Washington DC’s annual Pride Celebration is always a special time in the city. The first Pride Festival was held in 1975 so there’s a rich history here of celebrating DC’s LGBTQ community. This year, I attended the Pride Parade along with my best friend and two sons. We left with such warm feelings of love and peace. There were marchers holding signs of solidarity and support that brought tears to my eyes. It was an emotional and happy day, and I was grateful to experience it with my children.
Then I woke up the next day to the news of the mass shooting in Orlando. This horrific event was even more difficult to process after the previous day’s experience. To be present in a crowd of joyful people emanating love and peace is amazingly life affirming. I left the parade feeling so hopeful for humanity’s capacity for love and the progress we are making towards understanding and not just acceptance, but celebration, of one another. But the shooting was a grave reminder that this spirit of inclusion and love for diversity does not exist in every part of this country or within every American’s heart. And it has left me with a growing feeling of dread, scared of just how much hate is lurking out there and how easy it could be for powerful people to stoke that hatred and perpetuate more violence.
On the day of the parade, I was struck by the sign held by this man representing the Latino GLBT History Project. It says “Mr. Trump, I’m not a criminal nor a drug dealer…I’m a Mexican American GAY man fighting for our HUMAN RIGHTS and our LGBT community”. It was a reminder that in spite of all the strides that have been made, there is still plenty more work to be done to protect the human rights of all groups. The Orlando massacre once again made that heartbreakingly clear and made this man’s message even more poignant and urgent knowing that many of the victims were also both gay and Latino.
Everyone wants to figure out what we can do to prevent these awful shootings. The causes of these mass shootings are complex and require equally complex, multi-faceted solutions, but it’s clear that we’re having a hard time figuring out what exactly those solutions should be. Resist access to guns? Improve mental health services? Battle racism and prejudice? Reign in radical religious groups? We clearly can’t agree what would work or how to go about doing these things.
I take comfort in my strong belief that there is a capacity for love and goodness within everyone. I know that when people do hateful things it’s because they are scared or hurting themselves. At the ripe old age of 6 years old, my son wisely proclaimed that everyone has good inside of them but some people just can’t find it. Maybe we can help people find their goodness by loving them, even when they seem entirely unworthy of our love. It’s so difficult to do but what if we take example from Mother Teresa and tell everyone, including those with hate in their hearts, “I see you too”. There doesn’t seem to be any other choice.