Tears came as I drove my four-year-old son home from preschool yesterday. I had been doing a good deal of processing since the heinous attack on an Orlando nightclub early Sunday morning. Many voices have risen, and mine is perhaps the least important among the crowd. After hearing commentary from the Justin Torres of the Washington Post yesterday on All Things Considered as we drove home, the dam broke.
Mr. Torres uses the word "sacredness" to describe the club in his Post essay (In Praise of Latin Night at the Queer Club). On NPR he says "people talk about the gay bar like it is church."
Look, I'm a white, middle-aged straight man from Kansas. On the surface, I'm as far from Latin Night at Pulse as anyone in this country. But I've been there--different city, different club--and I've seen that sacredness first-hand on the face of some of my closest friends.
No, not friends. Family.
When you realize this attack was on us, our family, it changes everything. Those weren't "just" gays, or Latinos, or whatever-box-you-might-try-to-put-them-in-to-make-you-feel-safe. They were us. Our brothers and sisters and family.
My heart breaks when I hear of this tragic event bastardized into Islamophobia or a rallying cry for the gun-crazed Right and their "out of my cold, dead hands" mentality. Our Muslim brothers and sisters are family, too, and they've suffered at the hands of men who look a lot like me. I grew up in a small town in which everyone owned guns, hunting was a way of life, and shooting cans of Barbasol to watch them explode in a cloud of foam was just "something to do" on lazy Saturday afternoons. The sacredness of church, mosque, synagogue, or gay club does not stop at the second amendment.
I shed tears on the drive home yesterday for all of us--gay, straight, Muslim, Christian, Latino, black, white, whatever-you-are. I shed tears for the sanctity of life and how awfully easy it is to have that life stolen. I shed tears for all of us, our American family, and how God-awfully dysfunctional we can be.
I'll pick up my son again this afternoon. There will be more NPR coverage of Orlando. He will one day grow old enough to talk about such tragedies. I hope and pray I can help him understand what the word sacred means in exactly the context Mr. Torres used it. I hope and pray he will know the meaning of family, too.
Listen to "'These Are My People': Writer Reflects on Orlando Attack in 'Washington Post'"
Read "In Praise of Latin Night at the Queer Club