By Terri Lee Freeman
The Sunday morning news account of the horrific and tragic slaughter that occurred at the Pulse Nightclub in Orlando, Florida was particularly disturbing to me. For one thing, it brought back memories of two tragic events that I worked through in Washington, DC – September 11th at the Pentagon and the Naval Yard shooting. In my mind, all I could think about were the families and the trauma they are now facing.
But I was also distressed because the day before, the National Civil Rights Museum held a 50th anniversary commemoration of the March against Fear with James Meredith. In 1966 Meredith struck out on a March from Memphis to Mississippi, but was shot in Hernando and was unable to finish the March. Dr. King, Stokely Carmichael and other notable civil rights icons and ordinary, concerned citizens picked up where he left off the very next day and completed the march. On Saturday, as we “re-enacted” a brief portion of the march, we called out for freedom against hatred, freedom against violence and voiced our right to live in safe communities. Among the community organizations that marched with us was the Memphis Gay and Lesbian Center.
While the evidence appears to be pointing to a sole shooter who had been radicalized and inspired by ISIS, what we know for certain is that he was motivated by hate. And though it has not been fully substantiated, it has been suggested that the Pulse Nightclub was targeted because it was a known club for the LGBTQ community. I don’t feel qualified to talk about international relations and homeland security, but I can say for sure that hate will be our downfall.
[caption id="attachment_4895" align="alignright" width="300"] Photo: Keith Bedford, Boston Globe[/caption]
When will we begin to see our differences and variations as enhancing our human interactions as opposed to stifling those opportunities? When will we get past the differences in race, ethnicity, religion, gender and sexual orientation and see people for who and what they are, human beings? No other labeling necessary! When will we make it a priority for all of us to live peaceably? This does not mean that we have to be a monolith. It doesn’t mean we all have to have the exact same belief system or ideology. But it does mean that we all have to respect this thing called life.
Terrorism is terrorism, whether it is a lone gunman on the side of highway 51 in Mississippi waiting to ambush a young James Meredith, an organized cell of a particular group that decides to fly airplanes into the World Trade Center, a young man who walks into a church and murders nine people during prayer meeting, or a heavily armed, radicalized ISIS sympathizer shooting young people in a nightclub who were simply trying to have a good time -- it is terror.
Our communities and our nation have a heart problem. We have not yet learned that love is a far more powerful force than hate. So, as we come together to pray for the families of this most recent mass shooting, let’s each commit to getting to know at least one person who is different than ourselves. Let’s move beyond tolerance to genuine concern and care for our fellow man. Love is the only concept that can save us from us.
Dr. King once said, “Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”