The Scranton, Pennsylvania, LGBTQ community is normally low key in this fairly conservative community. Monday evening, change came to Scranton. St. Luke's Episcopal Church, Scranton, hosted a NEPA Rainbow Alliance Vigil for Victims of Orlando. The large stone church was packed. Attendance far exceeded organizers' expectations. Not only the gay community but a very diverse cross section of Scranton's population was present in support. Our entire community was gay now. The Orlando monster brought us together - another fail for terrorism.
Why the Orlando massacre hurt but failed:
1. People say enough! So typical in mass killings, the murderer was a weak, spouse abusing individual whose life was unraveling. Unchecked rage and anger combined with a need to lash out and blame others. It was no accident that immigrants and the LGBTQ community became his scapegoats.
2. Anti-LGBTQ legislation from regressive states like North Carolina and Mississippi creates divisiveness within society providing a target for people fueled with anger over their personal failures seeking scapegoats. These losers' thoughts appear to be motivated by the need to show 'them'.
3. Raving nativists, like Congressman Barletta, reality TV stars and demagogues, like Donald Trump, stoke the fires of prejudice and fear of immigrants and Muslims. This is not America. These are not the voices of progress, growth and peace. These are the voices that tear communities, states and the nation apart.
4. Cowards condemning Islam only fuel hate and harm security. Al Qaeda, ISIS and the Taliban are Sunni Islamic versions of Saudi Wahhabi and Salafi extremism. Identify and address this extremism exported worldwide by Saudi Arabia and her allies. We aid religious extremists when we blame the entire Muslim world. Two Muslims, one an Imam, were present in support of our LGBTQ community at the Scranton vigil. They preached the Islam that I encountered around the world.
5. Good religion unites; bad religion divides. Not a religious person, I found the words, music, people and preaching to be of comfort. St Luke's provided religion at its best. Religious leaders from Islam, Hinduism, Christianity and Judaism spoke words of peace, unity and family. At Shabbat on Friday evening, Rabbi Daniel J. Swartz, Temple Hesed, accompanied by Senator Robert Casey offered words and songs of comfort. The Jewish community understands the damage of bigotry faced by the LGBTQ and immigrant communities. More guns are not the answer; the answer is more community.
6. Conservatives and Republicans are transforming America into the land of the stupid, not the brave. Armed security and good guys with guns are little help against a well-planned, dedicated suicide attack like Orlando Pulse. Guns provide a false illusion of safety. Military grade weapons and ammunition have no place in civilian hands. Afghanistan War veteran Nate Bethea's view: "...But I don't want an assault rifle. I don't want to be back in Afghanistan either. I've shot thousands of rounds, and I've seen the effects of the bullets' impact, and I want nothing of it..."
7. Local action and unity are vital. Moments of silence and prayers fail without a dedication to action at every level. Hate speech, oppression and threats must be confronted loudly and publicly. Silence fails; we must confront violence and hate while building community. Our broad diversity is America's greatest strength.
8. The killer was a home grown monster. Words have power. Demonizing groups creates hate and makes violence easier. Before you can kill people, the majority of us must demonize them. Was it a fluke that the latest violence was at a Gay Club on Latin Night? I strongly doubt it. The rising crescendo of anti-immigrant rhetoric coupled with the increasing bigotry directed toward the LGBTQ community; identified targets for this monster. New York Times columnist Frank Bruni understands:
"...His past behavior and his call to 911 demonstrated an overarching hatred of America, with its celebration of diversity and individual liberty. The revelers in Pulse epitomized that liberty, and what happened to them is part of a bigger story and a bigger struggle that affect all Americans..."
9. Fear weakens. The public hysteria over 'Islam' is grossly misplaced. The enemy is not Islam. If ISIS did not exist some 'other ism or belief' would. This massacre seems far more a factor of US fears and bigotry than Islam. ISIS does not oppose, and even encourages, immigration.
10. Too stupid to learn? From Pearl Harbor to New York City, The Pentagon and Boston the one truism that has held constant in US history - attack one of us; you attack all of us.
We are far better than our worst fears and far stronger than the timid and frightened who advocate a gun in every hand.