Archive for June, 2016

How Many More? The Orlando Shooting

Sunday, June 12th, 2016

I know you’re not supposed to “politicize” a tragedy, but I also don’t know how to live in this world if we don’t learn from mistakes, especially when they have such deadly consequences. Just last week, President Obama talked about how because of the NRA (and the politicians they fund), the government can’t even prevent people on terrorist watch lists and known ISIS sympathizers from buying guns. Well, this gunman was both of those things, and the subject of two FBI investigations. The government KNEW he was dangerous, and because of the NRA, was powerless to stop him. He bought this gun legally. And now 49 people are dead, 53 injured, thousands upon thousands of family and friends in mourning. How many more will there be?

This “assault-style” rifle is the type of weapon al-Qaeda encourages followers to buy in the US to inflict mass casualties. It was illegal until 2004, but then Congress let that ban expire. This gun’s job is mass murder, and it does that job well. An “assault-style” rifle was the San Bernadino gun, the Aurora gun, the Sandy Hook gun. Now it’s the Orlando Pulse gun, too. And if you want to go buy one right now – you can. Even if you’re on a terror watch list and a public ISIS supporter. Even if you are mentally ill or a convicted felon. This gun is yours, if you want it.

I refuse to believe that there isn’t a way to protect people’s right to hunt and/or protect themselves, and still get weapons like this off the market and out of the hands of terrorists. 91% of people want it done, including most NRA members. But it doesn’t happen because of the demagoguery of NRA leadership and the cowardice of the overwhelmingly Republican politicians they pay off.

I don’t ever want to hear again that Republicans are the ones who are “tough on terror.” Because THIS is terror. And they let it happen. And they will let the next time happen, and the next, and the next. Make your own decision of what to do with that information.

In Memory of Robert Levithan – The Peaceful Fighter

Tuesday, June 7th, 2016

When I was 19 years old, I wandered into a support group called Friends In Deed. Since most people there were dealing with physical conditions far more lethal than my own, I was afraid that by going there I would somehow be disrespecting the other group members. Instead, I was welcomed with open arms by an entire community, led that night by a man named Robert Levithan.

Robert Levithan

Robert was one of an elite handful of group leaders, a gifted and compassionate psychologist who always knew how to delve right into the crux of an issue. He was also an inspiring and prolific writer, and regularly wrote columns for Oprah Winfrey and The Huffington Post, as well as his own popular book “The New 60.” Robert was a passionately hopeful and fierce fighter, for LGBT rights, for HIV/AIDS advocacy, and for his own health. You see, 20+ years ago, Robert was told he only had a few months to live with HIV – a fact he often relayed in order to tell people like me that no matter how dire and hopeless life seems, you never truly know what’s going to happen next. No matter what the doctors say, or the statistics, or the medical journals, or even all the terrible voices in your head telling you it’s over – you just don’t know.

Robert fought more battles than I can count, and he did so with the most peaceful and warm smile you could imagine. I lead support groups myself now, and I will always, always remember Robert when I do so, to pay forward all of the peace, passion, love, and determination that he sent my way.

In February, in response to his unexpected metastatic cancer diagnosis, Robert wrote an article called “This is Not My Last Battle.” In retrospect, this is terribly sad. And yet not. In adopting this attitude, in living this attitude, Robert once again refused to let his life be dictated by a diagnosis. He went to Brazil, he rode horses on the beach, he wrote articles, and stayed in control of his own life for as long as he could.

“Some people fear death,” Robert wrote. “Some people fear suffering. I only fear fear.”