I try to make a point of writing on topics about which I actually know something, but this week I’m breaking that rule.
One of my dearest friends is also a Facebook friend, as is her lovely 16 year old daughter, whom I will call K. Just over a week ago I opened Facebook to find a frantic note from my friend asking K to get in touch, because a shooting had occurred at K’s school and reports were that two young girls were killed.
Naturally this caught and kept my attention until everything was resolved and my friends were both safely home.
I’ve been keeping in touch with the situation a little bit, because when you’re 16 years old, having two fellow students, kids your age, whom you might even know, die in a violent way can be pretty disturbing. And having to wait for news, and to see your daughter in such a situation can disturb moms a bit too. I’m happy to say that my friends are strong healthy people who are doing pretty well with this.
In following this event though, I came upon an entirely separate disturbing situation.
While this group of high school kids walks through the confusion and fear and grief associated with having two people that they know suddenly dead in a violent way, there are protesters standing outside their school waving signs condemning the two girls, and apparently the whole school, because the two girls who died were lesbian. This disturbs me because it’s hurting my friends, but it also really confuses me.
Firstly, a 15 year old child, in a moment of apparent emotional despair choose to end both her life and that of another child. Two families are grieving the loss of their children. One of them has the added horror of knowing that their child took the her own life. And the life of another human being. Is the question of these girls professed choices about sexuality really the most significant concern at a time like this?
Secondly, dear protester, what is the intended outcome of this is protest?
Are you trying to convince these two deceased young girls that they shouldn’t be homosexual? If so, at the risk of stating the blatantly obvious, and possibly further paining any of their loved ones who may read this, IT IS TOO LATE to affect the choices of these girls.
Are you trying to convince the school or the other children in it not to have lesbians in their midst? [note] On the chance that any Independence High School student should ever happen across this post, I want to be clear that I mean no disrespect in my use of the term ‘children’ in describing you here. I chose this term to make a point, and because it is the legal status under which most of you fall. My experience of you is limited to only one example, but if she is any indication, you are a mature, competent, and thoughtful group of people; certainly this has been indicated by your compassionate and dignified handling of this recent tragedy at your school. [/note] I’m pretty sure the school doesn’t get to choose whether or not to educate people based on their sexual orientation. And frankly, what benefit would there be if they did? Uneducated people with whom you disagree will remain just as distressing to you, and I’m doubting that rendering them unable to get a job, support themselves, pay taxes will improve that any. And as for the students, they need to grieve the luxury of believing ‘things like this only happen to other people or on TV’, which they no longer have, regardless of how they individually may have felt about either of these girls. And they need to grieve to remain human in an inhumane world.
Is the point to publicise what the Bible says about homosexuality? This is the United States, love, anyone here who isn’t already clear on this almost certainly doesn’t care what the Bible has to say about anything. But if you truly feel the need to educate people on this particular Biblical stance, there are ways to do so that are humane. And I suspect you’ll get a better hearing from people who haven’t been alienated or traumatised by your cruelty in their time of horror and loss.
Or to convince those who do not agree? Seriously, does this strike you as the logical or quick path to influencing people’s hearts? If you’ve done nothing else in this protest, you have created solidarity among these young people, with each other and with these two young girls who have died.
People who probably never gave a thought to the moral rightness or wrongness of homosexuality, or even hold similar views on it to yours, now have a more thoughtful and empathetic perspective because in their tragedy they’ve been forced to pull together to face a common enemy. You.
Is the point just to have your views expressed? If so speak with the principal – in his or her office. Picket a school board meeting. Make an appointment with your state senator. Or surely, in a place as large as the Phoenix metropolitan area, there must be at least one gay rights activist organisation. Run by grown ups. Grown ups who have dedicated themselves to this issue. Speak with them.
Not with a bunch of traumatised school children.
Is the point just to inflict pain? I get that. I do. Sometimes life just sucks and nothing helps, but at least if someone else is miserable you aren’t alone. Not the most noble stance, perhaps, but we’ve all been there. But you know, even in pain we can maintain a degree of decency. There are adults you can lash out at. Or you can speak with a trusted friend or a professional counselor. It is not necessary to hurt confused, grieving children. There isn’t a Geneva convention for emotional warfare, but we can choose to live as if there is.
It isn’t easy to choose kindness and decency over anger or cruelty when your most crucial beliefs are challenged, but it is possible. And it’s right. And I strongly suspect it is designed to be the most effective way to connect and gain common ground, too.