We Mourn and We March

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Jun 16, 2016 Comments Off on We Mourn and We March Jon

Dear Neighbors,
As the days pass and we learn more about the events at Pulse nightclub in Orlando, human nature drives us to draw conclusions and propose solutions. The complexity of this situation requires a little more thought though. There is much we still don’t know and may never know about the circumstances leading up to the attack, and reactions should be crafted with as much information as possible. Additionally, each of us is experiencing this through the complex lenses of our own lives. For me, there are several perspectives that are informing my reaction.

As a native Floridian, my first thoughts are of growing up gay in a small town and seeing the bars in the bigger cities as oases, as places to be among others like me without fear. The knowledge that some of the people at Pulse were there for the same reason takes me back to a place long before I was an openly gay elected official with the freedom to live openly and legally marry and I am reminded of how many of my LGBT siblings are not yet free and our obligation to remain vigilant and tirelessly dedicated to advancing freedom.

As a mother, I am working through the shock and fear with my boys in the best way I can. I can’t shield them from every bad thing in the world, as much as I would like. Instead, I will try and help them to find hope and resolve to put their energies into improving the world. This experience has given us a chance to talk about my childhood and young adulthood in Florida, what it was like coming out in a conservative area and why I do the work I do. It has also meant sharing a history lesson on why we march in Pride parades. Pride began as an act of defiance, when activists around the country stood up in solidarity after the Stonewall riots. Over time and with victories, it has become one of celebration, but maybe this year we need to get back to defiance. The heroes that came before me marched in spite of very real risks and we cannot be pushed back to those days. This year, officials are taking additional security precautions for the parade.

As an elected official and someone who has been a vocal advocate both for LGBT rights and sensible gun regulation, I have found myself on the receiving end of the “how do we fix this” question. It’s so easy to want a simple answer – one thing and everything will be better. The truth is far from simple. Yes, we can and should look to gun laws for ways to prevent the wrong people from getting the wrong guns and there will be plenty of work on that front. But we must also remember that whatever the background of this particular shooter, hatred against those perceived as the “other” has been allowed to spread like cancer throughout many communities. That’s a lot harder to fix. We have hate crime laws in Illinois and at the national level and that is important and helpful. But fundamentally, addressing hate at its root is what will win the day. Working across the lines that divide us into our comfortable bubbles is critical. It was incredibly humbling to be joined at the vigil in Boystown Sunday night by parents of victims of gun violence from all over Chicago. In my remarks, I called on my LGBT family to work together with these families and communities all across the area to bring an end to the violence plaguing our city. We can’t expect to make real change by staying in our comfort zones.

Many have asked how to help the victims of the shooting and their survivors. We’ve compiled a list of ways the Orlando community has requested help and are sharing it here. Please note that while we have done our best to try and make sure we’ve identified the best ways to help, it is neither an exhaustive nor a fully vetted list.

The Center
Planting Peace