Native American

Orlando: not the "worst" shooting...and an opportunity to be better

As with most Americans I awoke today to the news that our nation suffered "the worst mass shooting in US history." In Orlando, FL, an armed man entered an LGBTQ nightclub, Pulse, on their Latin dance night, and killed at least 50 people with assault weapons. He was finally stopped when law enforcement rammed through the door in a tank and killed him.

It's horrific. It's a nightmare. It seems unimaginable. And yet we can imagine it because we keep reading the same headlines. One year ago this week nine African Americans were gunned down during Bible study in Charleston. It seems that it doesn't really matter who you are or what you do (sexual orientation, gender identity, to religious practice), someone hates you enough to gun you down. You could be doing sexy dancing, praying, or just trying to pee and someone else wants you dead.

And ya know, it's in our DNA as a country. In no uncertain terms is this the "worst mass shooting in US history." One only need to look back a little more than a century to remember the Wounded Knee Massacre when US troops opened fire and killed over 150 Lakota men, women, and children. Many of those troops received the medal of honor as a result. That's one of the more well-known ones. Just look at this non-exhaustive list of massacres of Native Americans. White settlers in this nation were hell-bent to take and possess land and resources that were not theirs to take, believing that their "superior" ethnicity and religion gave them that right. Over a few centuries, our forebears used weapons, disease, displacement, and poverty to wipe out well over 90% of all Native Americans who lived here since time immemorial.

The Pulse nightclub shooting is not the worst mass shooting in US history. But in the end, that doesn't really matter. What DOES matter is that we can look at this heinous crime as something "other", something we would never do. "I don't hate gay people or trans people or Latin music lovers," so some might state. And yet most of us live happily on land that was stolen from others by way of death, violence, and threat. 

This history of violence that we have inherited continues. Hate has never been wiped out. The vitriolic language that was used in defense of killing Indians is the same kind of language that has been used against trans people wanting to use a bathroom that fits with their personhood, it's been used by a presidential nominee against all people of a certain religion or ethnicity. It's used by religious people against so-called progressives in desperate attempts to hang on to a 1950s sense of morality.

The hatred of our forebears continues. At times like this it seems inflamed.

As my genius brother likes to remind me, though, the world is actually getting better. Videos like this one describe how war casualties have been on the decline for a long time (not that there is a guarantee of this continuing). Google "why the world is better today" and you'll find many interesting viewpoints to explore. 

In the midst of the news today, however, things seem bleak. People are rightfully angry at platitudes to "pray for Orlando," and other such well-meaning but hollow responses.

What we need is to own the ability and the trajectory to be better, to become a better society. To make violent hatred unacceptable, to work to provide justice and safety for all citizens of this nation, and call for it around the globe (fwiw, that doesn't necessarily mean wandering into other country's wars). It means to seek out those who are different than us and not only make a friendship, but recognize that our similarities (oh, you love your family, too? oh, you need to make a living, too? oh, you have fear, too? oh, your love has been complicated, too?) far, far outnumber and outweigh our differences (ie. religion, gender, wealth, ethnicity, etc.).

Right now we grieve. We grieve hard. And we commit to doing better. We commit to upholding and protecting those are persecuted and the target of violence. And really, we are upholding ourselves in this solidarity because as is often stated, "our freedom is bound up in the freedom of others." It's really true.

our freedom is bound up in the freedom of others

I'm not going to suggest what "doing better" means, but I know for sure it doesn't mean carrying on violence or hatred (of anyone). We have enough of that already.

Charis Weathers

Echoes Bellingham

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