I Am Not Orlando

I am not Orlando. I will never know what it’s like to face hatred and discrimination in my own church, in laws meant to protect, in the way I live my life. I have no idea what it’s like to have my family disown me, to have to announce my own identity to the world.

I am not BlackLivesMatter. I will never know what it’s like to get in my car, worried about being pulled over for a minor offense. I will never know what it’s like to face discrimination based on the spelling of my name or the origin of my family. I have no idea how hard it is to break out of the systemic oppression our laws and aide put on others.

In these moments of shock and outrage, I don’t know what to say or do. I grieve that we have not been able to learn from millennia of mistakes. Rape, mass murder, systemic discrimination are part of human history. And, while I do believe (or fervently hope) we are inching forward, I am still shocked that we as a human race have not been able to learn from the past, to take what we know about inherent human nature and try our hardest to pass laws, to make policies, to live our own lives in a way that moves forward.

I am shocked that with each death – whether one person by one gun or fifty people by one gun – we turn to fear rather than hope. That we use our fear to keep our ideals firmly in place rather than stepping back and living in hope for change. That we use our fear to blame a people group rather than looking at our own selves and wondering what we can do to change this system.

It’s hard for me to accept, but I’m learning more and more that my role as a mom is just as important as my vote for the people who represent my values. I’ll admit, my hope in top-down policies is dwindling and I wonder if they will ever change.

But my own small grassroots efforts? I am more committed to raising my daughters to hope, to love, to see without hate. It’s small, but we read Ezra Jack Keats’ books. Books about kids being kids. Kids who represent all cultures but books that are not about those cultures. They’re just about kids.

I am forever grateful for our church. A place where our girls are loved by people who may be gay or straight or trans or married or divorced or single. People who they see as safe and who don’t need labels. A place where, when Bea asks if two women can get married, they don’t just say yes, they show what that marriage actually looks like. (A lot like our own marriage.)

So, I can stand with those who suffer in Orlando and because of Orlando. I stand with those who face daily discrimination and hate.

But I am not them. I am privileged and am learning that I am not helpless with this privilege. I am learning that my own small acts are laying a foundation for my privileged daughters.

I hope that they will never have to stand with minority groups. That somehow in the next twenty years, we’ll figure it out. But I’m not naive and I have a feeling they’ll feel this same anger and helplessness time and again.

Until we can finally figure out how to truly love without condition, I’ll remember this from A Room with a View:

“We cast a shadow on something wherever we stand, and it is no good moving from place to place to save things; because the shadow always follows. Choose a place where you won’t do harm – yes, choose a place where you won’t do very much harm, and stand in it for all you are worth, facing the sunshine.”

E.M. Forster

Will you stand with me, facing the sunshine? How do you teach your kids these big things in small ways?

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