Today, I learned that chameleon’s change their color by adjusting the cells of their skins. They do this to warn off rivals or attract mates, but also to blend into the scenery and avoid predators. They don’t have big claws or super speed or large teeth. Blending in is their only defense.
This is a much nicer lesson than the one I encountered earlier in the week. On June 12th I learned that hatred is truly without reason, and carries with it deadly force. (Actually, I already knew this, but last Sunday, it was brought home to me once again, with bitter emphasis.)
Last Sunday’s events stand in stark emotional contrast to those that followed. This week taught me a lot about love, and acceptance in a community that could have responded with indifference, but didn’t . Thousands poured into the lines of those waiting to give blood. Not just in Orlando, but all over Florida. Comedians stopped trying to make us laugh, and rightly so, to express their grief. Congressman Chris Murphy stood for hours to decry the silence that has so long greeted such horrendous acts, urging changes to our gun laws. Comedian Hasan Minhaj, paid to be funny, chose to chastise the members of the legislature instead, for their complacence and inaction.
And then too, there were those who chose this moment to rail against the issue of their choice. Gun rights activists chose to defend the right, even of madmen and suspected terrorists apparently, to own assault weapons, even as some members of the military pointed out that such weapons serve only one purpose, and have no real place in “sports” of any kind.
Some “churches,” and I use the term loosely, tried to disrupt funerals, adding pain to those who are already enduring incomprehensible loss. I say they tried, because in the midst of such inappropriate hatred, love shone through again, in the form of music and angels, standing in the gap, protecting the grieving with love and compassion.
This week I saw both beauty and ugliness, grief and joy. I saw incredible bravery and terrible savagery. I wept several times, even as I am weeping now, for those lost and the pain of those left behind. And, educator that I am, I think, what do we learn from this? What lesson can we take away to make the world a better place?
Some will try to forget this happened. Some will try to use it as a launch pad for their own agenda, whatever that might be. Some of us will be like the chameleon. We’ll change our colors for a time, to show solidarity with the victims and their families. We did the same after the Paris attacks, but right now, I have to wonder. Does it help? Did it change anything?
I want to say yes. I want to say that the world is learning that hatred is not the way. That violence only breeds more violence. I want us to have learned that lesson. But I don’t think I can say that yet, because this is not an isolated incident. Instances of murder and rape and human cruelty to humankind abound in our newsfeeds every day.
The lesson here is, we can’t afford to be like chameleons, blending in to avoid detection by violent forces. If the nightmare at Pulse has taught us anything, it is that being silent is not a viable option. Regardless of our ethnicity, religion, gender or sexual orientation, this is our fight, because we are human. We all belong to the same family, and it is time we stopped standing silent while some members kill other members, or bully or harass them. We need to remember that we have a voice. And we need to use it in love, to stop the hate.