I’ve penned about six different posts in the past two weeks. I’ve talked about gun violence and sorrow, atheism and gender inequality. I have struggled with the U.S. rape and gun culture. I have mourned for the loss of life in Orlando and thought about the journey that those who lived will endure while they heal.
I have posted none of them because there is no way to encompass the sadness and loss. No words for the survivors or the dead of the Pulse Nightclub shooting that will change or alleviate their suffering. No words that will encompass the respect I feel for a brave, 23-year-old woman who read a statement to her rapist or the rage for a Danish woman who was treated as a criminal in Qatar after she reported being drugged and raped to the authorities. I have no words.
Well, that’s not entirely true, is it?
Here are my thoughts, do with them what you will. I will shout into the void and maybe some of these will land in the ears of those who need to hear them, in a universe of infinite possibilities, it is certainly okay to hold out some hope.
- Be unapologetically you. It took 46 years for me to get there, but I did, so can you. I am a cis-woman, white, pansexual, atheist. I have been married to a cis-man whom I love with all my heart for ten years. I am a rape survivor. I love dogs. I am an unrepentant nerd. I cannot tolerate seeing animals or people abused. I struggle with Lupus and Fibromyalgia. I have suffered from Major Depressive Disorder, Generalized Anxiety Disorder, and PTSD as a result of my experiences with rape. I am a social worker. I could go on and on and on but you get the gist. Ignorance wins when it makes you ashamed to be yourself. Don’t you dare let that happen. Live your truth and love yourself and if you can’t do that reach out and find a way to get there.
- Educate yourself. Do it! If you support gun control measures, then get off your proverbial ass and start reading. Read everything you can and be prepared when some nitwit says “Well, you know, Chicago has the highest murder rate and the strictest gun control policies, so clearly gun control isn’t the answer.” Know the numbers and the arguments and don’t be afraid to cite them in the face of ignorance. Investigate the other side of the debate, even if it makes you nauseous. That is information you can use to fuel your own education.
- Embody sound and fury with substance. I am angry. I am enraged that a man could call 911, pledge allegiance to the Islamic state after opening fire in a LGBT+ night club, and experts are still debating his motivations. That individual purposely targeted the LGBT+ community from hate born of religious certainty. If religious certainty of any stripe offends you, be it Christian, Muslim, Buddhist, Baha’i, or Scientologist, then say so without apology. And when you are challenged with the hackneyed argument that you are guilty of that certainty as well, don’t be afraid to fight back. If you are like me, an atheist who believes that in a universe of infinite possibilities, then yes, those folks could be right, but there are just that INFINITE POSSIBILITIES. No one has the right to take a person’s life, degrade, defile, or debase that person, or subjugate another. Full stop. There is no argument that makes it okay. None. Own your thoughts and actions and do not be afraid to give them a voice.
- Stand strong in the face of another’s fear. People who are confronted by their own ignorance get awful tetchy. They will call you names. They will tell you that you are going to hell. They will tell you that they’ll pray for you. They will condescend when you cite well-researched statistics as if being educated is some kind of insult to their humanity, after which they will also cite statistics and make bold, sweeping generalizations. Be strong and don’t give in to their hate and ignorance. Don’t yell or name-call. Remember, those folks want you irrationally angry so they can point to you and say “see, they are just another flaming liberal with an agenda.”
Thank you for reading this, you beautiful, worthwhile human being.
Want to get started on that education? Here are some links, I live in the United States, so my information is going to apply to the US. This is not exhaustive by any means. Please note that there are links to both the home page of the organization (in regular type) and the issue following (in italics). Some of these sites represent views from the far Christian right. I have included them because I think it is important to know what the other side thinks and how they are organizing.
Political Representation: Know who represents you, how they vote, who gives them money, and where they contribute their dollars. KNOW YOUR RIGHTS!
American Civil Liberties Union – Know Your Rights
Lambda Legal – Your Rights
USA.gov – How laws are made and how to research them, State Government
House.gov – The Legislative Process, Directory of Representatives
Congress.gov – Roll Call Votes by the US Congress
Senate.gov – Recent Senate Roll Call Votes, Senators of the 114th Congress
Federal Election Commission – Resources for Reporters & Transaction Query by Individual Contributor (It helps to learn who your representatives support & who supports them)
Lambda Legal – Your Rights
National Center for Lesbian Rights (NCLR) – National LGBT Legal Aid Forum
Human Rights Watch – LGBT Rights
Southern Poverty Law Center – LGBT Rights
LGBT Foundation – About Us (so many great resources, it’s worth a look!)
The Trevor Project – Resources
National Center on LGBT Aging – Find Resources in Your Area
Rape & Sexual Assault
Bureau of Justice Statistics – Rape and Sexual Assault
Centers for Disease Control & Prevention – The National Intimate Partner & Sexual Violence Survey
Women Organized Against Rape (WOAR) – Sexual Assault Resources
Rape, Abuse, & Incest National Network (RAINN) – Safety & Prevention, After Sexual Assault, Public Policy & Action
Pandora’s Project – Resources for Rape and Sexual Abuse survivors
National Constitution Center – The Second Amendment
Mother Jones – The Second Amendment Does Not Say What You Think it Does
National Rifle Association – NRA-ILA Institute for Legislative Action
Counsel on Foreign Relations – US Gun Policy: Global Comparisons
Fact Check.Org – Gun Rhetoric vs. Gun Facts
CNN.com – Guns in America
Religion & Politics
National Constitution Center – Clauses of the First Amendment
Cornell University Law School Legal Information Institute – First Amendment
American Atheists – What is Atheism
Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason & Science – News
NAE – National Association of Evangelicals – Mission & Work
Focus on the Family – Social Issues (A reader pointed out that is one of the more offensive right wing groups. They are right. I include them here because so many of the larger, non-denominational, Evangelical churches rely on them for agenda setting. Know your enemy. Believe me I struggled mentioning them because I find their policies so detestable).
The Economist – Religion and Politics: Preach to Me
Boston University College of Arts & Sciences – Why Can’t America Separate Religion & Politics and What that Means for the 2016 Elections
The Atlantic – Constitutional Myth #4: The Constitution Does Not Separate Church and State (before you throw your computer through a wall, read the article, it’s about how the Founding Fathers in NO WAY wanted a Christian Nation)