It was June of 2016, and an unfathomable reality shook the heart and soul of gay America.
In an act of unconscionable violence, a deranged lunatic walked into an Orlando gay nightclub with automatic weapons and murdered 49 of our own. The Pulse massacre would go down in history as the worst mass shooting in American history. For all of a year.
On Monday, October 1, 2017, in America’s nightclub, Las Vegas, another killer stole the mantle away, striking out in the dark of night with automatic weapons and an incalculable evil that is beyond the scope of internalizing.
It was not ISIS. He was not a foreign agent. A wall would not have kept him out. He was a retired American, from of all places, Orlando, and an accountant at that. Living in an adults only community. No children or pets allowed. Automatic weapons, well, that’s another thing. That is your second amendment right, I suppose, though I am not sure this is what Washington and Jefferson had in mind when they crafted the second amendment.
This is the world we live in today, a place where we watch World Trade towers fall, and planes get shot out of the sky. An earth where climate change is ignored, but a 33 year old dictator in North Korea can enslave his people and threaten the world with a reign of nuclear terror. A planet where tsunamis can erase thousands in minutes but the game of the week goes on because we paid dearly for our NFL Sunday ticket.
Nothing is sane anymore, not congressmen getting shot while playing softball in a park, or students getting slaughtered in massive numbers in south Chicago every weekend. We can’t save kids in our cities a mile from Wacker Drive, and we think we are going to help hurricane victims in outlying islands of Puerto Rico.
We have a president who calls the place a ‘big ocean,’ but his election and office are a big lie, a frightening joke the gods of electoral politics played on American citizens. A week after devastation wreaked havoc to American people and properties on Caribbean islands, Donald Trump was playing golf in New Jersey. If only San Juan had cleared a course for him sooner, the mayor could have gotten help for her citizens quicker.
Meanwhile, as flood victims in Houston still try to get back in their homes, America has been battered with ruin and devastation on the east coast, and now misery and more madness in Las Vegas. But worry not. Our president will see to it that no one kneels for the national anthem. He will hold a campaign rally for racists in Alabama reminding us that there are good people on both sides of the hurricane.
Once again, in Las Vegas, we have been robbed, as children were at Sandy Hook, as our world was on 9-11, as you were at Pulse. Senseless. Sudden. Lives shredded into shambles. Futures gone. Dreams stolen. Worlds crushed. Our hearts damaged. And no words can express or capture the inexplicable pain.
Here at SFGN, we are a local community newspaper, and while we can cite and draw your attention to the world’s ills, we can’t cure them. But maybe we can help the helpless city commissioners in Wilton Manors understand we do need, after all these years, a community parking lot on Wilton Drive.
We need to slow down the cars, illuminate the drive, and secure pedestrian paths, whether on Lincoln Road or Wilton Drive. We need to remember the gay soloist who lost his life trying to cross that street a year ago; a life that could have been saved by better city planning. We may not be able to end ISIS in Wilton Manors, but we can make a street corner crossing safe.
It is October, and for the LGBT press across this nation, we celebrate our past with Gay History month. We do so this year again at SFGN, acknowledging our icons, appreciating the soldiers who led our way, whose lives lend or lent spirit and sustenance for our own. They stood their ground, rose to a challenge, and helped lead our way, from ending discrimination to ensuring equality.
SFGN’s history features are in print and online, as they have been year after year, available for you to research and read. In the lives of these people, may you discover guidance or goodness for your own. The selected ‘icons’ grow in number each year, showcasing just how much a part of American history homosexuality has written. Those so acknowledged provide a beacon from the past which illuminates the present still.
Our time on this planet is fleeting, and the future may be 20 years or 20 minutes. In this crazy world, it seems like you can never tell, whether you are in the seeming safety of a gay nightclub in Orlando or the security of a country rock concert in Las Vegas. The only normal is that there is no normal anymore. Make the most of this moment.
My only advice to you, at any age, is to make your life count while you are here and you can. Make a difference so that today has meaning, tomorrow has purpose, and yesterday has a treasured memory no one can ever take away from you. Make your choices celebratory and challenging, not worrisome or agonizing. Be proud of who you are. Be who you can be. Be an icon in your own way.