My heart shattered

[CN: Mass shootings; ableist and sanist slurs]

When I saw the first reports of the Orlando shooting, it was just as I was about to go to sleep, and I shut myself off from reading any of them with the words “Oh, it’s happened again.” I had to do that because if I didn’t, I knew that I would be up all night.

I woke up the next day and my heart shattered.

My heart shatters for the people whose lives were cut short. My heart shatters for their loved ones whose lives will now be divided by that traumatic loss. I know what that’s like to have one part of my life before the horrific thing and the other part after.

My heart shatters for the people in hospital. My heart shatters for their loved ones who are keeping bedside vigils – hoping their loved ones will recover while simultaneously feeling guilty that they are able to have that hope.

My heart shatters for the people who witnessed and survived that horror. For many of them, their nightmare is only beginning because I know what it’s like to know that a slight twist of fate was all that was responsible for their survival. I know the sleepless nights, the restless sleep interrupted by nightmares where the memories have morphed and warped into visions too frightening for any horror movie.

My heart shatters for the young people who were on the brink of developing enough courage to come out to their loved ones, and have now realised the extent of the risk they face in doing so, so they hide their true selves for a little longer; always uncomfortable in their own skin.

My heart shatters at all the hate that follows all these horrific things. The hate always follows the same path. People who have never ever expressed support for the group to which the victims belonged before they became victims suddenly clamour to declare their support. They redirect their bigotry. They blame it on people like that other marginalised group over there. Then supporters of that group will react and say that it’s not them, it’s that other marginalised group over there…

And eventually the bigotry redirects to people like me. You know? The crazy ones, the lunatics, the madmen, the unhinged, the insane, the mentally disturbed, the unstable…

And while everyone is doing that and saying that, they’re distancing themselves from the murderer. They’re saying “I could never do that so it must be someone not like me. It must be people like them.”

My heart shatters. I try and read every story of every victim. I try remember their names. I remember that they were people with their whole lives ahead of them and they were killed because of hate. And then I shut down because I can’t take in any more.

I can’t take in any more because eventually it will all be pointed at people like me. While you’re turning us into your monsters, we’re here grieving for the loss the world has endured and endures every day because of hate.

Shifting hate. Redirecting bigotry. We, the ones with the different minds, lose our who-ness in all of this. We are hated not for who we are, but for what we represent. All the while, we hurt as much as you do.

You mock us. You laugh at us and call us social justice warriors as though those words are an insult. Of course, you don’t hate anyone. You tolerate difference, so you’re not like the people who commit these acts of terror – except begrudging tolerance builds up like a pressure cooker and eventually explodes. You tolerate difference but you have friends who don’t and you don’t say anything to them because they’re harmless, right? They would never have the capacity to do such awful things… until they do.

I want you to know that the murderers, the perpetrators of these unspeakable acts are exactly like all of us, including you with your impeccable record of sanity.

They’re like all of us. They are people who live in a world characterised by inequality. They are people who lived in a world where it is all too easy to point fingers at different groups of people and increase the hatred towards that group. They are people who expressed their bigoted beliefs, and people like you and I remained silent. They didn’t interpret our silence as condemnation. They interpreted it as agreement. They saw our silence as an endorsement.

It’s on all of us.