In the wake of the horrific Orlando shooting that occurred on June 12, I had to take a step back and analyze my feelings about this situation. I'm not exaggerating when I say it almost ruined my trip. I was in Cancun that weekend meeting with my wedding planner, my florist, and doing fun stuff like tasting hors d'oeuvres and seeing the terrace where my wedding reception will take place. It just didn't feel right having fun and doing these seemingly unimportant tasks while so many people and families were suffering. Once again we're left with a mass shooting, this one the most deadly ever to have occurred in the U.S. With gun control nowhere in site in our country and mass shootings like this not happening in other developed countries that have tough gun control laws, the question has to be asked: when is enough enough? The night before the Orlando shooting occurred my mom and I had dinner with Fer's family in downtown Cancun. Fer's sister brought up Trump, politics in the U.S. and the ever-perplexing questions of why guns are legal. We all know Mexico isn't the example to follow as corruption plagues their nation, but guns are illegal there and mass shootings aren't an issue. My sister-in-law-to-be made a great point, no one has guns and those who do keep them deeply hidden because if you get caught with them, you get thrown in jail. I envied this statement and wished I could have said the same thing about the U.S. I had no explanation to provide to my Mexican family as to why these horrific shootings keep happening and why someone as bigoted as Trump is the front runner of the Republican party. The next morning I ironically woke up to the Orlando tragedy.
So what now? Just like after Sandy Hook, San Bernardino, Gabby Gifford's shooting, and the church in South Carolina, I am heartbroken. I am angry and I am frustrated. I don't blame the recurrence of mass shootings totally on guns, but it's one main cause, along with learned hate, gun culture, perverse masculinity, and just an overall acceptance of lack of understanding. Which brings me to what this post is really about: love.
Hate is learned. Discrimination and bigotry are learned. And at the heart of most of these tragedies is one thing: hate. So what can we do to help? Thoughts and prayers are falling on deaf ears. We can advocate for gun control policy. But what we can do starting today, right now, and every day going forward, is to live with love.
I can remember as a child growing up and seeing people in public who I wasn't sure if they were men or women. It was always perplexing. I needed to know, is that person a man or a woman? I think that's something that was embedded in our culture back then. I didn't know anything about trans people, or that gender is a spectrum. But we live and we learn, and the resources we have available today are endless. Learn about what you don't understand. If you have personal experience with something that others don't understand, teach. Share your story. Our first reaction shouldn't be to criticize, humiliate, or commit violent acts against that which we do not understand.
It's just like addiction. Stigma has surrounded addiction for years. Alcoholics and addicts have been demonized, thought to be less than, and looked at like aliens because people on in the general public do not understand this disease. They've been left to die. Education is the key to ending this. The other key is people sharing their stories. That's how we break the stigma. That's how we communicate understanding and love. We show the world we are here, we are alive, we thrive and there's nothing to be ashamed of because we are all human beings.
It costs nothing to treat others with love and kindness. It should be part of your nature. It should be your natural reaction to treat everyone, even people who you might not understand, with love. If you see intolerance or violence, say something. Let's make it clear that this is not the kind of world we want to live in. Let's spread the love in hopes that it will help prevent any more acts of horrific violence.
There is always something you can do. Acknowledge what's going on. Educate yourself. Object to intolerance. Teach love. Practice love. Live love. Be the love. It starts with you.