I am watching the Tony Awards. Host James Corden opens: “Hate will never win. Together we have to make sure of that.”
The press calls it terrorism. Reporters note “mass casualties.” Fifty dead. More than 50 wounded. Near-by hospitals lock down. I weep at the news of one more shooting. One more massacre. Again. This time in a gay night club. It was Latin night. People were dancing, ordering drinks, singing along to lyrics, swaying with drumbeats. This time horror in my country, and too close to my mom-of-a-gay-kid heart.
My son Zac, his friends; they could’ve been there. When Zac first moved to NYC his closest pals were from around the world. They called themselves the gay U.N. I had never met souls so inclusive. Open. Fun. Funny. Loving. Diverse. One was in the Norwegian military. Gerry from Mexico was a dentist; Willy from Hong Kong a CPA. Ian from Croatia had a radio show. Thomas, an Armenian, was studying for a PhD. They work all day, commute home, walk their dogs, fold their laundry, either cook or get take out. Just like me.
Our son sold furniture in an upscale Manhattan store, fitted wigs at Radio City and baked cookies to give away, and sold some when asked to cater baby showers for his friends. Just like me in my twenties, he struggled to make ends meet, worked a few jobs, pieced life together. Just like me, he eventually found his way. And as a young adult he hung out with friends on weekends, just like me. A Saturday night out? Innocent civilians? It could have been any of us. In Orlando, it could’ve been our sons and daughters.
My dad wondered why people say, “You know my friend Saul? He’s Jewish.” Or, “there’s a new lawyer in town. He’s black.” My dad added, “No one says, ‘this is Ray. He’s Catholic’ or ‘This is Dr. Lebel. He’s white.'”
Why do we label, target, marginalize? Why can’t we see the rainbow in humanity, the beauty of difference? Why can’t we embrace the gifts we all add to the world? Why can’t we know that under difference, we are all the same, that there is no us and them?
On TV now, Frank Langella accepts his Best Actor award for Father. His speech includes: “When something bad happens we have three choices: we let it define us, we let it destroy us or we let it strengthen us. Today, in Orlando, we had a hideous dose of reality. And I urge you, Orlando, to be strong. Because I’m standing in a room of the most generous human beings on Earth and we will be with you every step of the way.”
Just like us, these generous human beings, gay and straight alike, laugh at life’s absurdities and cry at sad movies. They love their parents and shop for gifts for nieces and nephews. Just like us, they get attached to their favorite toothpaste. Did the shooter know this? Did he ever watch both gays and straights plant and water gardens,? Or lovingly raise kids?
What separates us from “the gays” is a chromosome. Zac came out at age 14, and ended with, “I have brown eyes, freckles and dark hair. I’m short and gay.” Chromosome.
Just like us, my son and his pals want to be happy, do not like pain and wish to avoid suffering. None of us deserve to be victims of the largest act of gun violence in our country. None of us.
Speaking of the U.N.; eight centuries ago, Persian poet Saadi wrote these words that later adorned the entrance to the United Nations: “The sons of Adam are limbs of each other, having been created of one essence. When the calamity of time affects one limb, the other limbs cannot remain at rest……”
The Tonys are ending. The new play Hamilton, with its line, “We cannot let a stray gunshot give us away,” sweeps the awards. I am left with the words of Hamilton’s Lin-Manuel Miranda: “Love is love is love is love is love is love is love is love is love is love. It cannot be killed or swept aside.”
Together we have to make sure of that.