, I thank you). It is YOU that we need. To my Muslim brothers and sisters, WE need you. Fifty. Fifty people. What if that was your brother or cousin or son…or lover? We ALL deserve to feel safe. I would fight tooth and nail for you to have the freedom to enjoy your religion. Will you not fight for me to love the person that I love?
Pulse is a nightclub, a place where people go to dance and drink and have fun. It’s a place where people of all races, colors, religions, and genders can come and rejoice for a great time, especially in the wake of Pride season. But now Edward Sotomayor, Kimberly Morris, Cory Connell, Tevin Crosby, Amanda Alvear, Captain Antonio Brown, Shane Tomlinson, Brenda McCool, Frank Hernandez and dozens more won’t make it home. One person turned a place that is meant to be a safe space for joy and entertainment into a war zone. Do you know what it takes to stop someone with an AR-15? A couple dozen cops, SWAT team, and body armor. Which leads me to my next issue.
Gun control. Now for my conservatives that may be reading this, just listen. I know some of you flinch at even the mention of those two words but just bare with me….
I am not saying that we have to take the guns of law-abiding citizens. However; weapons like the AR15 or M16 are meant to kill a lot within a very short timeframe — these are weapons that (should be) reserved for our military or high-end homeland/police forces, not the soccer dad who works at Kinko’s. Our military and police force have the potential to encounter aggressors that (oftentimes) carry similar or possibly much deadlier weapons (obviously I know there are even times where local police officers don’t necessarily need these grade of weapons but that’s a separate issue). Who are you expecting to rob you? Who are you so afraid of will be crashing through your door at any given moment that requires you to carry an assault weapon that has been proven time and time again to kill swiftly?
We live in a nation where toddlers shoot more people fatally than die from certain common illnesses. AND the numbers are growing!
That’s what we’ve come to now? You’ve got such a hard-on for the 2nd Amendment that you can’t fathom why Tom from Accounting shouldn’t have an M16? Really? Assault weapons do not belong in the hands of normal citizens. Do you want a 9mm or even your grandfather’s old revolver? I’m fine with that. Those are weapons that are meant for self-defense. When someone takes hold of these near military grade weapons, they have one thing on their mind: to kill. They’re not (wholly) looking to just protect themselves or their loved ones; they’re waiting to just get the chance to use it. And the mere presence of a gun elicits more aggressive behavior. Leonard Berkowitz did a study back in 1967 that found that even seeing a weapon (particularly a gun) causes a weapons priming effect, wherein, the subject becomes aroused and stimulated and results in someone going into the “ready to act” mode. We knew this s**t back in 1967 and we still can’t get a handle on gun control.
And to add insult to injury, me as a gay man, can’t even donate blood to my queer brothers or sisters! Or I can….but I have to wait for 6 months to a year. Now yes, I know that the AIDS epidemic in the 1980s/90s affected many policies and regulations due to the recent (at that time) discovery of the disease and the statistics among gay/bi/MSM persons. But this is nearly 30 years later. Our progression in medicine has become so advanced that not only can we detect HIV nearly 7 days after infection but we also have such medications as Truvada, which when combined with safe practices, virtually eliminates the possibility of infection. And newsflash to some of you: you have to get HIV from someone that has it! I do understand that there are areas of the nation that may have higher rates of infection than others, and we (queers and allies and medical professionals) are working to promote safer sex and other STD reducing behaviors. But my main point is, there are gay men that are at no more of a risk than infection than anyone else (i.e. many are in monogamous relationships and both partners are negative). Why are we being stopped from helping their own community?
You can believe in a conniving snake that tricked Eve into eating a forbidden fruit. We can tout that a man gathered pairs of each animal on an ark and sailed through destruction. We can believe a man walked on water and rose from the dead days later. But we can’t address the issues facing our communities because we’ve become so accustomed to the politicization of issues and the fighting with one another. Jesus was a non-violent, poor nomad who preached kindness and compassion and judge not lest ye be judged. But the Christian right is so quick to slew filth at my Black and Brown peoples and my LGBTQ+ family. To my conservatives, we hear your silence more than we hear your opposition. Even the Pope has come out time and time again, admonishing the violence in the U.S. Will we not hear the cries of our fallen brethren? Will we not love thy neighbor as yourself? Tell me, what will you do?