This is 2016 in the United States of America

Recently, a friend of mine told me that she’s hesitant to reconnect with friends from high school on Facebook. She never accepts friend requests from co-workers, either. Huge swaths of her life are held in reserve, at least until she knows she can trust someone.

She’s a lesbian, and she lives in fear of being hated because of whom she loves. This is 2016 in the United States of America.

Flags, combined

American pride

Because I’m straight, I was clueless enough to express surprise at her fear. This is 2016 in the United States of America, too.

Last summer, I attended a mehndi party in celebration of a Turkish colleague’s marriage to a man from Bosnia. Friends and relatives from all over the world came to upstate New York for the party, toasting the immigrant grooms in their backyard as tiny lights twinkled in the trees. I cannot recall a night with more joyous dancing.

After the massacre at a gay nightclub in Orlando, my colleague posted a passage from his holy book, the Quran: “Whoever kills one person, merits punishment as if he had slain all the men in the world.” This is 2016 in the United States of America.

Because I’m Jewish, I was struck by the similarity to this quote from the Talmud: “Whoever destroys a soul, it is considered as if he destroyed an entire world. And whoever saves a life, it is considered as if he saved an entire world.” This is 2016 in the United States of America, too.

One of my aunts is a pastor with a Metropolitan Community Church congregation in Florida; the other is the church administrator. They work ridiculously long hours (and, of course, every Sunday) and yet they make time to answer questions from sometimes-clueless straight people, journalists included. Their lives are driven by a desire to bring God’s love to LGBTQIA folks, so many of whom have had that love withheld from them.

My aunts spent Sunday and Monday at vigils honoring 49 people gunned down because they dared to go to a gay nightclub. This is 2016 in the United States of America.

While some of us are mourning the victims of that massacre in Orlando, there are others who continue to preach hatred. There are people who don’t see a connection between this country’s constant barrage of anti-gay legislation, our inability to do anything serious about gun control and what happened last weekend. This is 2016 in the United States of America, too.

If you think “tolerance” is enough, you’re wrong. If you think this situation is going to improve without political compromise and cooperation, you’re wrong. And if you think this is the best we can do in 2016 in the United States of America, I sure hope you’re wrong, too.

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