In the wake of the shootings in Orlando, several groups in Olympia joined together to sponsor a vigil Sunday night. Earlier in the day I was invited to share some remarks at the evening’s vigil, and I prepared some words not knowing what format the vigil would take.
That evening in Sylvester Park the space was created via open mike and open community to share and deeply hear the emotions and experiences of the LGBT community, and especially the LGBT community of color, who were the targets of this horrible act of violence.
I was asked to come to the mic, and I did so, recognizing that I spoke not for those most directly affected, but as a part of the greater community of friends and allies who were deeply hurt by these events and whose work is to listen and support, and to work to create a better world for all.
When invited in the morning I didn’t know how long I would have to speak, and at the vigil times were set at 3 minutes apiece. I went on a bit too long with my prepared remarks, which I regret, and I share them here in full:
I am honored to stand here in memory and solidarity tonight, humbled by the fact that I know that I, as a cisgendered straight man, was not the target here.
But while not all of us were the target, we are all the victims.
I stand here tonight in solidarity, being from a community that has historically has been and continues to be persecuted. I understand the fear and pain that comes from that fact.
And I stand here as a member and leader of a faith community. I recognize and accept the role religion has played in perpetuating hate and violence. Religion can be the source of much division, pain and hurt, and to say it does not would be disingenuous.
And at the same time, I believe that religion can be a source of inclusion, affirmation, love and comfort. And it is in that spirit that I am here.
So let us extend words, thoughts and prayers of healing to those who have been physically, emotionally and spiritually injured by the events today in Orlando. May their healing be complete and come speedily. And let us extend words, thoughts and prayers of comfort to the victims and their loved ones. May their memories be a blessing to us all.
But we know that is not enough. It is not enough to mourn for those who have died. There is so much more for which to mourn.
Today, I mourn for the fact that despite the progress we make as a society, there are those who wish to move us in other directions.
Today, I mourn for the fact that in the face of overwhelming evidence of the destructive nature of firearms, we are incapable as a nation to do anything.
Today, I mourn for the fact that there are those whose hearts and minds remain closed and unwilling to accept those who are unlike them.
Today, I mourn for this willful rejection of the humanity of another and the denial of human dignity and rights.
Today, I mourn for the impulse to respond to one act of hatred with another.
Today, I mourn.
Today, I mourn for the fact that what was supposed to be a safe space turned out not to be.
Today, I mourn for the fact that those who sought welcome and acceptance were told they were not.
Today, I mourn for those who were murdered simply because of who they were.
Today, I mourn.
Today, I mourn for those whose murder causes tremendous pain to their loved ones who held them close.
Today, I mourn for those whose murder has become the long-hoped for reconciliation with family and friends who rejected them.
Today, I mourn for those whose murder will just deepen the estrangement.
And today I mourn for those whose murder is their coming out story.
Today, I mourn.
It is a common refrain to say that love is stronger than hate, but I’m not going to say that. Love and hate, like anger and sadness, are only emotions, feelings.
What we should say is that acts of love must be stronger than acts of hate. It is only what we do, not what we feel, that can change the world. And so we commit ourselves to acts of love. To acts of welcome, to acts of acceptance, acts of celebration, acts of connection, acts of community, acts of resistance and acts of justice.
May the memory of those who have died inform how we who survive shall live. Let us now open up our hearts, clench our fists, lift our feet and raise our voices to create a more just and peaceful world, free of hatred and oppression and violence, where we all stand together and see that we share a common vision, a common cause and a common future.