I thought that I could no longer be shocked by the news that comes out of the U.S. nowadays, but Sunday morning showed me how wrong I was.
As I scrolled through Twitter, the headlines of 50 people dead and as many more injured in a nightclub shooting came pouring through my feed. The shooter’s target was Orlando, Fla.’s gay community. Over the next few days the media will pick apart his reasons for doing what he did – hate, anger, religion, etc. – but in the end, it doesn’t matter. Because nothing that happened in that man’s life can justify or explain why he chose to kill innocent people.
Hate is a strange emotion and it’s one that I don’t understand when it’s targeted at a group of people. I don’t care who another person loves; I care whether they pick up their trash or are kind to animals. How hate is given a platform on social media is also deeply troubling.
Last week I noticed several journalists with multiple brackets (((like this))) around their names on Twitter. We looked it up. The brackets are a quick way for neo-Nazis to identify and make searchable Jewish people on Twitter. Once identified, those people are spammed with Hitler references and death threats. To make it harder to target the Jewish community, others have taken to adding brackets to their names.
The misogyny rampant on the Internet is well-documented as well. I don’t feel the need to repeat it as the hate is not what I want readers to remember.
This isn’t the column I expected to write today. I planned to talk about the City of Nanaimo’s core review and the council retreat tomorrow to discuss priorities. I wanted to write about how the city is finally, hopefully heading in a forward direction. But perhaps I still am.
Sunday was Nanaimo’s first-ever Pride Parade, an opportunity for the city’s gay community to celebrate who they are, be accepted by citizens and promote acceptance and love. It seemed the perfect antidote to the Florida man’s hate.
I joined throngs of people who lined Commercial Street for the event. All ages, all races; some in costume, many not. And as the parade turned the corner near Flying Fish and Nanaimo Pride president Rick Meyers and Nanaimo Mayor Bill McKay walked into view, cheers erupted from the hundreds of folks lining the street.
Nanaimo is often unfairly classified as a red-neck town, but that event showed how welcoming, inclusive and progressive the city can be.
In the coming days, I expect Dr. Martin Luther King’s words on love to be quoted frequently, but instead I’ll look to the late Jack Layton for a Canadian perspective because he said it perfectly: love is better than anger. Hope is better than fear. Optimism is better than despair. So let us be loving, hopeful and optimistic. And we’ll change the world.
The goal of an idealist is to leave the world a little better than you found it. Sunday morning the world was bleak, with sadness, anger and pessimism abounding. But one positive event that promoted love and acceptance helped change that and as the sky darkens, my heart is light and I realize that those who organized the Pride Parade, those who marched and those who supported from the sidelines did their part to make this world a better place.
If any of us are lucky enough to have that opportunity, I hope we take it.