I want to talk a little about terrorism in America. We all know about 9/11, but out of happenstance, I’ve lived in two cities directly impacted by the bloodthirsty zealots who blaspheme their faith.
With respect to most of you, you’ve never been to Orlando. I know some have visited, but this is my home now. Many of you never set foot in San Bernardino, either. That was where I grew up.
It’s extremely tempting to let this post devolve into a blind political screed, because I’ve sincerely had it with radical Islamic terrorism. But I don’t want to do that for reasons that I hope will ultimately become clear.
I work less than one block away from Pulse Nightclub in Orlando, where ISIS protege Omar Mateen slaughtered 50 people — a number that could rise — and wounded many more early this morning. Had I worked last night, I would have remained at my job as part of a lockdown that lasted well into Sunday afternoon.
The neighborhood itself is a little sketchy. It’s in a state of gentrification, where gleaming new shopping centers mixed with luxury apartments butt up against grimy used car sales lots, railroads and the destitute. I have driven and walked past Pulse. I haven’t walked inside and had no idea it was a popular gay bar. I’m a little too old for clubbing.
But while I didn’t know Pulse was a staple for the LGBT community, you don’t know Orlando beyond its reputation as a tourist trap. It’s by far the most diverse city I’ve ever lived in, and that includes Los Angeles. And here is where I seek to be honest with you and maybe give you a sense of hope. Because there are reasons for hope.
You, the LGBT community, are truly not alone. If anything, despite the way we fuss over certain things such as Chik-fil-A or transgender bathrooms, the bigger picture is the level of acceptance there is for LGBT.
If we didn’t accept the community, we wouldn’t care as much as we do when a tragedy such as this hits.
How do we know?
First, Pulse is not “the gay bar” in Orlando. It is “a gay bar.” While I didn’t know Pulse focused on LGBT, I have seen other clubs with rainbow flags prominently displayed. Larger clubs, too. If you are in that community, know that in central Florida it has not been fractured or extinguished. Because…
Secondly, blood banks across the city were jam-packed with donors and houses of worship are full of faithful praying for the victims, their families, etc. I know this to be true. I donated today. I waited for at least five hours.
When I first heard about “the shooting,” I had just woken up and had incorrectly thought it was a reference to a young singer who was killed Friday. It took another hour or so before I switched on the news and things pieced together.
I’d like to say I immediately helped, but that would be a lie. The police wouldn’t let anyone in the perimeter, which included my health care clinic. In addition, it’s rather difficult to pin down where to donate blood on a Sunday.
But thousands of people scrambled to help. They sought to help the first responders. They sought to help the victims. They sought to help those helping the victims and the first responders. And we all aren’t stupid. We all knew we were ultimately helping the LGBT community.
It didn’t matter. Nobody hesitated. People you might think would have hesitated, didn’t. Not Republicans or Trump supporters. Not people backing Clinton or those still feeling the Bern. Not the wealthy. Not Christians, Jews and yes, even Muslims. I know this to be true because representatives of a Shia group arrived with water and snacks for donors standing under a bright sun at the start of a most humid summer.
The Muslims didn’t broadcast their faith, either. Their T-shirts had a word in extremely small print that I had to look up on my smartphone. I might be the only one who knew they are Shia. They didn’t say “Hey, we’re not like him.” They smiled and offered help out of a fundamental sense of what is the right thing to do.
Nobody said the LGBT community “had it coming.”
Nobody even considered talking politics until President Obama addressed the nation, and even then it was muted. It’s not time to talk politics yet. (Side note: If you are ranting about politics and this attack, please stop. Could you at least wait for the victims’ relatives to be notified?)
All they wanted to do was contribute, even if it was in some small way. Or perhaps an even bigger way, because there is a GoFundMe.com drive for the victims that eclipsed $300,000 when I began this post.
For all of our disagreements, know that in our hearts — in our very souls — we all understood what happened was an undeserved abomination. It’s not enough to say we have Orlando’s back. It must be known that we care for the safety of those in same-sex relationships.
From that, it’s evidence of how our country has grown.
So when your grief and shock subside, I ask that you consider this perspective: that we have grown.
And if we have grown, it should follow that we must have hope.