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Friday, June 24, 2016

Guest Post: I Feel So Helpless About Orlando

Forty-nine people died early last week.

I live in Michigan, the cul-de-sac of the United States. Nobody comes here unless they meant to,  or else they got lost in Ohio and didn't hit a deer on the way. Our outdoors are great, the beer is fantastic, and the city life is alright if you don't mind driving past an endless field of corn to get to it.

Not much happens here either (at least not in terms of people dying at a mass murderer's hand) and for that I'm both thankful and incomprehensibly pissed off. My life is as safe as it gets; I'm a reasonably young, healthy, straight white adult male who lives in one of the safest cities in one of the safest states in one of the safest countries in one of the safest eras we've ever known.

And yet as fortunate as I am, as fortunate as we all are, forty-nine people's lives were still brutally cut short by intolerance, hatred, bigotry, and violence.

And for that I feel so fucking helpless.

I can't even begin to imagine, in the sheltered womb that is my life, how the LGBTQ community must feel about this. An icy hand of evil has reached up from the past to claim wonderful, innocent souls. Why? No, seriously, why?

Because the people at Pulse committed the horrible, unforgivable crime of loving someone?

Because the people at Pulse were somehow disgusting monsters for having a different identity?

Because the people -- no, wait, that's the whole problem. To this misguided asshat, they weren't people. They were reduced to nothing but their “sins,” deserving only of death, certainly not of mercy. But they were people and they didn't deserve this.

And I feel so fucking helpless because even with all my advantages, I can't personally stop evil from reaching out and striking at a community of people who are beautiful and worthy of life, and yet live in fear.

And I feel helpless because every time something like this happens, social media blows up with so many candles and prayers you'd think there was a PartyLite convention at a church. We all leap to the ramparts to defend our castles of logic and reason, and damn you for being heartless or damn you for trying to solve violence with a vote, or loathing with a law, like it'd actually do anything. Meanwhile, the bodies cool in morgues and I am left feeling helpless in the face of ridiculous, senseless horror.

Some indeterminate time later, the whole cycle starts anew, because not enough of us personally reached out past our keyboards to damn well do anything to help.

Look, my position is pretty clear, and it's trying to fix a problem like hatred and bigotry with a politician's pen is like trying to put out a fire by yelling at it. If you do nothing to address the source of the fire, you've done nothing to remove its effects. Banning objects to control behavior doesn't fucking work and you all know it, because it didn't work for alcohol and it didn't work for drugs and it didn't work for guns and just knock it off already! And yeah, I know we're all making a lot of noise about banning people now, too, but the Internet has no borders and that isn't going to work either. Hell, it didn't even work when the Internet didn't exist. If you want to know more, look up the Japanese internment camps. What a godawful legacy that was.

My position is also pretty clear on how I feel about the LGBTQ community, or at least I hope it is: people are all wonderful, complex, flawed and fantastic, all at the same time. I'm not some paragon of virtuous thinking, but it never made any good sense to me to hate a person for what they are or who they love. We are all weird, wounded, and wild, and if I have any right to life and happiness, so do you, no matter who “you” are.

Assuming you're not the asshole who murdered forty-nine fabulous people, that is. I hope you saw the truth of things before you perished, you miserable moron, but I don't regret or mourn you. You ran out of chances, you misguided and stupid person, when you murdered another.

That's right, even the killer is a person. Not because he's done anything special to deserve it, but because if we dehumanize even the worst of us, we risk dehumanizing the least of us. And that leads only to more of the violence we saw on Sunday. I won't perpetuate it.

Despite how I feel, though I'm not helpless. Not really. And for that, I am profoundly grateful.

Instead of another long virtue-signaling diatribe or stupid meme about what “should be” or how nobly offended I am about what just happened, I can actually do something. We have a tremendous surplus of speech, but we also have a terrible deficit of action. If any of the actions I'm taking today do anything at all to help, then I'm more lucky than I have any right to be. And if just one life is spared by my efforts then it's more than I could hope or dream.

I'm donating blood tomorrow, because wounded people keep needing blood and they can damn well have every drop I don't need right now. I couldn't do it earlier because my schedule sucks and so do donation center hours, but I'll get there tomorrow, probably right around the time they'd actually need some more to replace what was used. Lucky them, I'm O+ and that's a popular flavor.

I found out you can't easily donate to the Pink Pistols, but you can volunteer your time, and that'll have to do for now. Even a straight guy can pass out flyers, even if they're suuuuuper pink. Or I can help teach people who want to defend themselves. I'm not saying they should have to, or that it's their fault if they don't. I'm just saying if they want to, I'll damn well help where I can.

I've joined the Michigan Coalition for Responsible Gun Owners to improve the rights for people in my state to protect their lives however they wish, and I was one of the first 50 people to sign up for Operation Blazing Sword. Human life is a tremendously valuable thing, and it's worth protecting in whatever way is needed. If a good, law-abiding person chooses a firearm to do so, then I'm going to work harder to make that possible for them. There's no good reason the least advantaged of us should suffer at the hands of those most advantaged. And I'm not just chucking money at them, either; I'm going to volunteer my time, any time that the Pink Pistols, if they'll have me, don't consume.

I will seek out more training not just to defend life, but also to preserve it. I will train harder to defend against violence and also to save a life if it happens to myself or another.

I will strive to make my life, my home, my words and my actions a true “safe space” for people who need it. I'm not talking about what the phrase “safe space” has become these days; I'm talking about what it used to mean many years ago. I promise that if you are gay, trans, whatever; my home, my car, my office, even my shoulder, is a place you can go for refuge if you are in danger. Because you are a person and you have value.

Most importantly though, I will speak and act against hatred, against bigotry, against intolerance. No person should fear for their lives based on who they are or who they love. I promise I will stand against hate by speaking out against it, not just on Facebook where it's easy, but in person and in public where it actually matters. The solution to speech one finds abhorrent is more speech refusing it, with every word an expression of compassion, of justice, and of outreach.

I am also asking you (you beautiful, wonderful, capable person reading this) to do the same. All my strength doesn't amount to much against the problems we face. But if you help, even a little, even anything at all, we can nudge the world to better.

Can you speak out against intolerance and bigotry, even when it's tough and personal? And can you speak to our youth so that they might learn tolerance and compassion better than we did?

Can you donate blood? They were full yesterday, but they'll need more, a constant red flood of it, until all are healed. And can you keep donating even months and years from now?

Can you go beyond what I'm doing now, and return again to ask me to do the same as you have?

Do one thing, at a minimum, right now, if you can do anything at all. Social media won't save lives, but action will. Let's help.

Raymond Garety III

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