Since Sunday, June 12, a day that will be remembered and memorialized for a very long time, I’ve followed links to remarks by famous people, videos of vigils, and countless other sources. Although I began in a state of despair, my intention was to find hope. Before long, I recognized a personal and collective shift to understanding and the determination that those who were murdered shall not have died in vain.
I saw signs of hope in the global LGBTQ refusal to allow the tragedy and the community to become pawns in right-wing anti-Muslim hate campaigns. I saw that community shelter and defend its Muslim members. In these acts, I saw deep mindfulness of what’s really important. And I saw leaders in the Muslim community express their solidarity with the gay community.
The Greatest of These is Love
Constantly, whether the speaker was Staceyann Chin, a black Jamaican lesbian, or Stephen Colbert, TV superstar, this message was raised: the murders were directed against a community that claims the right to love. When you are attacked for expressing that right, the only response is to love more.
Stephen Colbert said, “Love is a verb. To love is to act.”
Staceyann Chin said, “I DARE you to love.”
Love is Remembering
My first awareness of the tragedy came after I’d spent a weekend at a Quaker retreat. During that retreat, I heard this statement:
“When we’re afraid, we’ve forgotten who we are, and we’ve forgotten who God is.”
The Opposite of Love Isn’t Hatred; It’s Fear
Without this awareness, this mindfulness, we are in danger of hating the haters. Fear that the unknown is life-threatening transforms into hatred, which in turn gives rise to the urge to fight back in what is perceived as self defense.
When we realize that we harbor our own fears, we open the door to compassion. We recognize that it takes courage to expand our boundaries and become open to people who seem not like ourselves, whose ways of living seem to threaten our fragile security about how we live.
Until we can make the brave decision to no longer allow fear to dominate us, we can neither love or truly live.
Those who will not learn will go the way of the dinosaurs. Deep down inside, they know this, but fear turns their vision outward and convinces them that if they could only eradicate what threatens them, they’d feel safe. If we reach instead, for love, it will tell us that we’re already safe.
And so, much as I love the statement I heard at the retreat, I feel the need to add to it.
“When we’re afraid, we’ve forgotten who we are, and we’ve forgotten who God is. And we’ve forgotten to let the power of love direct and move us.”
We must remember—in the names of the dead and of the living.