Another week, another mass shooting. About 2 a.m. June 12, a man walked into Pulse, a packed gay bar in Orlando, Florida, and gunned down 49 men and women out for a night of dancing, drinking and fun. Another 53 were wounded.
Even though the shooter had been investigated by the FBI multiple times for suspected ties to terrorist groups, he had no trouble buying a military-grade automatic killing machine.
Perhaps because many of the victims of this latest mass murder died on the dance floor, I was reminded of something I wrote a few days after the attacks on Sept. 11, 2001. The headline on the column was “Keep dancin’.”
I believe much of what I wrote back then still applies, especially when we, as individuals and as a nation, are faced with unspeakable horrors, such as what happened at Pulse.
A large portion of that column 15 years ago dealt with a song called “I Hope You Dance,” a hit at the time for country singer Lee Ann Womack. The message of the song is that we should all make the most of the time we have here on Earth.
Here’s a sample of the lyrics.
“May you never take one single breath for granted. Promise me that you’ll give faith a fighting chance, and when you get the choice to sit it out or dance, I hope you dance.”
I wrote about how too often when faced with that choice, I have chosen to remain seated, usually out of fear. But, I wrote, I was going to change my ways.
I realized that while a little caution is a good thing, we can try so hard to protect ourselves from harm — to stay alive — that we actually quit living.
The men and women who lost their lives at Pulse no longer have to decide whether to sit it out or dance. That choice was made for them by a sicko with a gun.
But it’s pretty clear to me that up until the moment their lives were snuffed out, these people were dancing, and not just on the dance floor.
“I hope you never fear those mountains in the distance, never settle for the path of least resistance,
“Livin’ might mean takin’ chances but they’re worth takin,’
“Lovin’ might be a mistake but it’s worth makin.’”
While the LGBT community still faces many obstacles on the road to equality, it is bravely climbing every mountain in the way. And any openly gay person in America, or anywhere else in the world, has certainly not settled for the path of least resistance. Hardly.
What really motivated a mentally unstable man to enter a gay nightclub and commit the largest mass shooting in U.S. history? Was it religion? Was it hatred? Was he struggling with his own sexuality? We may never know for sure.
We do know that besides 49 bodies, he left behind hundreds of grieving friends, families and loved ones whose lives are forever changed.
We also know that even as the tragedy in Orlando was unfolding, those lucky enough to escape were jumping into action trying to save complete strangers, plugging gunshot wounds with their T-shirts and carrying the wounded to safety and to medical care.
I have a difficult time making sense of the senseless. And I do not understand hating or harming in the name of God. But I do know that love, in any form, will always overcome hate.
And dancing will always be preferable to sitting it out.