Our Only Hope Is That Love Will Conquer Hate

How is this, hate so deep
Lead us all so blindly
Killing, killing, fools are we
If hate’s the gate to peace
This is the last stop.
–Dave Matthews

There is just nothing more to say. 50 people are dead. 53 people are wounded. Hundreds more are likely never going to be able to go to a public place with a lot of people again. Those at Pulse were just trying to have a good time; spend their hard-earned money on a couple of drinks, dance with their friends, smile on a Saturday night. But an extremist terrorist bigot cut so many beautiful lives short. Their names need to be remembered.

These mass shootings keep getting worse; more deaths, more bloodshed and, the worst part about it, more blustering. Politicians are always ready with their “thoughts and prayers” but when it comes to spending time trying to find real solutions, to figure out a way to keep Sandy Hook, San Bernardino and now Orlando from happening again, they can’t be bothered. Thoughts and prayers are nice and all but they don’t accomplish jack shit. Those who perished have so far died in vain.

I live with a lesbian couple in the Hillcrest neighborhood of San Diego, which, per capita, I believe has the highest LGBT population of any neighborhood in any city in this country. I was in Denver when the shooting in Orlando occurred, and when I got back, I could feel two things: one, resiliency. People were at the bars with huge pride flags hanging in the window, partying and enjoying each other’s company like every other Sunday. But the other emotion, one I have not felt since moving here, was fear. I could feel it in the air; a shooting just like the one that happened at Pulse could happen here at Moe’s or Flick’s. And the reason this could happen anywhere is because no one in Congress is willing to do anything substantial to combat gun violence. And way too many elected officials are trying to find an excuse to treat the LGBT community as less than human.

The AR-15 is a semi-automatic rifle, capable of holding a 100-round magazine with a firing range of nearly 600 yards. It is easily available for civilian use, and I am not sure why. This gun has one purpose, and one purpose only: to kill everything that moves. There is no home where this gun is necessary for defense, no hunting trip where this gun is needed. It should be for use by active duty military personnel only.

This is the gun that was used in the shootings at Sandy Hook, San Bernardino and Orlando, along with many others, such as the movie theater shooting in Aurora, Colorado. And there are still those who want to use anything and everything else as a scapegoat for these horrific crimes.

There are those who were against the abolition of slavery. There are those who viewed Irish immigrants as locusts. There are those who were against giving women the right to vote. There are those who were against giving black people the right to vote. There are those who were against marriage equality. You know what these people have in common? They’re all on the wrong side of history. They are looked down upon, we shake our heads at them in disgust. This is another one of those times in history. If we continue to not act on smart gun policy, these shootings will keep happening. If we allow a certain demagogue to ban a people because of their religion, and another people because of their race, then my grandfather and millions of others like him will have fought to stop Hitler for nothing.

Thoughts and prayers are not going to end this. They are not going to donate blood. They are not going to counsel the grief-stricken, they are not going to bring back the sons and daughters that have been lost. Many politicians offering thoughts and prayers are the same ones who want to take away rights for those in the LGBT community, those who refer to God as Allah and those who have a darker skin tone than them. It should be painfully obvious by now that this divisive rhetoric is the cause of the violence in this country.

We have to find solutions. We have to demand solutions. We cannot let fear and bigotry continue to drive the decisions we make as a country. I believe that 99 percent of Muslims are good people; same with 99 percent of Christians, 99 percent of Mexicans, 99 percent of any race, religion or other group you can think of. But there will always be extremism. There are those who claim to be Muslim and yet are a part of ISIS, there are those who claim to be Christian and yet are a part of Westboro Baptist Church. Let us not be swayed by any -ism, let us instead seek within ourselves the resolve to find a real solution to gun violence, and all violence for that matter. It is a plague upon the human race, it is a disease on our land. We cannot let hate win.

Let us find the love for others. Let us embrace the beauty of those who love differently, pray differently or dress differently than you or I. Let us believe in our common goal, let us recognize that underneath it all we’re just skin and bones trying to survive in this world. We all have jobs or are trying to find one, we’re all trying to pay our bills, we’re all trying to soak in the natural beauty that surrounds us. “We all breathe the same air, we all cherish our children’s future, and we are all mortal.”

Let us strive for the power of forgiveness. People make mistakes and they say stupid things. Let us forgive the imperfections in others so that we may seek to better the imperfections within ourselves. Let us learn from our mistakes, let our hunger for learning never cease. We must not teach tolerance, but preach acceptance. We must not crumble under the weight of these tragedies, but embrace the idea that we all can be the change we wish to see in the world. We must find a way to put our bigotries and our phobias aside. This country, this planet, must always put love above fear and hate. After something like this happens, we all feel anger. There are a lot of bad people in this world; but you don’t have to be one of them.

Hate only begets hate. Let us find the fortitude to allow the good light of love into our world. When we as a people are free to love who we want, pray how we want and do what we want with our bodies, without belittling those who do these things differently, then we as a country can truly thrive. And that, my friends, is something worth praying for.

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