After 26 school kids and teachers were slaughtered in Sandy Hook, we collectively shrugged at even minimal measures to reduce gun violence. (For the record: I grew up in a hunting culture, and while I no longer hunt, I understand and respect owning shotguns and rifles. My Uncle Harold was a national champion trapshooter, and I understand the culture of target shooting and even the joy for many of shooting for pleasure.)
So when a hateful man with an AR15 decides to kill 49 people in an Orlando club, people singled out because they’re gay and/or latin@ and/or there, I sadly can’t muster nearly as much political outrage as I once could.
Grief and despair, though: that I have plenty.
It is not only the dead, slaughtered because a deranged man is offended or inspired by Holy Delusions, because he manages to channel the hatred so virulent in the larger culture. It is not only the dozens wounded, their physical and emotional lives shattered. It is not only the “uninjured” people of Pulse, shot psychologically through by horrors that would be terrible on a battlefield, but are unspeakable on a dance floor, during a date, on a night with friends. It is also the hundreds and thousands affected directly and indirectly: partners, family, friends; co-workers, teachers, classmates; softball teams, choruses, neighbors. The Orlando LGBTQ community was immediately and directly devastated and, most surely, so too LGBTQ communities everywhere. But these communities enmesh with every other community, everywhere.
I’m a member of multiple communities, and one in particular is in my mind tonight.
Every person killed, every person injured in Pulse was some teacher’s student at some time, probably in the past, though some still in the present before Sunday. So many shot were young. Every teacher carries memories of his or her students, and beyond those memories, we bear ineluctable traces. To learn that one of our students has been killed in a car wreck or felled by cancer hurts. To learn that he or she was senselessly shot: that’s a cruel order beyond.
Don’t get me wrong. A teacher’s loss pales in relation to those of families or lovers or friends. And our collective social loss (of what, innocence? Please) is also more profound; the boundaries of inhumanity have been pushed back just a little further. Consolation that we live in a reasonable world is just that much harder to summon. And so when I grieve and despair about those destroyed and damaged by a madman in Orlando, I think of all those diminished, near and distant, thinking most of those dear ones closest.
But among those hurt, in some middle-distant range, are teachers who spent weeks and months and years, nurturing that little boy, that young woman, that transgendered kid who always sat over there, in the third row next to Emma, caring teachers who helped those student craft futures, those futures now hatefully slain.