This is supposed to be an art blog, but I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again.
As human beings, as creators, art and life are inextricably linked.
So, for now, a little about life:
Today’s news is to say the least, unsettling. That over 50 individuals, all of whom were only intent on enjoying their night, were gunned down by a complete stranger because of their attendance at club for gay men—really, regardless of any reason—is unthinkable. Disheartening. Senseless. I think it has left many of us, many hundreds of thousands of us who have no direct connection to the event, just plain numb.
But what is almost as troubling is the deep rift, the likes of which have been an undercurrent for some time, that is now rearing its ugly head to the surface and widening an already growing chasm between Americans.
When news broke about the Orlando shooting, initial reactions were of shock, sadness, confusion. Speculation about motives – was this a terrorist plot? was this a hate crime? began circulating the media. I watched a poor mother on the scene, unable to control her weeping while being interviewed, cry aloud “I don’t know where my son is! He was in there and I don’t know where he is now!” Her anxiety and hysteria were palpable.
Alone in my apartment hundreds of miles away from FL, I expressed my own feelings much in the way countless others did on social media. I expected that soon there would be waves of support, thoughts, prayers, and campaigns for awareness and regard to those lives lost today. That there would be some push for solidarity in the face of this atrocity.
It was just before I was leaving my apartment that I started seeing posts dedicated to the aforementioned speculation on motives. I put my phone down and wondered as I drove to church whether the shooting would be mentioned there…
Intolerance. It’s not new. In fact, it’s how early civilization operated (and truth be told, some present day civilizations still do). You don’t like what I have to say? I’ll silence you. You don’t agree with how I’m running things? I’ll take everything you have, your life even, if it comes down to it. I am right. You are wrong. There is no in-between. It was the driving factor in this morning’s events, whether or not it had to do with the shooter being a radical Islamist or being angry that he saw two men express a public display of affection.
We like to credit ourselves with being so open-minded. Such a progressive civilization we are. Our forefathers left Great Britain to escape intolerance. But it followed. It morphed and squirms its way into the cracks of every new conflict this nation comes across. And it loves social media. It loves the megaphones we hold up as we proudly pontificate and promote our opinions, our righteous beliefs. As we shroud ourselves in the cause, the politics, the religion, the rights we so loudly boast our support for, there is Intolerance shaking its finger at all others. There is Intolerance sneering, “Your ideas are not welcome here.” There is Intolerance, laying brick by brick of another wall to keep all else out.
I chose to write about this because today, across several different posts I witnessed the practice of intolerance. I’ve seen it before, but today, the divide is stark and the conversations have been unproductive to say the least. I know and call “friend” to so many on each side of religious and political issues facing society, which in truth has been a very valuable way for me to understand as many sides of an argument as possible. I am in no way surprised that there is much debating taking place today.
What I am surprised by is the vitriol traded among people who disagree and the number of times I read things like “…and if you don’t believe [insert specific gun/sexuality/political/religious opinion here] then unfriend me now or let me know who you are so I can unfriend you.”
What a shame.
I am right. You are wrong.
Your ideas about this and anything else are not welcome in my universe. There is no conversation to be had here.
What a shame…
For those of you who know me, you may be aware that I’m Catholic. I went to mass today, wondering if (desperately hoping that) the victims, their families and friends would be mentioned today in the prayer offerings. I was profoundly disappointed that they were not. And though it may have been something as simple as no one remembered to add it to the reader’s sheet this morning, my gut tells me that they weren’t mentioned because of the church’s stance on homosexuality. Intolerance.
I wanted to leave. I wanted to shout it out so it echoed in the building that we should also pray for those lives ended, for those families that are now incomplete. Instead, I prayed it myself. I prayed it all the rest of mass, because it doesn’t matter what my church does. It starts with me and how I act and how I treat others. Each of us has that power, that responsibility.
I stayed through the service.The closing hymn was “Amazing Grace.” In those last three minutes, I listened to the most beautiful rendition of that song that I have ever heard, sung by an incredibly talented youth choir and accompanied by a young violinist. These kids truly sounded heavenly. It blew me away. I watched the violinist, who had been a cantor earlier in the service as well, sway gracefully with her instrument and as it projected its sweet chords to a swooning audience I saw her smile to herself—the kind of smile that overcomes a person at the recognition of their own talent. My heart leapt for her because she saw the value in what she had to offer, the opportunity to touch others.
My heart leapt because I was reminded of the beautiful gifts humanity has to offer despite what any one of us thinks, says or believes.
We aren’t always going to agree, but there is value in what every single one of us has to offer the other, and there is compromise that can be made so all of us can bond together over the gifts we share.
To shut that out is a real disservice to yourself, to all.