The Central Valley Alliance of Atheists and Skeptics grieves for the victims of the Orlando massacre, and stands side-by-side in solid support with our friends and family in the LGBT community.
As president of CVAAS, this statement encapsulates our organization’s stance on the atrocity committed in Orlando Florida yesterday.
But as a person, I must protest. A mere statement can not be the whole of the action that any person or organization takes in response to this crime.
The founder of American Atheists, Madalyn Murray O’Hair, once said, “Two hands working can do more than a thousand clasped in prayer.”
This quote came back to me over and over again yesterday as I attended the vigil at the Unitarian Universalist Church in Fresno. Local religious leaders who are members of the Faith in Community of Fresno stood together hand-in-hand at the UU church to deplore the outrage in Florida, and to encourage healing.
It is not enough.
During the candlelight vigil and march from the LGBT Community Center to the Tower Theater in the Tower District of Fresno, I watched as my friends choked back grief, and offered each other unconditional compassion and love. And again these same religious leaders spoke about support, about love, about healing. And once again it was just not enough.
And finally there was another speaker, someone who spoke with outrage and passion about the necessity of change. As this person demanded that we act I was again reminded of O’Hair’s quote – “Two hands working….”
Over the last day I’ve asked myself, what can we do? What can I do? I am not gay. I’m not transgender. I do not have a faith or belief in a deity.
But I do believe in us. I honestly believe that we are all greater than the sum of our individuals. I believe that even if solutions to a complex problem are elusive or impossible, we can still find ways to make real positive changes.
This is not going to be easy. Over the last day, voices about the Orlando massacre have been all over the map. The voices of hate and marginalization have been either outrageously evil, or they have been subtle and insidious. I’ve watched as political leaders have written, or tweeted their support of the “victims of Orlando” without ever using the words, “gay”, “homosexual” or “LGBT”. I’ve been attentive as media talking heads have gone out of their way to avoid any meaningful dialog about guns in America. I’ve watched opinion leaders in America paint with brushes so broad that no room for nuance is allowed. And I’ve watched the most insane of the devout gibber in glee in support of “Team God”.
This atrocity didn’t happen in a vacuum. Although the murder of our friends and family is horrific, it is also a symptom of the contempt in which the LGBT community is held by many here in America. And although there are secular people who dislike or hate gay people, most hatred, and I use the word “hatred” deliberately, is overwhelmingly coming from America’s religious communities.
Over the last 6 months, there have been over 200 pieces of legislation introduced around the country that are designed to marginalize gay and transgender people. Since June of last year, when the Supreme Court ruling made same-sex marriage lawful in America, religious fundamentalist hate groups with words like “family” or “decency” in their names have been doing everything in their power to dismantle LGBT families, and to disparage members of the LGBT community and their supporters in the most immoral ways imaginable.
To be certain, religious fundamentalism in America is a minority. But it is a large minority, and an extremely loud one. And it is one that has had little or no opposition by religious moderates or liberals. When moderates do find their voices, it is too common that a voice is all that is found. “We are with you, in sorrow, in healing, and in prayer”. But not in action.
That’s not enough. Two hands working can certainly do more than that.
Here is what I suggest. As an ally, I will refuse to let anyone in my hearing, or in my circle of communication, get away with the marginalization of anyone in the LGBT community. As an ally, I will support other allies who support the LGBT community.
I suggest that we talk to our elected representatives. There are plenty of places online that will allow you to plug in your address and will show you who your local, state and Federal representatives are. Do this, and then write to them. Use old-fashioned snail-mail to make a bigger impact. Write more than once – write often. Encourage others to do the same.
Join a local grass-roots organization. Learn how to influence our political system. Even at the level of an individual there are things you can do. Even changes made at a local level can have national consequences. The philosophy of, “think globally, act locally” applies here.
And finally, study the problems in politics in America. Because we definitely have our problems, complex problems. And I believe that working together we can advance toward real solutions.
I believe in us.
If you would like to join us in figuring out what “two hands” can do, meet us on our discussion board.