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Some thoughts after Orlando

OaklandAspride2016

I didn’t want to let the week go by without reflecting on the tragedy in Orlando. I was able to participate in a couple of events since then and tweeted out some photos. The most recent was a baseball game. I am not a big sports fan and neither was my family. In fact, this is only the third professional baseball game I have attended in my life.

On Tuesday, the Oakland Athletics hosted their second annual LGBT Pride game. I really wanted to go this year, as I had attended last year’s game against the San Diego Padres. That was the second game I have attended. I will get to the first one in a bit.

I was invited to the second game by a friend who was celebrating her birthday. A number of us joined her in celebration. For me, it was another example of how far our community had come, and yet how far we have to go; to be celebrated by a conservative institution that is major league baseball; to see people in the stands celebrating our diversity and finding love and acceptance; to find our place in sports history, remembering that one of the first openly gay athletes was Glenn Burke, who played for the A’s. Still, the game was not without controversy. A number of season ticket holders protested that they would not attend the game that night. In response, relief pitcher Sean Doolittle and his girlfriend Eireann Dolan bought tickets to donate to LGBT youth. That did not change the fact that there were a lot of empty seats that June 17 night. Still, this was another example of how the sports world was changing when heterosexual players become proud allies.

Oh, and we beat the Padres that night. I told my friends that, as a former San Diegan, I wouldn’t have been bothered by the outcome either way. It was nice that the A’s won. They weren’t so fortunate this year against the Texas Rangers.

With my experience at last year’s game, I really wanted to attend again this year and worked to find others to go with me. After I found out that some other friends was already bought their tickets and offered to allow me to join them, I went ahead a bought one ticket for myself. That was before the Orlando shooting.

The signs of love and support for Orlando, the tributes, and the moment of silence; these were all deeply moving. For me the most memorable was the singing of the national anthem by the Oakland-East Bay Gay Men’s Chorus. We all stood and sung along.

Which brings me to the first baseball game I ever attended. I was living in San Diego and attended a Padres game with my some friends. As young radicals, we took it all quite casually, smoking joints in the upper stands and sitting through the prerecorded national anthem being played by some generic orchestra. We laughed at the crowds below us, standing robotically to honor a country we believed did not deserve such honor. This was the country that gave us Jim Crow laws, Watergate, and the debacle of the Vietnam war. We did not care if we were seen as spoiled, selfist brats who refused to serve in the military. We did not see the United States of America as a country worth standing up for.

Michelle Obama received a fair amount of heat in the 2008 campaign when she said, “For the first time in my adult life, I am really proud of my country…” She was immediately attacked as unpatriotic, for not loving this country enough, for not joining in the chorus of those who robotically stand up for the national anthem, not placing a hand on the heart the right way during the pledge of allegiance, etc.

I understood what Ms. Obama meant. She grew up in a different world than those those who called her unpatriotic. She has seen the America of Jim Crow, first hand. She grew up in that America of Watergate and Vietnam. Now she was seeing a new America and the work that was paying off. This is the America of the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. This is the America of annual LGBT Pride parades created in response to the Stonewall riots. This is the America that comes together and supports each other after tragedies in places like Orlando, Boston, Tucson, Atlanta, and Sandy Hook. That was what I was feeling when I stood and sang the national anthem at the Oakland Coliseum. I have found that pride in my country.

We are still a country with a history of Jim Crow, Watergate, and Vietnam. We are also a country intent on fulfilling the ideals and goals we set for ourselves with our constitution. Our pride comes through the work we do to make our country one we can be proud of.

Some other thoughts

On Sunday night, I joined those gathered at Harvey Milk Plaza in San Francisco for a candlelight vigil and march to City Hall. Being at Milk Plaza reminded me that Orlando was not the first time that hatred of gay people ended with a life being taken by a gun. Nor will it be the last. The San Francisco Gay Men’s Chorus was off to the side, rehearsing “We Shall Overcome”. I started to cry. I cried again as the chorus performed at the vigil. Again, we stood and sang along. We sang Holly Near’s “Singing for Our Lives”, reminded that the song comes to us from the first march after the murder of Harvey Milk and George Moscone.

My thoughts turned to a word I have been thinking a lot about this year. That word is gratitude. In this tragedy, our community was coming together and sharing its gifts with each other. The Gay Men’s chorus was sharing the best gifts it could offer, their voices and their songs. Sharing these gifts helps our community to get through these tragedies and find strength to continue.

My last thought is about one victim from last weekend in Orlando. As far as I know, she wasn’t gay or Latina. She wasn’t even shot and killed on the morning of June 12. Her death occurred the morning before. Christina Grimmie was a singer, described as a Christian on her Wikipedia page. I did not know her. I was saddened to read the news that this rising, 22 year old singer was brutally killed by someone who drove from St. Petersburg with the intent of ending her life. She had been signing autographs for fans after a concert. We will never know what really motivated her killer. Like the shooter at the Pulse nightclub, the killer is dead, his thoughts and motivations dying with him.

Within 24 hours, her tragic story was replaced by another. That is not new. Each horrendous killing happens, one after another. We quickly forget the previous tragedy as the new one attracts our attention. It should remind us that the thread that connects all of these events is the easy access to guns. It is time to reject the notion that we can’t do anything about it. We can, and we must. People who have a history of violence should not have access guns, especially ones designed for war, not self defense. We need a change of laws and a change of attitudes. If we see something, we need to say something.

How many times have we read that a shooter had shown violent behavior in the past? How many have revealed their rage and hatred on social media? The shooter of Gabby Giffords had frightened his college classmates. None spoke to police about his potential access to guns. The Santa Barbara shooter openly showed his hatred of women who rejected him. His parents even called the police to check up on him. If the responding officers had taken a few more steps into his apartment, they would have found his arsenal. It is time to end the silence. Speaking up will save lives.

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June 16, 2016 - Posted by | Uncategorized |

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