What the Attack in Orlando Taught Me

Life has a way of offering lessons. And Orlando, Florida, offered some of the starkest and, in contrast, some of the most beautiful, touching the depths of compassion in all of us. Forty-nine lives were taken on June 12, 2016. And, in domino style, lives of survivors changed. Families changed. A city changed. I wonder, did a nation? And what did I learn? I learned I could weep for victims, for survivors, and for a city. Again.

I learned Pulse Nightclub, the scene of the attack, was more than a club where people gathered to have fun. I had missed the bigger picture of its role in the LGBT community. It was a home, especially, if in your own home, people do not accept you for who you are or don’t know who you are because you haven’t “come out” to them. It was a safe haven from elements of a society who you know from experience aren’t always tolerant or understanding or nonviolent toward you. It was a community where you were free to be yourself, and you supported each other like friends do. It was a viable part of a city’s economic community, providing employment, paying taxes, dealing in commerce. I didn’t realize its depth and breadth. I apologize. Again.

I learned there’s a difference between a legal civilian version Sig Sauer MCX  and a military one. One is semi-automatic, the other fully automatic. However, the results are the same. Again.

I learned of the intensity of an ideology. I’m reminded of the song “You’ve Got To Be Carefully Taught” from the musical South Pacific. Although the song addresses racial intolerance, the words ring true to the teaching of hate in any form. The three lines of lyrics I’ve placed in italics strike at the core of something we know. However, it often seems some have never seen or heard the idea before. Again.

You’ve got to be taught
To hate and fear,
You’ve got to be taught
From year to year,
It’s got to be drummed
In your dear little ear
You’ve got to be carefully taught.

You’ve got to be taught to be afraid
Of people whose eyes are oddly made,
And people whose skin is a diff’rent shade,
You’ve got to be carefully taught.

You’ve got to be taught before it’s too late,
Before you are six or seven or eight,
To hate all the people your relatives hate,
You’ve got to be carefully taught!

I learned compassion comes in many forms and hope stays alive. For Orlando this feeling arrived in unique ways. A 49 foot lei called the Lei of Aloha arrived from Maui. It was composed of “flowers, tea leaves and 49 shells from the island with each victim’s name written on the shells,” made by Polynesians of Maui. Compassion arrived when Boston Marathon bombing survivors visited the hospitalized victims being treated at the Orlando Medical Health Center. It arrived with vigils being held in cities across many countries. It arrived in the form of 49 wooden crosses set up on the campus of the Medical Center.  The crosses were made by Greg Zanis of Aurora, Illinois, who said when interviewed, “Love your neighbor. Don’t judge.” People know this, but have trouble putting it into practice. Again.

I learned communities can unite, not only in Orlando, but across the nation. Again.

I learned that our society has individuals and groups with mental issues and hostile ideologies who can easily buy guns. Again.

I learned Isis inspired warfare is insidious, that attacks on soft targets are cowardly. Again.

I’ve always believed in change and new experiences and new vistas. In exploring ideas, new and old. I’ve always believed change is possible. Carl Alaska, Ph.D., in Psychology Today in an article titled “Change Your Beliefs, Change Your Life,” states:

On the individual level, real change can happen only when you recognize that it’s your responsibility to feel, think and act differently. The same is true for the wider society. The reason it’s so difficult to make meaningful social or political change is because a large bloc of people believe it’s neither possible nor desirable … until we simply decide, “I’m going to initiate a new set of beliefs.”

A country’s laws may begin the process, but individuals have to commit to change, to believe change is possible and/or believe coexistence is possible, whether dealing with religious, social or political values.

Orlando, your lessons are difficult and heartfelt. We have to keep trying. Yet again.

About cmwriter

I'm a writer ... of fiction, nonfiction, and poetry. I blog about writing, short stories, poetry, books, plays, and thoughts on life. Love reading and travel and being with friends!
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8 Responses to What the Attack in Orlando Taught Me

  1. Cynthia Muscatel says:

    Thank you.

  2. Carol, you express my feelings so beautifully. Thanks.

  3. Ruth Hill says:

    Very moving. You captured it so well. You remind me of my idleness in writing.

  4. Guy Rowley says:

    I FELT this post. It felt like peace and love. It’s magic.

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