Shortly after waking up, I got a Guardian notification on my phone, telling me about the horrific news of the mass shooting at Pulse, an LGBT nightclub in Orlando, Florida. The death toll has risen as the day has gone on, and it's now taken the title of the deadliest mass shooting in U.S. history. There are a few types of attacks that I find especially heartless: those on people learning and dancing (i.e.; schools, universities, clubs, and concerts). A wish to learn and a wish to dance are some of the most important parts of the human condition, in my opinion - I've never heard of a culture that doesn't use dance and movement in some way. It's especially poignant that, in the last year, recognition of and rights for the LGBT community have improved around the world - and now the backlash has well and truly begun, first with North Carolina's Orwellian toilet laws and now with this shooting. The world is bleeding and crying.
After I read that breaking news article, I went to the main Guardian front page to see what else was going on, hoping for a little good news. And I found it: an in depth article about the women who, almost entirely by accident, ended up at the forefront of helping with the humanitarian crises unfolding in Calais and across Europe in response to the unprecedented movement of people from Syria and the surrounding countries in 2015. The message of the article: we can help. There were anecdotes of help from all kinds of people and of the power of coming together in positivity and love.
It's a big word. There's a load of meaning packed into those four letters. It's not just 'tolerance' or 'compassion' but LOVE.
For a while this year I was going to a lovely friendly church here in Bath (I ended up not being able to justify the time on a weekly basis when I was struggling so much with uni work, but everyone was so friendly and the experience changed me for the better) and there was a whole series of talks on love. I recall especially this quotation from 1 Corinthians 13:4-7, which tries to sum up and define love: 'Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonour others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.' I know there's a lot wrong with the application of religion, but it contains a lot of good too, and I think Christianity's real emphasis is on love as a means of improving the world and ourselves. Let's hope and persevere in the power of positivity and of love.
Let's not choose intolerance and xenophobia. Let's choose love.
The above t-shirt, designed by Katherine Hamnett, is being sold by charity Help Refugees to fund their work across Europe. It's £19.
Other ways to support love:
- donate to Medecins Sans Frontieres. The doctors who go exactly where they're needed, at great personal danger, are heroes who need all the support we can give them. Important charities focussed on helping children caught up in the chaos and trying to give them some sort of childhood are Save the Children and UNICEF.
- support Oxfam: buy this summer's reading from one of their shops, or your best friend's birthday present from their range of Oxfam Unwrapped gifts.
- call out homophobia, racism, and other expressions of prejudice when you hear them. Don't let your friends and family get away with making unacceptable remarks, even as jokes or banter. Even if they don't believe it, someone who does believe that (for example) all Muslims are terrorists, or that being trans is strange and unnatural, might overhear it as support for their viewpoint.
- tell your Government. I found and signed this petition calling the UK Government not to turn its back on child refugees in Europe on the official UK Parliament Petitions website. You can also contact your representatives: your MP, MEPs, and Members of the Scottish Parliament/ Welsh Assembly/ Northern Ireland Assembly if applicable.
- if you Google 'help refugees in ~your city~' you may find some local opportunities where you can give your time or expertise - alternatively, volunteering in or giving goods to charity shops of any of the charities mentioned above will help
(Song recommendation: Seasons of Love, from RENT)