Written by: Emily Greberman
I was standing on the sidewalk of Philadelphia with three of my friends while we were watching float-by-float, person after person, walk down the street, blasting music that everyone was singing along to. “We are family! I got all my sisters with me! We are family!” Everyone was in unison; everything was great, until I heard an extremely loud pop that came from the left side of me. I do not think that my heart has ever stopped beating for the length of time that it did in that moment. I looked over and I see a confetti popper shooting out large amounts of confetti into the air as people regained volume from the dead silence that was created.
This all happened on June 12th 2016, the day of the Orlando shooting that took 49 lives at an LGBTQ club. What many don’t know is that clubs are a safe haven for the LGBTQ community, and for those who aren’t out, it is a time where they can be who they are and don’t have to worry about what other people think. I have also come to realize that many of the victims were possibly not out to their family, and this is the way that their families made the discovery. The shooting was labeled as a hate crime, as well as terrorism because the shooter had ties to Isis and pledged his allegiance to the organization. Philadelphia Pride happens one day every year in which members in the LGBTQ community and allies get to celebrate how proud they are of being who they are, and have a whole day to show it. I went to Philly Pride last year, but this year the vibe was different. There was higher security, a little less cheering, but many, many more people. However when the confetti went off, so did a realization: What happened in Orlando could happen at any time of the day today.
Ever since gay marriage was legalized, many people thought that the fight was over, and that love had officially won. The event that took place in Orlando proved this to not be true. A man targeted this club because he saw two men kissing, and decided to take it upon himself to violently act on it. The subject of gun violence that took place in Orlando is something that NFTY is passionate about. NFTY is an organization that prides itself on its anti-gun violence campaign; as well it’s open community full of loving and different people. We as an organization make an effort to include people, provide equal opportunities, and makes sure to keep a no tolerance policy towards any discrimination. Therefore, it is time that we acknowledge that homophobia isn’t dead, racism isn’t dead, and that hate isn’t dead.
Laws are not going to change people. It is through our words and our actions that we are going to make a difference. There is no gay disease, no transgender disease, no black disease, and no mixed-race disease. There is only the disease of ignorance that spreads faster than wildfire; but we can do something to stop it. We teenagers may not be able to stop gun violence altogether, but what we can do is provide information to those who lack it. Attacking someone for who they love? Attacking someone for what they look like? Attacking someone because they are different? If we want to peace and love to be spread throughout the world, we need to show one another that we are all the same. Our skin color, our sexuality, our gender, these things do not define who we are. What defines who we are are the actions that we take in tough situations like this. It does not matter who you love or what you love, but how you love. As Steven Colbert said on the Late Show, “Love is a verb. And ‘to love’ means, ‘To do something.’” This is our time to do something.