It is a boring and overdone cliché to say that it is becoming such a terrifying time to live in our society these days. It is obvious by the ease in which we take the news of mass shootings now. I (embarrassingly enough) genuinely didn’t have one ounce of shock in me when I heard about the Orlando shooting. Not one little iota. No part of me screamed, “No! That cannot be!”, and I grew up hanging out there. O-town was where my very best friend fled our small town after school and where I have tons of friends living today. I felt for them, of course, at having what has become such a commonplace occurrence of rage and violence happen in their backyard. How scary must it be to be so close to such a tragedy? I wondered if any of their friends had been hurt, certainly…but I was not, at all, surprised in any way.
And that is so, so depressing.
I read the news, like everyone, and in the beginning it was only pictures of the lunatic that decided to take the lives of so many (and why do we keep making these people FAMOUS? But that is for another post), selfies of himself that he posted on Facebook posing in the NYPD shirts like not only a law-abiding citizen, but a person that idolized the people who uphold the laws. I saw that he was from a small town two over from the little town that I grew up in and thought, “That’s so strange. So close to home.” But no part of me was surprised it happened. No piece of me at all.
Then the pictures of the nightclub started to appear in my feed.
My heart absolutely skipped a beat. Pulse, one of the biggest, most flamboyant, most FUN gay clubs in Orlando. I had been there on many, many occasions. While I was in school I was also a key manager for the restaurant that I worked in. We had a wonderfully out-loud, proud, beautiful gay district director who was one of the sweetest and most lovely people you would ever want to know. So when we were in Orlando for trainings, he would take us out to a formal dinner and, for the more fun in the crowd, to Pulse for drinks and the most fabulous drag show you could ever want to see. The place was absolutely always packed wall to wall and was not only a fantastic place to meet new and interesting people, but had some of the best dancing in the city. It truly was a magical place.
I don’t remember if it was called Pulse then because I am terrible with names, but I recognized the building instantaneously. I remember the first time I walked in– it was all loud, pumping music and wild lighting. An emcee that made Rupal look understated yelled from the stage and there was even beautiful male dancers in elephant thongs hanging from poles on the bars. It was an insane scene. And I loved every minute of it.
That is when it really, truly hit home for me.
We are so desensitized to violence in our society these days. It is so much a part of our culture that it is called for in our political rallies, for goodness sakes’. But the truth is, just like I was on so many occasions, that club was full of people just out looking for a good time. People looking for a hook up (there was always plenty of that, too ;)). People just living their lives on a Saturday night. And now 50+ are dead. So many more are injured. And all because they went to a club on a weekend, just as I had been, and one sick person took it upon himself to make a statement. How did I become so jaded? Why did it take a crime happening in some place that I had been to wake me up?
Because it happens all of the time. ALL OF THE TIME.
There have been more mass shootings in the last few years than all of my childhood combined. It feels so constant, the threat of violence. And not just in acts of passion, but in full-on, premeditated and brutal attacks on innocent groups of people. People just shopping, watching movies, or having drinks. People that never met their attacker, maybe never harmed a fly. All because of someone’s beliefs. Their religion, their ideals, their morals…whatever it is, they decide to open fire in the hopes to kill as many people as possible. Kill as many people as they can. Because of their ideals. How sick is that?
But how much worse is it that, as a society, we barely bat an eye anymore?
It has probably been a slow decline over the years. I remember the snipers in DC and voraciously watched the news in awe that something like that was actually happening; that people were shooting strangers down in broad daylight in cold blood. It was horrifying.And nothing felt better than seeing them apprehended and put in the back of those police cars because it made us all collectively feel safe again. Even if the shootings were nowhere near you, they still reminded you of your own mortality, how fragile human life was.
Now we barely blink when a madman opens fire in a nightclub.
Or, what’s worse, we use the deaths of these poor people to push our own agendas. Anti-gun, pro-gun, immigration, anti-muslim…whatever. I have seen more posts on Facebook about the ideals surrounding this case than concern for the people who were caught in the crossfire or the families that they left behind. On the backs of the lives of many, we continue to push our opinions and we don’t even realize it. Facebook and Twitter has become a soapbox that we are building on top of graves.
All I can think of now is the times that I went to Pulse and the wild and fun times that I had there and how that could have all been changed in the blink of an eye. I wonder if my old district manager still frequented. I hope all of the people who were injured will be okay. I hope the families of the lost will find peace one day. But most of all I am just worried about who is at home scribbling manifestos and stockpiling guns to make themselves famous next.
It took a familiar place to make me wake the hell up and start seeing these “normal” parts of our current society for the horrifying tragedies that they really are. I can’t believe the world that I’m living in when I, a person usually riddled with empathy and cries over long-distance telephone company commercials, had become so disconnected. And that truly concerns me on so many levels.
I’m just living minute to minute, hour to hour, day to day.