Before I turned off the TV and went to bed, 20 were listed as dead, with many injured. I don't think at the time that I fully processed what had happened. When I turned on the TV several hours later, 50 were dead, 53 injured.
My heart stopped.
It was a gay nightclub.
It was a terror attack.
It was terror.
The TV is on a lot right now, watching the news, seeing the tears and heartbreak as families and friends realize their loss. I see posts on social media almost constantly. Every other post a message of despair. People that were lost, lovers who gave their lives, friends who watched in horror as those around them died. I hear the stories on TV of cell phones ringing, what some have come to see a nightmare sound, the cries of those injured, and the weeping of those that lost a loved one. Sounds uttered by too many people. One person is too many.
I remember Columbine. I remember 9/11. I remember Sandy Hook. I remember Paris. And now, I would remember Orlando. I remember so many times when someone thought they had the right to take away someone's life, whether because of their religion, their beliefs, their hatred, their perceived wrongs...
When does it stop? When is enough enough? I can't sleep. I can't think. Words to describe just about anything seem to be beyond me. I don't know anyone that died or were injured in this horrible tragedy, not personally. I have friends who do, fellow authors. I am home safe with my family. My kids are safe. My family is safe.
And yet, I feel destroyed.
I want to scream "What the fuck is wrong with people?"
Trump blames Hillary and Obama. Hillary blames guns. Others blame Muslims. A preacher in California blames gays. News commentators on every channel talk about who is to blame, each one blaming someone or something else. Religion. Politics. Terrorism. A mad gunman on a rampage. Someone who refused to hide away so society wouldn't be offended by the sight of two gay men kissing on the sidewalk.
After watching and crying and raging, I have come to a conclusion, one I am not happy with, not because it is wrong, but because I shouldn't have to consider it.
I know who is to blame.
In a world where people who choose to love who they love and not who they are told to love, are put to death, imprisoned, tortured, ridiculed, and made to prove they are human beings before they can have basic human rights...we are to blame because we allow it.
Transgender people using the "correct" bathrooms? Really? That's what you're worried about? Two men or two women devoting themselves to each other legally because they LOVE each other? That's what you're worried about? Someone's right to hold the hand of their loved one as they walk down the street? That's what you're worried about?
The outpouring of support around the world has been phenomenal, and while I applaud that, it also makes my heart hurt. Where was this support last week? Last month? Where was it men and women were being told they did not have the legal right to marry someone of the same sex, but you could marry whoever you wanted to? Where was the support when people serving our country and fighting for our rights were kicked out of the service because of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell"? Where was the support when homosexuals were killing themselves rather than face a world that told them what they felt was wrong?
It's a little late to be flying the rainbow flag now. The damage has been done. Today, yesterday, the day before that, and all the days before that.
But sure, go ahead, jump on that band wagon. Wave your flag. Shout to the world "I support homosexuals"...and when the fervor dies down and the reporters go away, when Orlando falls from the news, are you going to put your flag away and go on with your life as if the world hasn't been broken? How quickly will you forget the faces of those that died, their names, their smiles, the story of their lives? When the next big news story breaks, will you even remember those that still cry or who were silenced?
Yesterday, my heart shattered. I felt terror. Horror. Grief. Everyone tells me that I should aim my anger at gun control, Islamic extremists, politicians.
I'm angry at myself.
I told myself I did enough by writing my stories and spreading the love. I donated to LBGTQ charities. Hell, I organized 25 authors, an editor, cover artist, and publisher and got them all to agree to donate 100% of the proceeds of a book to LBGTQ charities. I taught my children to believe in who they are, no matter who they are, and to accept others who did the same. I stood up for my college roommate and gave him a home when his family refused to.
I told myself I had done enough.
Until there are no more tears of sorrow, it will never be enough. Until it isn't even a question that everyone has the same rights, it will never be enough. Until someone doesn't feel they have the right to spread their hate by taking the lives of so many innocent people, it will never be enough.
I don't care what religion you are, what your political beliefs are, where you live, how much money you make, who you love, don't love, or disagree with. You do not have the right to hurt someone because of it.
If you don't like what you're seeing, look away. If you don't like what you're hearing, plug your ears. If you don't like the way someone kisses someone else, don't look. If something on TV offends you, turn it off. If you don't like gays, don't go to a gay nightclub. If you don't like peeing in a bathroom with someone who is transgender, pee at home. If you don't like the idea of two men or two women getting married, don't attend the freaking wedding. If you don't like something, you don't have to see it, hear it, be around it.
You have that right!
You don't have the right to take that from someone else.
YOU DO NOT HAVE THAT RIGHT!
A man, who the world will vilify because of what he has done, decided he had the right to end the lives of so many people because of his beliefs or because he was offended by something he saw or because...because...because...Was he an Islamic extremists? Psychotic? Did he have mental health issues? Was he an abuser? Was he a gay man living in the closet?
Does it matter?
We're looking for answers. I understand that. We want someone to blame. We want to pin a label on this evil and put it into a nice, neat little box that we will never open again...until the next time. And until we can honestly learn from these horrors, there will be a next time. We are a society destined to repeat our mistakes until every man, woman, and child has the right to live their lives as human beings. My heartache at what has happened in Orlando is blended with my heartache that we will never learn from our mistakes.
There is no magic wand that will make this tragedy make sense because there is no sense to it. There is no "possible motive" that makes any of this even remotely okay or even understandable. It's not guns, religion, politics, extremist beliefs, hatred, confusion. There is no right or wrong answer.
In trying to find answers, I learned that there are none.
And my heart cries.