I believe in the power of words. I believe language gives us the ability to call worlds into being.
Yet, I feel like all the words have been used. There is nothing left to say. And I despair that we are using words to call a world into being that is full of violence, hatred, and fear.
To my LGBTQ friends: my heart aches. I have never been anything but white, male, and straight. In other words, I am usually the majority and the one with the power whenever I walk into a room. I do not know what it means to be marginalized. And I do not know what it feels like to be afraid simply because of who you are. I do not know what this massacre must feel like to your community. I want to be an ally. I am always, ever learning in my own stumbling way how to do that. For whatever that’s worth.
To my friends in the Muslim community: my heart aches. Here we go again. What happened in Orlando obviously bears no resemblance — not even a tiny resemblance — to the faith that I see you profess and practice. Yet you are being lumped in with the most radical and extreme adherents of your religion, even though you have said over and over that they do not represent your religion at all. You are understandably becoming fearful again to live in a country that wants to the world to believe freedom is our highest value and that it is the land of opportunity for everyone. Our actions too often demonstrate that we really believe freedom and opportunity are reserved primarily for white Christians. I heard my friend Hani Atassi interviewed on NPR, telling that the security fence put up around their mosque after San Bernadino had just been taken down a few weeks ago. Now it is being put back up. I have never given one second’s thought to putting up a security fence around my church. When a deranged Lutheran Christian shot 9 people last summer in a church in Charleston, he was called a disturbed young man with ties to white supremacists. There was no mention of his religion. This weekend, the perpetrator was immediately tied to Islam. It must be particularly difficult that this happened during your holy time of Ramadan, a time that I understand is intended to be full of the joy of practicing your faith in such a concrete discipline. You are my friends. I stand with you.
To my Latino friends: my heart aches. I don’t think we know whether the fact that the attack at Pulse occurred on Latino night by coincidence or design. But at some level that doesn’t matter. The majority of those killed and injured were Latino by ethnic heritage. I also don’t know what that feels like, to be targeted because of where my ancestors came from.
These three communities have been the target of hate, suspicion, and bigotry over the past several months. I don’t want to make a straight line of causation when there’s no proof — and maybe never will be — of the shooter’s motives. But as I said, I believe in the power of words. And the power of words to call worlds into being. And the words being used are calling into being a dystopic world that I want no part of. Naively, I have believed we could do better. NaiveIy, I have believed that we wanted to do better. I’m beginning to wonder.