I just listened to Anderson Cooper read the names of those dead from the attack in Orlando. The voice of the TV anchor, typically steady and confident, wavers as he recites name after name, including their age and a short sketch of each life now gone, sharing pieces of information about what they liked to do, where they worked or how loved ones saw them. Watching the video clip feels holy, like a ritual reading of the dead, a litany used by generations before when tragedy struck.
Part of the way through, he takes a big breath in and then releases a wearied sigh. As he nears the end, approaching the youngest victim, 18 year old Akyra Murray he says, “I’m sorry”, as surely the grief he has been fighting for the past few minutes moves closer to the surface and threatens to pour forth.
What really got me was the couples who died together that night. I think about my boyfriend, how desperately I love him. Last night, I told him he was the love of my life. I think about how, if he were caught up in some kind of attack, the best I could hope for is that I was also there and could die with him holding his hand.
I am grateful to Cooper. His reading of names helped me touch my own broken heart in relationship to the attacks.
Any time we experience tragedy, personally or globally, it is important to let our hearts break. It is, in fact, essential; the heart that breaks, breaks open and can hold the whole world. To let our hearts break is the only way we can grow big enough to be with the world in it’s pain. It is that overwhelming and all encompassing feeling of a broken heart that can pierce through the cynicism or frustration or indifference.
And, at the same time, I am absolutely tired of having a broken heart.
I am tired of having to open up, when tragedy strikes, time and time again, to the pain and suffering, I am tired of lending out my tender heart to a nation that refuses to protect people because of politics, I am tired of grieving preventable deaths. I am sick of being sad but sadly not shocked at all and I am sick of calling it a tragedy, as if yet another mass shooting was completely unexpected, when it feels like these kinds of attacks are now routine. I am tired of a Congress that tweets their thoughts and prayers, but then, just 6 months ago, voted down a bill that would have banned the shooter from buying a gun. I am tired of the cycle we have all come to know all too well: there is a shooting, the media gives it 24 hour coverage, everyone updates their Facebook profile, we hold vigils and cry, we all are shocked and saddened, we all send thoughts and prayers and hopes and dreams and then put a filter on our profile picture and then do absolutely nothing about it.
We have to let our hearts break. We have to grieve and publicly send thoughts and prayers. But, if we are ever going to live in a more peaceful and just world, we have to create real change. And, a vital skill in creating change is to bridge our broken-heartedness–the places that hurt, the aches for the world that keep us up at night– with action. We absolutely have to act.
It is easy to think that there was nothing we can do to stop gun violence, but mass shootings are a uniquely American problem. This attack comes almost exactly a year after the attack on the AME church in Charleston, and just a few months after the San Bernadino shooting. At this point, President Obama has given more press briefings on mass shootings then state dinners. The US makes up nearly 1/3 of the world’s mass shooting events. That is not surprising, considering the assault weapon the attacker used was completely legal. In the US, while 60% of gun sales require a background check, 40% are made made without a background check via purchase online 0r at a gun show, even though 90% of the US supports universal background checks. And, you can buy a gun if you are on a terror watchlist. Recently, The Daily Show’s host Trevor Noah showed a video of an Al-Qaeda spokesman advertising the abundance of guns in the US, and encouraging fighters to monopolize on our lax gun laws to wage terror against us.
Congress has proposed laws that would fix these loops holes. Here is a PBS article that describes the recent history of gun laws. But, time and time again, these laws are voted down by congress members who receive money from the NRA.
From where I stand, it seems pretty clear. Yes, we need to let your hearts break, and we need to thoughts and prayers, and we need to stand up for peace and love. But, we also need to put pressure on congress to pass gun laws that close loops holes and ban assault weapons.
Please please please my friends, if your heart is breaking because of yet another tragedy, and your are sending thoughts and prayers to victims and their families right now, showing them your solidarity by taking action. Here are ways that can help:
- Call your congress people! Yes, you can call them on the phone and someone will actually pick up. And, they looooove hearing from their constituents. Calling them and letting them know how you feel about a bill is one way they know how to represent (and get re-elected) by their constituents. So, give them a call and let them know that you support stricter gun controls. Specifically, there are two bills up to support stricter gun laws– S. 2934, which would extend background checks to all gun sales, and bill 551, which would ban gun sales to those on the terror watchlist. The links included with each bill will take you a link that help you call your representatives.
- Support those filibustering right now! This morning, several Democrats took to the Senate floor in a filibuster to support gun control. Call or write to filibustering senators to let them know you support their call to action.
- Sign this petition which would make background checks universal to all gun sales.
- Get involved with the Brady Campaign. They are the all-stars on gun control. You can donate money, volunteer or sign up to stay informed.
And, as always, please like and share this post, so others can learn about how to take action.