People understand post-traumatic stress syndrome a little better these days, primarily I think because so many of our combat veterans suffer from it.
It is one thing, however, to fall to the ground when you hear a car backfire, your body reacting as if it is still in a war zone, and it is quite another to have those feelings while you really are still trying to survive a war.
Many women and some men were triggered by the Stanford rapist story. 1 in 3 women have suffered a sexual assault. They know it can happen to them again. They know the perpetrator will likely go free. They are living in a war zone.
People of color are triggered when the police shoot yet another unarmed youth. They live with that violence everyday of their lives, knowing it can happen at any time to them or to their children. They know the perpetrator will likely go free. They live in a war zone.
There are so many terrorists who are out to do harm to some group or culture they have decided is not worthy of life, of freedom, of love.
Some terrorists allege they are Muslim, but terrorists, people whose acts terrorize whole communities, come in many forms.
The Santa Barbara shooter wanted to kill women. He, like every single rapist, was a convert of radical patriarchy.
And what of the white Christian terrorist who murdered people at prayer in a black church in Charleston? What of the white Christian terrorist who killed the people at Planned Parenthood in Colorado Springs, or the one who murdered George Tiller while he attended church services?
What of Dan White who assassinated Harvey Milk and George Moscone in their city hall offices in 1978? (The memory of that day came to my mind this week, as did the fact that White only served 5 years for the crime. Clean-cut white Christian men, almost always get a pass no matter what they do.)
What of the white racist terrorist who killed his Muslim neighbors?
And now Orlando, yet another trauma, yet another massacre committed in a sanctuary.
Terrorists strike a lot of places these days: movie theaters, schools, shopping malls, marathons, and even army bases. These traumatize almost everyone. But those of us who live on the margins, who are not straight white cis-gender Christian men, suffer a deeper trauma. We are specific targets and we know it. And we know that some will cheer when we die.
There are ways to survive in war zones. The answer is not more guns. The answer is more love. I am going to keep reaching for love.
And I am going to remember Harvey’s words and keep fighting to burst down the doors of racism, sexism, ableism, classism, homophobia, transphobia, Islamophobia, and any attitude or philosophy that defines any human being as somehow less worthy of life, of freedom, of love. Blessings on all of us, who know, deep down in our gut, as Audre Lorde said so well, “We were never meant to survive.”
Where will our grief go
If our tears should ever dry?
Where will our fear go
If our heartbeats ever slow down again?
Where will our rage go
If our bodies ever stop their shaking?
Our lives, our loves, are a river
Try to damn it though they do
Kill us with bullets and Bibles
Ban us from bathrooms
And let the white rapists go free.
Still we flow
On forever on
Until we finally swim free
In that warm sea
Filled by our tears.