I'm writing to you from New York, a place indelibly familiar with the horror of terrorism and the work of finding words for an unspeakable tragedy. I'll never forget the feeling of helplessness and distress watching that mass murder unfold on a small window to the world much like the one you're reading this on now. Here we are again, reeling from the brutal terror in Orlando, many of us expressing that same feeling of helplessness. What can we do? How can we help?
What can one say on the internet? We come here for entertainment. We seek the comfort of community. I'm here to promote my business. The format of social media seems to vacillate between a bargain billboard and a mental chamber pot. When terrible things happen, our mournings disappear into a bottomless archive and the flood of new information washes the blood from our screens. We subdue our restlessness again with the antics of our loved ones and the empty relief of self-righteous rebuttal.
I feel no helplessness or confusion after this particular tragedy. My present course is as certain as it was last week. To be sure, there is no one to prosecute. All blame is empty. No one can raise the dead. However, there is a clear path ahead.
We must let the LGBT community know that they belong. In the aftermath of 9/11, a verbal attack on New Yorkers or any question of their rights as Americans would have rightly been seen as ludicrous, insensitive, and dangerous. Likewise, we must condemn North Carolina House Bill 2. Michigan Senate Bill 4. South Carolina Senate Bill 116. Ohio House Bill 296. Alaska House Bill 325. Their arguments are a tear in the fabric of our nation, now backlit by the liquid crystal display of their natural conclusions.
Many political leaders are currently expressing grief that rings hollow because they do not address the grief caused by their own actions. Who can be comforted by hypocrites?
The LGBT community is not seeking anything they have not already been promised. The history of our nation is a ladder of realization and cultural change, step by step delivering on the promises we made. To Black Americans. To women. To immigrants. There are many more steps on this ladder and heavy resistance from those already at the top. As soon as we granted our brothers and sisters the right to marry each other, a fresh assault began on their liberty and pursuit of happiness. The last two years have been a war of ink against the LGBT communtiy. If this is how our political leaders envision freedom of religion, they should be defending Omar Mateen for practicing his faith.
Why would I defend gay rights if I'm not gay? Something that has pushed my buttons since I was young is this: someone says, "a black man came in," and then I wait for his blackness to matter to the story. It never does. Same with "gay man." It's a distinction without a difference. Men are men. Women are women. Couples are couples. If they love each other, they are continuing the work of our Creator who affirms all life. Through my alliance with a loving Creator, I am allied with all loving people and obligated to resist all attempts to belittle and divide us from each other.
For the same reason, I don't use the words "liberal" or "conservative" in this context. To say "a conservative man walked by today" would make no sense. An alien reading about American politics online would be confused as to which half of the nation eats their own young. Don't you think our enemies love to see these divisions among us?
Whether liberal, conservative, or moderate, defending the rights of people who aren't like us can be uncomfortable. However, until we can defend the rights of people who are outside of our cultural experience, we haven't grasped the concept of freedom or rights and we have no moral authority over terrorists or despots. Humanity has no finer ear than for the hypocrisy of a neighbor, and anyone can hear that America is failing its own long and loudly touted principles.
As for religious reasons, misguided believers are leaning on small-minded and unremarkable passages of text and ignoring God's overwhelming message of grace. Today, we can eat shrimp and clams. We can shave our beards. We can circumcise or not circumcise without fear of ostracism. We've learned to ignore the parts of our holy books that seem more inspired by the circumstances of life in the Iron Age than by a love that exists outside of time.
It is a perversion to force good people to love in secret. It is an abomination to legalize discrimination against them. It is a sin to persecute a minority as Christians were once persecuted. How easily we forget when popular opinion is on our side.
Then there are those who believe that citizenship is limited by occupation or level of education. When I speak out against injustice, I am told that I should "play music and stay out of politics" by people who resent the reach of my voice. As if Simon Peter and Andrew should have stuck to fishing and stayed out of religion. I am here because I have a voice. Any attempt to silence it is abusive, unAmerican, and not welcome in any circumstance. I encourage you to use your voice too.
I'm an American; I believe in Freedom. I'm a Christian; I believe in Love. I'm a writer; I believe in the power of the written word. I will continue to fight against oppression, hatred, and ignorance. That's what I can do. That's what we can do. We are not helpless. When we work together, we are unstoppable.