A Letter to Mr. Ali on the Morning of the Orlando Massacre

Dear Mr. Ali,

It has been less than 48 hours since the world paid final respects to you — the man who, as Bill Clinton put it, was a “universal soldier for our common humanity.” You brought people together from all walks of life by spreading the message of respect and humility.

Although nearly 50 years have passed since you refused to be drafted to fight in Vietnam, your words still echo in the ears of many to this day:

“My conscience won’t let me go shoot my brother, or some darker people, or some poor hungry people in the mud for big powerful America. And shoot them for what? They never called me nigger, they never lynched me, they didn’t put no dogs on me, they didn’t rob me of my nationality, rape and kill my mother and father… Shoot them for what? …How can I shoot them poor people? Just take me to jail.”

I want to say your words will never be forgotten. I want to say that your words did not fall on deaf ears. I want to say that when the entire world came together to pay respects to your incredible life on Friday, they stopped and took a moment to internalize the kindness, the love, and the strength that you embodied.

But, Mr. Ali, I am not so sure.

It has been less than 48 hours since your burial. The soil has yet to settle. And, here we are, waking up on Sunday morning to the barbaric happenings in Florida. A nightclub massacre that is being called the deadliest mass shooting in US history with at least 50 people dead and more than 50 others wounded after a gunman opened fire and took hostages at a gay club in Orlando, Florida.

It has been less than 48 hours and we have already forgotten. We have forgotten that hate is hate. Hate has no color, no religion, no sexual orientation. Hate destroys everything in its path, with no regard for human lives and human hearts that are shattered to pieces. Hate leaves children motherless, and mothers childless. Hate leaves loved ones sprawled on sidewalks covered in blood of the people whose voices they will never hear again. Hate breeds nothing but rage, tears, and sorrow. Where there is hate, there is no room for love.

I remember the applause that roared when Billy Crystal spoke at your funeral, “[He] taught us that life is best when you build bridges between people and not walls.” It has been less than 48 hours, and that applause has already silenced.

Today, the world is not mourning the loss of a great man. Today, we are mourning the reign of hate over love.