United We Stand...
Yesterday, I was glued to the television and social media most of the day watching as the details unfolded about the horrendous terrorist attack in Orlando. Like everyone else, I was saddened, sickened and outraged. When such a senseless act occurs, there are really no words. Last night, I watched a segment where a gathering of family and friends of one of those murdered had come together for a special interview. Two men in the group were close friends who had been with the deceased but had escaped unharmed. Their heartfelt account of the events was gut-wrenching. Their tears, sobs and wailing ignited the whole room with unspeakable grief. I didn't know them and to be honest probably would've never crossed paths with them or run in any of the same circles they did, but for that moment, I felt like I too had lost a member of my family. After all, we were fellow citizens of a place that we all call home - a place where we all want to live, love, work, play and feel safe to pursue our dreams, raise our families, express our voice and follow our faith.
Well that is what most of us want. Some only want to take away those things that we desire for their own twisted and selfish satisfaction and gain. It just seems inconceivable that one man could be so persuaded in his mind and radicalized in his heart that he had no conscious at all when it came to cutting down so many people - all of them in their prime of life - because he had so much hatred and disdain for those who believed differently than him theologically and who lived differently from him socially. As I listened to journalist after journalist and expert after expert trying to make sense of things, the conclusion was pretty much the same. Nothing - absolutely nothing about it made sense from a logical humane standpoint. The one thing that did make sense, at least to me, was the fact that this radical terrorist was so devoted to his interpretation of Islamic beliefs and so convinced of them that nothing would deter him and no amount of sacrifice was too much to thwart him from perpetrating such evil with no remorse. In his eyes, he was doing what he thought was right. I am sad that we as Americans don't have that much conviction or devotion when it comes to how we feel about our country, laws, rights, responsibilities and freedoms.
I thought about that for a long while into the evening as I continued to follow updates. Some time in the evening, I came across a Facebook post by one of our local news reporters who posted the picture you see at the top of this blog. I later added the "caption" but here is what she said concerning the photo...
"Driving home from work during an afternoon thunderstorm I looked to my left and saw this. A full rainbow and an American flag at half staff. The storm subsiding, the message clear: Stand strong Orlando, we are with you."
A natural weather occurrence had provided an unexpected measure of solace, comfort, hope and purpose. I compared it to how it feels here along the Gulf Coast after a hurricane, or terrible storms or tornadoes. When you wake to the sun peaking through clouds making way for blue skies after such darkness and terror, somehow you know that you can go on and that things will be manageable again. You also have hope that things will be good again. This breathtaking rainbow backdrop to the flag at half mast was a gentle reminder that we are stronger than we know and a part of something much bigger than "us."
To my shock though, some people were diminishing the loss of life and national safety down to petty arguments, criticisms, opinions etc. They took it on themselves to determine what was in this reporter's mind and heart when she posted the picture. They assumed she was equating the rainbow to the Gay Pride symbol and therefore they felt the need to correct people on the true meaning of the rainbow. Their lofty "insight" was that this one in the sky could not and should not be equated to a "sign from God" for anyone to grab hold of. I thought I had no words for the tragedy in Orlando, but for a brief moment I truly had less words for this callous, shallow mentality. The last time I checked this was the UNITED States of America - at least that's what it says on our currency and legal documents. It seems though that people continue to find more and more reasons not to be united.
I have to go back to my comparison of the sun appearing after a hurricane here on the coast. The one thing I've seen about the human spirit and the true nature and character of Americans is that tragedy is the common denominator for us all, as is death. After a hurricane when buildings are destroyed and homes are damaged, when there is a shortage of drinking water, ice and the basic necessities, when trees are toppled, roads are obstructed, people are hurt and animals displaced; when the power is out, it's hot as blue blazes and no breeze in sight, no one cares if a person is a southern Baptist or a southern Buddhist. It doesn't matter if you drive a BMW or a VW. No one cares if you frequent the Country Club or the night club. Your skin can be black, white, yellow, red or green for that matter, but none of that is important. When you are without electricity and sweating like stuffed pigs; when you are rationing water and smell like you just spent the night in a chicken house and look like you’ve been lathered with Crisco Oil, it’s hard to tell what kind of pedigree you have. All you know, is that you’re neighbors, you’re family in a community of southern brothers and sisters. Those people who find a way to criticize in the middle of tragedy are obviously not feeling that tragedy themselves because if they were, the differences between them would go out the window in a heart beat.
This photo and what the reporter had to say stated it perfectly - no matter how much division, doubt, destruction, deception or devastation that is perpetrated against us or orchestrated to control us - as Americans, when the chips are down and our way of life is threatened, "we are one." We are the United States - not because we all think the same, believe the same or live the same, but because we all desire the same basic rights as citizens of the USA. My prayer is that we not allow the hatred of the terrorists and the radicals of our world breed more hatred and division. We don't have to agree on theology, philosophy, sociology or ideology nor do we have to stand toe to toe politically to get along and to respect one another. With freedom comes responsibility realizing that we aren't truly free if we only want it for ourselves.
In wake of this horrible attack on our country, I believe it is time to stop the internal fighting, to cease the riots, to put an end to the power struggles, to quit blaming each other for what is wrong with our country and start coming together to preserve what is right about our country and make it even better for our future and the future of our children. If we don't stand UNITED, we will be overtaken by our enemies without them having to lift one finger or at the least do very little.
"United we stand against those who seek to destroy our nation from without or within."