One of the things that makes me me is my ability to compartmentalize my life. Most of the time, we lawyers are spending our time getting paid to deal with other people's problems. I don't think I could do my job without the ability to separate what I'm doing, when I'm lawyering, from the other things that I do.
And when I have other responsibilities or problems or tough times, if I can't do something about a bad thing right away, I tend to push it out of my active thought pattern until I can do something.
Just don't think about it.
The same goes for events. Although the case could be made that these times we live in are the greatest times for humans of all time, and I certainly believe that the best for us is yet to come (and my only true regret in life is that I won't live long enough to see what we become), sometimes bad things happen. And I have to go on, somehow.
Just don't think about it.
A very bad thing happened late in the night last Saturday. A gunman who apparently had delusions of being affiliated with ISIL, who was a Muslim (although I'm not sure that it's entirely relevant to what happened), and who very probably was fighting some personal issues regarding his sexuality, armed himself with a high-powered rifle, went to a gay bar in Orlando, and opened fire, killing 49 people and wounding 53 others before he was killed by police.
I don't know how to deal with that emotionally, so I haven't. I've just pushed it back. That's my process.
Just don't think about it.
Instead, I've spent more time over the last week than I usually would explaining, yet again, why we need to make some changes to our laws and our processes to try to keep this kind of thing from happening again. I also wrote a blog entry, which you can read, expressing my frustration with people whose first, and usually only, inclination when hearing this horrible news is to hop onto social media and make sure that everybody sees they are #prayingfororlando.
But I haven't written or spoken publicly about the deep sadness I feel for what happened.
Now, with some space, I have to think about it, and to write about it.
I have more gay friends than I would have thought possible 25 years ago. I have always considered myself liberal and open-minded to a fault, but for a long time I had a blind spot when it came to homosexuals. I was for their freedom in theory, and I certainly respected their right to exist without persecution. I was for gay marriage long before it became legal anywhere in the world. But on a personal level, I felt uncomfortable around homosexuals. My immature brain told me that if I wanted a political career--something I considered long before--it would be better not to get too close, to distance myself from people who were pariahs in our society. If I ever wanted to be elected to high office, it would be better not to have any whispers about my being close with gays.
When I look back on that me, even though I understand the logic behind my rationalization, I very nearly don't recognize myself. As a general proposition, I've always thought that the best way to act was to be nice to everybody, even the people nobody else is nice to. Especially the people nobody is nice to. I never had a problem applying that principle to people who didn't have as much money as I did, or who weren't as smart as me, or who had physical or mental disabilities, or who were of a different race, or who just weren't popular. But I had a blind spot when it came to homosexuals. That was something to snicker about, to make cutting remarks, to tease. I'm sure the work "fag" escaped my lips on more than one occasion. I really don't know why I was like that. But I am deeply ashamed of it.
When I came to realize how wrongheaded I was, I changed. Now, my 40-year-old self doesn't care what people think about me. I count many gay people as friends, some as close friends (and I wish I had more). Somewhere along the line I began to recognize that if you have any hope of being a good person in this world, you have to be a friend to others first. If wealth or power or status flow from that, it's great. But being wealthy or powerful or famous is meaningless if you treat people poorly on your road to getting there.
When I think about what happened in Orlando, I think about N and J and T and D and C and B and E and T and A and R and L and P, and about so many more, some of whom are out and proud, and some who stand with one foot in the closet. I think about them having fun in a place that is supposed to be safe for them to be, where they can be themselves, not hiding from a society that still treats them as second-class citizens.
And I think about the violation of their safe space.
And I weep.
I almost never cry; I'm not wired that way; but this is an exception.
Just don't think about it, my brain pleads. I ignore the request.
It could have been any of them. And for someone out there like me, it was one of them. Or 49 of them.
It makes me angry. I'm full-on livid, in fact. You see, we're not done yet. We're on a long journey toward equality. We've taken a few really big steps, but the road ahead of us is perilous and filled with obstacles. I can see the future we are working toward, and it is beautiful. And 49 people who should've had the chance to see it, won't.
And it reminds me that I am mortal. I will not see how it turns out. None of us will. And that is my sadness.
But we can't stop.