Editor’s Desk 6.1.17

By : Billy Manes
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For most of us, it’s been the year of our discontent: a slack-jawed reckoning with a grief that stretches city and countywide, a mourning that, for 12 months, confounded and consumed the entire world.

Even the uncomfortable cultural things that swarm in after the bomb drops – helicopters and newscasters and national media hovering around each tear we’ve been able to drop, each one of those drying our wells of stamina and breaking our private slouches – have served as difficult oil clouding our water. But never once have they cracked our resolve. Orlando strong? Yes. Orlando hurt? More than you can even imagine.

Nobody likes anniversaries in the stages of grieving. It means, in part, that we’re just that one year further distanced from someone – or many – we loved. Likewise, few are happy to recount the terror that brought that grief into their lives, to feel it all over again. (“Pretend you have a remote control in your hand every time it comes up,” my therapist has told me more than once. “Then press fast-forward.”) Wallowing would have gotten us nowhere in the wake of the Pulse massacre in the early hours of June 12, 2016. Friends, though – the same kinds of friends, or even acquaintances – that carried the injured out of the club and into the hospital down a crowded thoroughfare, they are indispensable mirrors, reflections reminding us who we are inside. We care about each other.

Orlando has numerous friends, we came to know over the year – within and without. For a city that seems to look down at sidewalks as it passes its fellow residents by, a city often distracted by the mundane machinations of commutes and financial concerns, Orlando has achieved the remarkable feat of pulling those seeming seams into a pastiche of kindness. In some ways, it reminds me of watching neighbors bringing out the chainsaws to help neighbors move trees after the hurricanes more than a decade ago. Who are these people? Why have we never even said hello before?

We should talk more often.

After June 12, thousands lined up to donate blood for the 49 dead and the 53 injured in that nightclub nightmare, not because standing in the sun on a hot summer day is an act to be applauded, but because they knew that, in times like these, the masses are needed. This was no time to hide behind your couch cushions and cry at the television broadcasts. This was a time of people connecting – arm and arm, blood to blood – in the manner that societies do when tragedy strikes.

Also, our local society changed in a big way. Previously muted voices from the LatinX community – the shooting did, after all, happen on Latin Night at Pulse – have demanded and received their seats at the imaginary LGBTQ table of political and social direction. And together, we’ve adjusted our spines and our combined awareness to better serve those around us. Alliances have been formed, ideas exchanged, pressure exponentially increased and purpose – ah, purpose – it has never been stronger in our community. From each candle-lit memorial, to each survivor changing hearts and minds in government houses and television boxes, the response to Pulse has been impactful, beautiful and life changing. Yes, we may look over our shoulders more often, but we also know that, more than likely, that glance will show an ally who, upon personal re-examination, has become a quiet activist. It’s not OK to hate the LGBTQ community anymore. It’s not OK to hate the LatinX community anymore. It’s not OK to hate.

We present to you this issue as a memorial to these minutes, these moments, this year – all of which have brought us new understanding. In these pages, you’ll find the history of Pulse along with the historic preservation of items – some just stuffed animals left out in the rain, some stained by tears and the wax of candles – left to remind us, to remind them, of how we are all individuals who need to be recognized and remembered with dignity.

Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer, Orange County Mayor Teresa Jacobs and national Human Rights Campaign President Chad Griffin all chime in with their thoughts on moving forward herein. Our long emotional winter may take some of its discontent with its temperatures, but we’ll keep fighting for equality no matter what – not only for the 49, but for the rest of us who think we need better years and less violence. We hope you’ll enjoy our proverbial yearbook. And we hope you’ll reflect as we’re reflecting, and then advance into our next chapter along with us. We’re still here.

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