Marie: Our blog is about expressing ourselves through art, painting and writing but on this occasion I hope our readers will forgive me indulging in a slight deviation.
There are so many tragedies in this world every day but the recent Orlando shootings have really made me think. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not trying to make this about myself – far from it, my thoughts are with those personally involved and affected and those families and friends, loved ones of the victims will feel the repercussions through their whole lives in ways that most of us can’t even imagine.
I lost a member of my family some years ago, suddenly in an accident and its not something I’ve ever really got over. I’ve learned to live with it but on some days his loss feels as if it happened only yesterday. I can’t even begin to imagine what it must be like for victims of hate crimes and their loved ones, or for those injured in such atrocities.
I can’t even begin to understand hate or the complete lack of empathy surely necessary to perpetrate, or condone such acts. Of course, victims of such crimes are not restricted to the LGBTQ community but encompass the whole spectrum of society. Nevertheless, as a straight woman whose partner is queer, and whilst not making this about us, this crime hits very close to home.
Predictably, after such an event, the trolls and other people so despicable as to not even be worthy of the term, come out of the internet woodwork with comments so shocking and upsetting as to be almost unbelievable. Some of the remarks which I have seen bandied about and which do not bear repeating fill me with rage and bile. The complete lack of care and compassion for the victims and those affected by this crime – who will undoubtedly see these comments and be further hurt and distressed by them – is atrocious.
What these haters do not seem to think about is that ripples spread. This shooting has not ‘simply’ affected the gay community. This affects and diminishes us all by association. For, who in their lives has not been affected by discrimination, bullying, hatred, segregation, prejudice or being stereotyped? Even the simple act of pigeon-holing people into categories such as ‘gay, queer, women, a particular race or religion, fat, thin, bipolar, etc’ rather than treating them as individuals, is often detrimental in itself. Our very society sets us up to dislike and fear the different, the other. To be afraid of what we do not understand. Perhaps that is why certain segments of society find solace and understanding in forming communities of like-minded people who are (hopefully) less likely to judge and where people can find acceptance. We band together so as not to be alone.
I am a white, straight, woman, and yet today I was insulted and sworn at whilst minding my own business in the street by a complete stranger merely for walking in front of him. I went into a well-known pub chain and sat by myself only to be made an object of sexual innuendos and obscene toilet humour by a group of men who thought me an easy target. I was a woman, alone, in a pub. I’m not making a big deal of this. It happens regularly when I’m alone and without the security of my partner by my side. I know others suffer far, far worse but my point is that lack of empathy and hatred, prejudice affect us ALL. When society seems to encourage a complete lack of understanding and for us to see people as groups rather than individuals, this disconnect is so destructive and damaging and far-reaching that it ripples out exponentially.
So, when we see these tragedies in the news it is a truly terrible thing and some people’s cruel, thoughtless reactions are more terrible still.
What kind of society do we live in, have we created, that I feel afraid, not only for myself but more importantly, for the person whom I love above all else? For each of us is a potential target as the very nuances that make us individuals can also single us out for persecution or hatred. Sometimes, it’s hard to remain optimistic but I am an inherent optimist so I believe people can and do change. Above all, none of us are powerless. We can all make a difference. Reach out and speak to people. Interact, find out a little about them, who they are. Don’t be quick to judge. Most importantly, rather than looking for the characteristics that make that person different from you – look for those that make you the same. You might have gone to the same school. Have the same interests, hell, even laugh at the same jokes. Each person, each individual, is a complex miracle of conjoined experiences, traits and nuances. Surely that’s worth embracing? After all, they say that every stranger is simply a friend you haven’t yet met. With every small gesture, we can make this world a better place and it starts with YOU.
To close I will post a poem which is not my own but sums up my thoughts on this very well and I wish to share it with those who do not know it. It’s probably the only time you will see a poem on this blog which has not been written by myself or Reece:
No Man Is An Island – Poem by John Donne
No man is an island,
Entire of itself,
Every man is a piece of the continent,
A part of the main.
If a clod be washed away by the sea,
Europe is the less.
As well as if a promontory were.
As well as if a manor of thy friend’s
Or of thine own were:
Any man’s death diminishes me,
Because I am involved in mankind,
And therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls;
It tolls for thee.