Oh, Birmingham. You Could Have Been Orlando.


orlando

By Joey Kennedy

Like most people in the world, Orlando messed with me. That 49 people and many others could be killed and wounded by a madman with a military weapon he bought legally messes with me. What has our nation become?

Sandy Hook. Blacksburg. Charleston. Aurora. Boston. Lancaster County. Oklahoma City. Colorado Springs. Binghamton. Oak Creek. Roseburg. Chattanooga. Dekalb. Isla Vista. Oakland. Fort Hood. Washington, D.C. Omaha. Tucson. Huntsville. San Bernardino. Santa Monica. Columbine. Others.  Too many others. What has our nation become? Who are we?

Orlando really messed with me because my daughter Nicole is a lesbian. My nephew Chris is now my niece Ashley. Many of my closest friends are gay. And married. Live with it, Roy Moore.

It’s hateful rhetoric like that from Moore that leads to massacres like Orlando. And it’s gun laws like we have in this country, thanks to Congress and the National Rifle Association, which lead to massacres like Orlando.

Orlando makes me cry because Orlando happened. And because Orlando could be Birmingham.

The Orlando nightclub Pulse isn’t much different than the Birmingham nightclub Quest, which also caters to the LGBTQ community.

How does somebody hate so much that they kill innocent people? With a gun they shouldn’t even be able to buy?

The answer: Because of the rhetoric of Moore and his minions. Because of the madness of Donald Trump. Because of our gun laws that make it open season on every one of us.

It could happen anywhere.

Yes, here in Birmingham. In a state where hate for those who are different is worn as a badge of honor by some, it’s surprising such mass killing hasn’t happened in Alabama.

Thank goodness, it hasn’t. Let’s pray it doesn’t.

Orlando. Sandy Hook. Blacksburg. Charleston. Aurora. Boston. Lancaster County. Oklahoma City. Colorado Springs. Binghamton. Oak Creek. Roseburg. Chattanooga. Dekalb. Isla Vista. Oakland. Fort Hood. Washington, D.C. Omaha. Tucson. Huntsville. San Bernardino. Santa Monica. Columbine. Others.  Too many others.

Of course, those who know me know I don’t really have a daughter. But Nicole is the closest I’ll ever come. She was a volleyball player at UAB, and took my wife, Veronica’s, composition class. Then she asked us to accompany her to volleyball events because she is from California and her parents couldn’t attend.

Veronica and I became close to her, and she adopted us. As her maja and faja. We call her daja. Nicole became our daughter. And when she came out to us, we couldn’t have been more proud. She was being who she is.

That anybody would target her for harm, or her partner, Sara Kate, because of who they are, makes my heart hurt. Makes my head ache. But there are those who would. Who do.

Oh, Orlando.

I’ve spent hours at Quest with Nicole and her friends. We danced and drank and talked about life. We laughed and celebrated and watched drag shows. Nobody got hurt. We just had fun.

Just like the hundreds of happy souls who were at the Pulse in Orlando on that horrible Sunday last month. Until a deranged individual showed up and started shooting. With a gun he shouldn’t have been able to get.

Don’t think it couldn’t happen here. There’s so much hate in public rhetoric today that tragedies like Orlando are all but sanctioned.

Words have power. Great power. This I know, because I am a person of words. Words can inspire, and words can conspire.

Donald Trump’s words, as simple as they are, are hateful and incite violence. It’s violence that he celebrates. That his followers initiate.

Oh, Orlando.

A couple years ago, I got a Facebook message from a relative. It was titled: “I’m the niece you never knew you had.”

My nephew Chris, who was always gender conflicted, had started the process to become the woman he is. He announced it to us in that Facebook message. The process is completed now, and Ashley Nicole is a happy woman, living in Texas with her partner, Jessa. Ashley is a lawyer and is successful, and she’s a great stepmom to Jessa’s children.

But there are those who wish to see Ashley dead. Because of who she is, not what she’s done. There are those who wish to see Nicole and Sara Kate dead. Because of who they are, not what they’ve done.

Oh, Orlando.

We’ve got to stop hating. If you hate, you know it, and you’ve got to stop. Now.

Our country is hurting. Again. Because of Orlando. Sandy Hook. Blacksburg. Charleston. Aurora. Boston. Lancaster County. Oklahoma City. Colorado Springs. Binghamton. Oak Creek. Roseburg. Chattanooga. Dekalb. Isla Vista. Oakland. Fort Hood. Washington, D.C. Omaha. Tucson. Huntsville. San Bernardino. Santa Monica. Columbine. And others.  Too many others. What has our nation become?

Our only life is this one. Make it worth living. •

 

4 Responses to “Oh, Birmingham. You Could Have Been Orlando.”

  1. Wanda Morgan says:

    May I be allowed to list this column at A+?
    Thank you

  2. Dale Short says:

    Beautifully and eloquently said.

  3. Joanna maclay says:

    This is brilliant and so needed. Sensitivity to the subject makes his writing even more vital. I only wish more haters would read this.

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