There Are No Words

There are no words to describe what happened last night in Orlando. I cannot imagine the terror and confusion felt by those who were brutally mown down by what appears to be an ideologically-driven gunman. There are no words to console the hundreds, maybe thousands, of people who right now are in hospitals or morgues, ICUs or funeral homes. There are no words for the shock. For the sudden sense of loss. For the lack of any discernible reason why the biggest mass shooting in American history happened. Not a political analysis, but a real, comprehensible reason for why.

When the shooting at Mother Emmanuel occurred, I think I was shaken more than at any other time; I was in college for the OKC bombing, and it seemed a distant and foreign event. On 9/11, I had friends in NYC and I tried frantically to get a hold of them. Eventually, after a couple or three days, I had established contact with them all and I grew more afraid of my government than I did of a terrorist attack. Dad and I flew to NYC about a month after the towers fell. The shootings at Columbine shocked me, but Virginia Tech terrified me, as I was teaching at Xavier University and I was so concerned about my students. I prepared myself mentally for the possibility of needing to throw myself at a shooter in order to stop a tragedy. I went to trainings on how to handle a locked down campus. Soon, I grew used to thinking about campus strategically in the event that I would be caught in an outdoor shooting. Fort Hood was frightening, as I live very close to Wright Patterson AFB, and I have friends throughout the world stationed on bases. 

But Mother Emmanuel? That was tough. Weekly I lead a wonderful Bible study at the church, and I cannot imagine anything more violating to the spirit than gunfire in God’s house. I feel safer in church than anywhere else except my home. The thought of a shooting there is too much to bear. My doctoral mentor taught Rev. Dr. Clemente Pickney, and with that personal connection my sense of fear threatened to change the way I relate to people, something unacceptable for a follower of Jesus. I began to think about what I would do if…

News of Orlando reached me this morning as I was preparing for worship. My eyes scanned over the details and filled with tears. I thought of the dozens of friends I have who have been the victims of gay bashing or threats of violence. I thought of my own nights at at gay clubs, the last thing on my mind being the chance that I might be shot. I thought of all the struggles we in the community have undertaken in the past fifty years, from Stonewall to current resistance to transphobia. Now, part of our history is the largest mass shooting in American history. 

There are no words to bring sense to this. There are no words that will uproot those who see the Second Amendment as more important than human life. There are no words to mitigate the Islamaphobia that will arise in response to Sunday morning’s shootings. If Sandy Hook did not change anything, I hold out very little hope that the needless deaths of our brothers and sisters in the queer and ally communities will strike upon the heart of America. There are no words. Dozens and dozens of Harvey Milks could have been killed last night and nothing would change. No words.

I just know that I’m tired. I’m tired of being afraid. I’m tired of people gripping onto guns, of people pulling them out when they have road rage, or a woman says no to a proposition, or of the other countless, bullshit reasons that people are shot in cold blood each and every day in this country. I’m tired of having a violence problem no other nation on earth seems to have in this way. We can correct this; we can stop it. But it appears there are no words to get it done.  


2 thoughts on “There Are No Words

  1. I feel like the public is mislead, this wasn’t the biggest 1921 Race Riot in OK, 300 black people were killed. It’s still sad none the less. I just had to say that.

    I am Queer/Gay and I felt hurt a real sadness. I felt a personal lost, just like I did when D.Roof shot those nine A.A during the bible study. I guess, because I am Queer, and also because I am black. So I hurt with those of the minorities. I was hurt because of our lost, but the response by the church.

    I attend a Christian college, and I’m not sure where I stand in my faith right now, because I was taught that sometimes seeing God is hard so we look to the people who are a representation of God, while acknowledging their humanity. I heard Pastors that raised me, tell me it was God’s design for this to happen. Calling all LGBTQIA people sex offenders. I’ve heard so much negative, that I wonder if what I knew to be the spirit of God was ever real.

    My faith is also a journey that I seek to question because I’m bipolar with psychosis and I saw your post on International Bipolar Foundation. I’m 24. and I’ve experienced so much hate and cruelty from the church, specifically the black church. I wonder what God really has to say and if the book (Bible) of judgement and their interpretation and understanding the correct answer. If not and there are so many sides then how true is the book, or will my soul just live curiously until I find out on judgement day.

    The church is a place to feel safe. Public gathering of people you identify with, like Pulse are meant to be safe. I don’t feel safe. I feel threatened and concerned as a black person, as a gay person, and biologically a woman. And I long for God, and truth.

    I don’t know why I said this but I had to share.

    1. Thank you so much for your honesty and for your words.

      You are ABSOLUTELY correct about the “worst massacre” point. I realized that shortly after posting the piece, and corrected it on FB, but not here. I do regret parroting the line, as it is not correct.

      A lot of us have been hurt by the church. And I totally get why people are running away. One of the biggest reasons I am so open and vocal is that as a pansexual, bipolar Christian, I see the ways in which the institutional church has failed those Christ declared the beloved of God.

      Thank you for commenting, and I agree that our safe places (clubs and sanctuaries) have been infiltrated by hatred and violence. What you experience as a queer, black woman (I am not attempting to identify you, but merely repeating what you wrote) is so much different from what I do as a queer, cisgender man in a “heterosexual” relationship. But we are united by a desire to feel safe and to be who we are.

      I am glad you shared. Thank you.

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