I heard the news about Orlando in bits and pieces. A headline on Facebook. A talking head on the television. A conversation with friends.
But I didn’t understand.
Just like I didn’t understand when I heard the news about the shootings in Sandy Hook and San Bernardino and at Virginia Tech.
Maybe it’s a self-protection mechanism. Maybe my intuitive subconscious knows I can only absorb so much at once. Maybe it’s the sheer incomprehensibility of it.
Whatever the reason, eventually the enormity and senselessness and tragedy of it sunk in, and it stopped me in my tracks.
But I still don’t understand. I just don’t fucking understand.
I don’t understand how people can be filled with such hate. I don’t understand how people can use shootings at nightclubs and schools and movie theaters as a vehicle to spread hateful rhetoric. I don’t understand how we can be complacent. I don’t understand how we as a nation — hell, as humans — can’t demand change. I don’t understand how people can use a tragedy to either spread more hate or bury their heads in the sand to it. I don’t understand why people don’t listen when we say enough.
I don’t understand. I just don’t fucking understand.
But you know what?
I don’t need to understand. I don’t need to understand to be angry and sad and fed up. I don’t need to understand to know that something has to be done. I don’t need to understand to do something and to say something. I don’t need to understand the hate or complacency of others to advocate for change.
I don’t need to understand because I know this much is true:
I know that anytime parents lose a child to gun violence — whether that child is a kindergartener or an adult — it affects us all. I know that, for that reason, gun control laws are very much a parenting issue.
I know that I don’t want my kids growing up in a world where they need to worry about being killed because they went dancing or loved a man or went out to dinner. I know that I don’t want to live in a world where people need to be afraid to live their lives, and I sure as hell don’t want my kids to either.
I know that the Second Amendment doesn’t grant a right to assault weapons. I know that we can argue until the end of time, and while we’re doing so, people are dying.
I know that silence has become dangerous and even deadly.
I know that because of our silence and failure to demand gun control legislation, 49 people were killed in one fell swoop by a man filled with a hate I will never understand. Forty-nine people are dead. People who — just like you and me — lived and loved, who got up in the morning and went to work, people who had spouses and mothers and children, people who had dreams and fears, people who were awake in the middle of the night worrying about bills and jobs and relationships. People who — like all of us — simply wanted to live and love and pack as much joy as possible into our short time on earth.
So, no, I don’t understand hate.
But I don’t need to understand to know that hate does not define us. To know that we are mortal but we are strong. To know that there are more people who love than people who hate, more people who help than people who hurt.
I know the world is a crazy, fucked up place. I might not understand, but I know this.
But I also know that I don’t need to understand to do something, to help, to make the world a little safer and a little brighter.
I don’t need to understand to say enough.
If you’re wondering how to help, here are some resources: