This wasn’t the first time I didn’t cry after a violent attack. It’s hard to mourn for them all: San Bernardino and Charleston and Fort Hood and Newtown and Aurora and Oak Creek and Washington D.C. and Chattanooga and Colorado Springs and on and on and on and on and on. But this was the first time that anger encapsulated my sadness and I am finding my anger to be more motivating than sadness could ever be.
Omar Mateen killed 49 people and injured 53 at the Orlando nightclub with a legally purchased .223 caliber assault rifle that was developed for U.S special operations forces—also known as “a sporting rifle” by gun activists. This weapon has a military-spec trigger and a magazine capacity of 30 rounds that allowed Mateen to shoot 24 bullets in 9 seconds, according to a Mother Jones article.
No matter how loud our opinions scream on social media, we showed we are okay with the way things are after elementary school kids were slayed at Sandy Hook with a similar weapon. It’s hard to be optimistic that there will be any change, even after the United States’ deadliest mass shooting.
But then I look at how our gay brothers and sisters overcame so much discrimination and homophobia to finally earn equal treatment just last year, only to be greeted with Puritan I-can’t-make-you-a-gay-wedding-cake-because-Jesus bullshit, transgender people being told where to pee, and now this. Yet unlike the rest of us, the LGBT community is active and continues to make progress in the face of hate. We can all learn something from their activism.
It’s difficult to feel passionate. “Desensitized” is a word that we hear constantly on the news and it’s true. I can’t name all the school shootings that happened this past year. It’s too much to keep up with. But why is it we’ve become desensitized instead of enraged? Maybe our desensitization, our ability to distract and ignore and therefore accept this hideousness, comes from hopelessness. We don’t feel like we’re capable of making a change or making a difference. But our hopelessness is a slap in the face to the gay community and every other group who encounter discrimination every single day only to inch forward.
This attack brings up so many issues that are plaguing America: gun violence, domestic terrorism, Islamophobia, homophobia, lack of mental health treatment, racism, media glorification of attackers, fucking ISIS. Pick one that pisses you off.
It is warming and necessary for healing to mourn and pay our respects to the people who died, just like the DTLV community did at the Sunday night vigil at The Center. But our sadness will not bring them back and will not protect future victims from mass shootings. Something as simple as voting for the Background Check Initiative that requires an unlicensed person to sell firearms through a licensed dealer who runs a background check is a small change we can make that doesn’t require marching through the streets. Even though Mateen passed his background checks, the initiative is a step in the right direction.
We allowed ourselves this opportunity, again, to do something about gun violence after sitting back following Sandy Hook. And if we don’t have the courage to do anything about it this time, then we all need to start taking responsibility for every life that’s lost and will be lost again and again until we finally decide we’re angry.