Something terrible happened last week in Orlando. It was disgusting and unbelievable. But even more disgusting and unbelievable was how we responded to it. Social media was sprinkled with empathy and pain for the victims and their loved ones, but flooded with hate and judgments. Hate towards guns and those who use them. Hate toward the people who want to take guns away. Hate toward the community of people who go to clubs like Pulse and hate for those who disagree with their choices. Hate for people who still don’t hate all Muslims. Everywhere you turn someone has an opinion or a judgment. Every time you refresh the page, a new agenda is being supported by nearly 50 deaths.
Yes, these people were targeted, simply by being who they are. Yes, Americans were targeted and attacked, again. Yes, the laws should be looked at in order to try to prevent a hundred more attacks like this one. When tragedy strikes, things need to change, viewpoints need to reevaluated and people need to be reminded what their negative opinions can lead to. But right now, we seem to be forgetting something really important and skipping a few steps.
People were killed and injured. American people, gay people, straight people, white people, black people, people from all sorts of backgrounds. But we can’t forget that they were people first. People died. People were killed out of pure hate. So why are we responding with more hate? Why can’t we, for one second, put aside our differences and mourn? After all, we too, are people first. We need to mourn for those whose lives ended because of someone else’s hate. Mourn for those whose parents, friends, loved ones, will never come home again. Mourn for those who have to live with the guilt of surviving while others didn’t, who will be plagued by memories and nightmares. Mourn for how far humanity has fallen that things like this aren’t even that surprising anymore.
The facts are still important. This is different than if a regular old pub was targeted. This is different because the LGBT community was expressly attacked. This is different because he was an unstable individual with an assault weapon. This is different because the shooter was a suspected Islamic extremist. There are factors in this particular case that do call for action. Something needs to be done about the hate that is spread for those who are different from the “norm.” Something needs to be done about the fact that he should never have been able to legally obtain a weapon like that. Something needs to be done about the fact that America is being attacked, again. But more importantly, something needs to be done about all this hate, and more hate is never going to help.
Out of all of the judgments and negativity surrounding this event, the worst by far is anyone who says the victims deserved this or brought it on themselves. No one deserves to be murdered. No one deserves to be out, living their life only to have it suddenly ripped from them. It doesn’t matter if you like or agree with the person and their life. It doesn’t matter who they are or what you think hey have done wrong. No one deserves that.
My point is that these terrible things won't stop anytime soon. We've seen that first hand. There's no one thing, no switch to hit or lever to pull, that will make all the hate and negativity go away. But there is a starting point. We can stop the hateful responses. We can stop the judgments. We can stop throwing shame at people who are already hurting, at a nation that is constantly hurting. We do need to fix things, change things, make things better for everyone, but there is time. There is always time to mourn, time to band together and time to be people who are there for people. Because in the end, that's what we all are - people first.