I've been thinking quite a bit about the tragedy that took place in Orlando. Being an empath, I need to stay guarded at times because there's always a chance I will pick up too much negativity or emotion and find myself severely depressed. I'll be honest, the last few weeks have been really hard on me, and I don't want to make that worse.
However, I have been considering the idea that the shooter in Orlando wanted to kill all of those innocent people for no other reason than they were different.
I feel strongly that even as a child I understood what made people different and how to be compassionate. I remember at a young age being devoted to Amnesty International and the campaign to ban Apartheid. Live Aid wasn't just a cool concert for me. The We Are The World and Do They Know It's Christmas videos were not just new ways to see my favorite bands on MTV.
One of my first experiences with discrimination of any kind was when my parents took me to Pearl Harbor when I was in 8th grade. (If you haven't been, you really must. It changed my life!) One of the first things you did before going out to the Arizona Memorial was go into a theater to watch a documentary. It detailed everything that happened December 7, 1941. All of the lives that were lost and the destruction was overwhelming, even for me at that age. I watched my extremely strong and stoic father cry like a baby. Walking out, our eyes were adjusting to the sunlight, when we heard a lot of loud laughter and shouting. I looked down the steps, and four buses of Japanese tourists were running up the stairs gleefully.
I was livid. I was just a kid, and I was angry because I got it, and they had no clue. It took me many years to get over that event. Even to this day, when I think of that amazing trip, that image flows back into my mind. I had to teach myself that those particular people were not at fault for Pearl Harbor and not all Japanese people were bad. After such an emotional experience, it was a tough lesson to learn.
I may not have always had a firm grasp on the stark reality of these situations, especially when I joined PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals). I couldn't have been much older than 13, but when they started to advocate that members set the lobsters free at the local grocery store, I'd had enough.
Let's think about differences for a minute. I like tattoos; I have a tattoo and plans to get another one. Would I cover my whole body in tattoos? No, I would not...but do I hate you because you have? Absolutely not. You're just a little different from me, and you're allowed to be!
Take one of my favorite TV shows for example. There are some people who will probably disagree with me on this, but I adore the show Sister Wives and the entire Brown family. When I first started watching, it was out of morbid curiosity. I've watched many documentaries on Warren Jeffs, who is a Mormon that used his position in the church to abuse children, especially young girls. So, I was shocked that a polygamist family would make their situation public.
To be clear, the Brown family is not and never will be a part of the same Mormon sect as Warren Jeffs. They are Fundamentalist Mormons, and are completely different from Warren Jeffs.
I can't put into words how grateful I am that they chose to come forward. The more I watched, the more I fell in love with the family. Would I ever share my husband? OH HELL NO. I'm far too jealous to ever follow that path, but I do see the many benefits of polygamy as it relates to their family. Sometimes I catch myself thinking what a blast it would be to have sister wives! It's almost as if they're best friends! Well, I know from faithfully watching the show that it's not a blast for them 100% of the time, but they are a strong and happy family. I wouldn't consider polygamy for myself, but I do respect their right to make that choice. They've always said, "You don't have to agree with us, but please allow us the right to make our own choices."
Another example for me would be some of the shows about little people. I didn't know anything about the struggles of a little person, aside from the obvious height issues. I never considered the discrimination they would face. I just didn't consider them at all. Shows like Little Women LA, Little Women NY and Little Women Atlanta may be an awful lot of drama and silly arguments, but I have learned from them. I understand the differences in the types of Dwarfism. I've seen them struggle to conceive a healthy child. I've witnessed how they're pigeon-holed into demeaning roles in the entertainment business.
I remember asking my husband, "Why would a little person want to have children? After all of the physical issues they face, why would they want a child to go through all of that as well?" There's a chance that they will have an average sized child, but it seemed to me that they were far more likely to have a baby with Dwarfism. You know what I figured out? It's because they are human beings with the same types of values as the rest of the world. They are completely aware that their child may have to have surgery at some point in their life, but they still want to complete their families. Then it occurred to me, anyone can have a baby with an illness or birth defect! Two average sized parents can have a little person. Every pregnancy has some risks. Little people are different, and they deserve a happy life regardless of those differences.
I could go on and on about how different everyone is. The shooter in Orlando was a Muslim, was he not? I don't take that information and decide to hate every other Muslim in the world. Like anyone else, I worry about what some of the Muslim terrorist groups are plotting, but the same could be said for any religious sect. There's hatred everywhere, we can't deny that.
Do you know why I don't hold people's differences against them? Because I'm different! I am mentally ill, and I expect the same amount of courtesy and compassion that anyone does. I don't always get that consideration, but you can be damn sure I'll keep fighting to get it. What if a particular group of people decided I was too different?
It's my opinion that we all deserve respect for the ways that we are different until we prove that we don't deserve it. Obviously, someone that kills more than fifty people and injures nearly as many does not deserve our respect. There is no question about what he did. It's a fact that none of us can escape. I completely understand the theory of innocent until proven guilty, and I stand by it. If someone is clearly guilty, any concept of respect goes out the window for me. If there's reasonable doubt, I take that case by case.
One thing I won't do is lump a bunch of people together because someone that may share their way of life did something horrible. I'm asking the very same thing of the general public every single day. Please do not look at me the same way you would look at a serial killer that is mentally ill. I would never hurt another human being in that way and to assume I would is nothing short of discrimination. I'm only asking for the respect that every human being deserves until they do something so grievous, they no longer deserve that consideration.