Reflections on the Orlando/Pulse Tragedy: Three Years Later

posted by Madame Bubby

Pulse Memorial

On June 12, 2016, Omar Mateen, a 29-year-old security guard, killed 49 people and wounded 53 others in a mass shooting inside Pulse, a gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida, United States. Orlando Police Department officers shot and killed him after a three-hour standoff.

Three years later the current administration of the United States government has been attempting to erase the rights of LGBTQ persons to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. The genocide of LGBTQ persons continues in Chechnya and other places on the globe.

It's not just a matter of memorializing this event and making calls to resist injustice on social media. It is, as the case was at Pulse, a matter of life and death. The victims at Pulse suffered a tragic physical death they did not choose; LGBTQ persons, and not only in the United States, suffer daily not only physical death and violence, but social death, the condition of people not accepted as fully human by wider society.

Thus, this week, as part of our #PrideMonth series and a contribution to #MoralWitnessWednesday on Twitter, here is a link to the blog we wrote the week of the tragedy to “reground” our readers on the import of this event and sound another call for strength and hope.

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#StandWithOrlando Words Fail Me.

Orlando victims

Words fail me. I've said that phrase so many times in the past few months and especially since Sunday in the wake of the Orlando massacre. 

I write a blog, weekly I do so much other writing in various genres, and I teach writing, but lately it seems that the the situation that should inspire the writing moves beyond words. And I'm not a visual-oriented person, so I'm not really adept at welding words to images or just using images to express an idea or feeling. Again, words fail me. 

(And thank you, Dame Maggie Smith, for giving me that phrase you used indelibly in The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel). 

Thus I'm not going to repeat what already has been said, currently being said, and will be said about the unspeakable evil and horror. CNN will do that for you. 

One story really stood out for me as I purposely let the images and words wash over me as the reporting on this incident unfolded. Brenda Lee Marquez McCool, mother of 11, 49 years old, was at the Pulse nightclub dancing with her gay son, Isaiah Henderson, age 21. According to the New York Daily News, Brenda saw the shooter point his weapon at them. She told her son to get down and took the bullet for him. 

Brenda Lee Marquez McCool

The obvious response: What mother would not give her life for this way for a child? Yes, the most primeval, powerful instinct was going on here. She died but in doing so made sure a part of her life survived. 

But how many parents who have rejected their LGBTQ children, especially those who do in the name of religion, would do the same? How many parents like this have actually treated said children as dead to them because of a belief system that relies on scapegoating victims and sacred violence? 

Brenda was a victim, but she broke through this mechanism by transcending that cycle of violence because she voluntarily gave her life for the life of another. 

And others in the club did the same, for complete strangers, but whom they saw as neighbors whom they should love as themselves. 

No one who died here was purposely and ultimately falsely seeking a martyrdom like the advocates of sacred violence often do, and none of the survivors are calling for new victims or scapegoats to appease them like one current politician is calling for. 

I've lost faith in a God we've made in our own image who creates destructive boundaries that are built on the sacrifice of victims, but I've learned from the victims and the survivors that we can create hope and love. “All God has is thee,” is an old Quaker saying. It's up to us to find God in each other. Let's start by really beating our swords into ploughshares and choosing life. 

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