Mass Shootings Again: We Still Love, Don’t We?

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Welcome to Friday, August 9, 2019.

This has been a tough week for our nation’s attitude as reflected in social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter following the high-profile mass shootings that occurred in Ohio and Texas this past weekend.

As with anything that happens in our human society here in the United States of America, the ripple effects of events that reverberate through our populous can manifest in either very positive manners or, unfortunately, in the nastiest ways.

I have an interactive story to share with you if you’re still reading this that is related to what’s happening in our country when it comes to everyday interactions. Imagine what it must be like if the following happened to you:

You’re a middle-aged Caucasian man, handsome in features, and having to board a flight to attend to a family situation out-of-state.  As you enter the departing plane, you sit down in the middle seat of a row containing three seats in your designated row, there is an older woman already sitting to your right.

A couple minutes after you’ve gotten seated, to your left comes a young man who is wearing a “Buttigieg 2020” t-shirt and he nods a greeting toward you and the lady next to you as he sits down. You shift as is customary to allow your new seat-mate to have enough room as he buckles his lap-belt.  The woman to your right also shifts, but in an agitated manner after having bent down and looked to the left to see this passenger.

As everyone is settling in on the plane, the woman to your right becomes physically animated with her hand gestures and begins to engage you in conversation.  Maybe “conversation” is an exaggeration as she seems to be speaking to you without having introduced herself or even asked you what’s your name. Her voice’s volume has raised as she starts with: “You know what, these liberals are just getting out of control. They are bringing this nation down and causing all these holes in our society. This is just crazy, how can we operate our democracy with these gays and such that are destroying the moral fabric of our nation? All the homosexuals and Jews just need to be rounded up and shot. They wonder why these massacres are occurring, we need to start with the problems and eliminate them, right?”

You are ingesting this “conversation”, these words strung together with a combination of rusty, barbed wire and battery acid spraying all over your face when clearly the recipient is not truly addressing yourself but the young man that is wearing the 2020 presidential bid by Buttigieg.

Normally, you are able to let moments like this go and ignore the person spewing such rhetoric…but today is not that day.  You are a gay man and this lady just told you that she believes that you and all your “kind” along with others she’s labeled as unfit should be rounded up and eliminated from physical existence on this Earth.

You snap, inside yourself, like a wooden stick during a cold winter’s day in a dry climate—your temper just snaps in half with a CRACK as you respond to this woman sitting to your right (still don’t know her name): “You know, you’re right, we should start with eliminating those who are so close-minded and harsh in judgement”.

The lady looks intently into your light blue eyes that are undoubtedly sparkling with pain and disdain simultaneously and she nods toward you saying, “Why, yes, that’s a good start. I agree.”

To which you quip back, “Because, you know, I’m one of those gays that you mention should be rounded up and shot.  So I would appreciate if you just leave me alone now and refrain from speaking to me again.” You shift your body to the left as you use your U-shaped travel pillow to allow yourself some rest.  Silence ensues. Did the Buttigieg guy hear all of this? Does it matter?

This story doesn’t stop here.

You attend to the family business for a couple of days. It’s time to leave now and board another flight back to your home city.

This has been a rough passage of trip, you don’t care for air travel as it is. You’re ready for your Tito’s Vodka and soda as you board this home-bound flight.

You have a window seat in a two-seat row.  After seating yourself, soon thereafter your seat-mate who is a black woman dressed in a beautiful magenta skirt suit comes to sit to your left.  Again, as is customary, you shift appropriately so the lady has enough room to situate herself as the plane settles into take-off mode.

The drink cart time has come as the flight is now at a cruising altitude.  When the stewardess comes to take your row’s order you ask for your long-awaited “Tito’s” and are given an alternative vodka selection and asked whether that will work.

At this very moment, the lady to your left starts to speak loudly in a Jamaican accent at what seems to be either you or at the stewardess: “Oh no, I’m not sitting here with this guy drinking!”

Reminder that you’re a good 54 years young and know that you can do whatever you want as a gay man in the USA who has completed a tough trip and just needs to decompress in peace.  As if on cue and responding to this truth, the stewardess doesn’t acknowledge what this seat-mate of yours just said, only asks, “Would you still like the vodka sir?”.

“Ah yes, I’ll take two bottles please,” you respond immediately.  You proceed to ask for two cups of ice to boot. The lady next to you continues to rail on about, “Oh no, I am NOT going to sit with him as he drinks!” No one is paying attention to her, including yourself who really just wants to avoid another verbal altercation and numb the pain of the last few days.

Resolute not to engage at this point, you toward the window and sipping your liquid therapy at this moment. Your seat-mate harrumphs and pulls out her iPad and begins to tappity-tap on it.  This actually calms you as you’re grateful that it seems she’s now distracted and no longer calling you out as if you’re some town drunkard hell-bent on corrupting the entire airplane full of weary travelers.

Being such close quarters, your seat-mate is engaged in a game on her digital device that’s large enough that you can read what she’s doing.  It’s a Bible verse/theme game.  She visibly gets stumped and is uneasily moving around in her seat as she’s trying to figure out the answer.

Perhaps against your better judgement you lean in and whisper to her, “Job”…she glances at you with both a look of horror and incredulous surprise asking, “What?”. You repeat, “Job, the answer is Job. Try it”.  She puts it in and immediately is gratified with positive reinforcement that she got it right. No thanks from her but then again, this is a fluke, right?

This type of scenario repeats itself several times over the course of an hour into the flight, you’re giving her answers like “Ecclesiastes” and “Gospel of Matthew”.  By the end of it all, this Jamaican lady is astounded at your knowledge of the Christian Bible and says to you, “I misjudged you, keep reading the Word of God, you’re doing amazing.”

To that you simply say with a gentle tone and soft smile, “Thanks, I accept your apology”.

Soon you fall asleep, putting a pause on the button of your life that seems to be full of these moments of late—mass judgements and angry people all emboldened to express their feelings whether it be online in social media platforms or while traveling in a metal tube in the sky to complete strangers.


Note: This story scenario is based on a true story as retold to me and others by a man named “Joseph”. I’m withholding his true name and position for protection but I’m indebted to him for giving me a window into what it can be like to be in a certain segment of our society and how painful and detrimental it can be for all involved when interactions such as these arise.

Politics and religions aside, I pray we can find that we all trust in Love and proceed forward in this nation with the mindset that there is much more that binds us together in unison than what drives us apart.

R.V.S.B.

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