A lot has been said and written about the Orlando massacre. I don’t want to further politicize the tragedy; we’ve had enough of that. I want only to focus on the lost souls of our fellow Americans and what they mean to the rest of us.
Of all of the horrendous and compassionate things said this week, by both public and private citizens, for me the most memorable comments were made by Eddie Meltzer in an interview with NPR. Eddie left Pulse just five minutes before the shooting started, because he was hungry. After the shooting, he acted as an interpreter between law enforcement and families who don’t speak English. He was the one to tell several families that a loved one was dead. In at least one case, the shock that comes at moments like this carried the additional disbelief that their loved one was gay. I don’t know how he did what he did.
After his unique role in the tragedy, Eddie said one of the saddest things I’ve ever heard: “We’re gay men. We live in a world where we get a lot of hate…we know how the world feels about us.” Eddie’s words must be a call on our consciences. This is about social justice. Our own humanity is at stake. We must fight fiercely against hate. I don’t want the Eddie’s or the Latinos or the Muslims in our communities to ever feel a need to speak words like those again. This is America…we are better than that.
But when he was asked how he will move forward from here, Eddie also said: “I’m just not going to subscribe to fear. We’re a strong community…if tomorrow somebody took over this country and said, we’re going to kill all the gays, I will be the first one in that square saying, shoot me with my big flag all over the place because I would rather die for what I stand for. You can’t kill me. I’m an idea. I’m timeless.”
America was founded on timeless ideas. The timeless idea which comes out of Orlando must, of course, be love.
“If you hate a person, you hate something in him that is part of yourself. What isn’t part of ourselves doesn’t disturb us.” –Hermann Hesse