After Tragedy, We Must Foster Hope

Welcome, dear Establishers.

We are, like you, reeling from the massacre in Orlando; the misery feels like a cold dark bath we’ve been collectively plunged into — its water crimson, its taste rancid, bitter enough to choke on.

But even as we know it makes us sick to drink it, we all must imbibe some; perhaps if we each take one small sip, we can bail out this ship that is surely listing, its rudders cracked, its sails torn, the masts splintered.

Together we’re trying to assuage the pain; together we are telling the stories of those slain, we are tugging out new details from a snarl of sorrow, we are choosing new heroes, new villains; we are twisting the great kaleidoscope this way and that, trying to make sense of a world that seemingly wants to self-destruct.

A world that wants its seeming outsiders dead.

***

I was lying in bed last night having some very heavy pillow-talk — like a million others, I wanted to understand why we exact innumerable cruelties upon each other.

How swiftly the darkness encroaches.

What will I tell my best friend’s newborn who is poised to burst from her swollen stomach in just a few days? We are broken. We’re poison. We’re loathsome, worse than the toothed beasts who dashed one another to bits in primordial swamps. At least they were hungry. At least they killed to live. To feed their young. They did not kill for ignorance.

But what I realized is that part of the reason I was so shocked, part of the reason the darkness felt like a curtain falling and not the steady shadow of the sun, is that I am not queer. I am not handicapped. Or overweight. Or poor. Or brown. Or black.

I am psychologically sheltered from a tremendous amount of danger. And trauma. My headspace is not filled with the knowledge that people wish me harm. I do not worry that if I’m not vigilant, I shall be devoured by hatred; there are still toothed beasts, and they’re still hungry. They are murdering for their ideologies; bodies are piled high on the altars of their ideals.

And yet.

While I realized that my anger and disillusionment are but dull shards of what the queer (and every marginalized) community is experiencing right now — I was also reminded of hope.

Not the kind of hope that is amorphous, the kind clutched between tepid palms in prayer, but the very tangible kind manifested in the very same species that deigns to live on this earth beside those who would tear it asunder. They come in all shapes and sizes, in all shades of kindness, of love, of patience and bravery. They are spitting in the face of darkness; they are prying open their chests — I can practically hear their ribs give way — and streaming light into the shadows.

Jaclyn Friedman has dedicated this episode of Unscrewed to the “Helpers” — a phrase she gleaned from the late Mr. Rogers, of all people — to the people giving blood, giving food, giving time, giving words, giving us hope.

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In this episode, you’ll hear her own tribute to those on the frontlines — from the folks fighting the good fight against the swell of Islamophobia to the two men who tackled rapist Brock Turner — in addition to a listener quandary about polyamory, and wise words from activist, author, and sex educator Tristan Taormino.

Jaclyn and I talked about how strange it felt — wrong even — to say, the show must go on, but surely it must. We must mourn, but we must hope even harder. We must grow louder, brighter, stronger . . . and softer.

As July Westhale wrote:

“I can barely leave my bed. I don’t want to close my eyes to sleep, because to do so would be to accept more darkness into my body, to rest when I feel like I don’t deserve to rest. To be vulnerable. What I really want to say to you is that vulnerability is a strength. Vulnerability in the face of obvious threat is an even bigger strength.”

Perhaps there is nothing more vulnerable than hope. To believe that despite everything — and everyone — telling you otherwise, that things can change. And that you can be part of that shifting tide.

And so, we offer this up not as a poultice, but as our own tiny wave that will help bring our ship safely to shore.

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Full new episodes of Unscrewed go live every other Tuesday, with quickiesodes boasting outtakes, advice for listeners who send in their sex/uality questions, and other delectable tidbits airing in between.

Have burning quandaries of your own? Tweet @jaclynf (use #Unscrewed) or drop her a line at unscrewed@jaclynfriedman.com. And yes! You can even use your handy-dandy smartphone, personal computer, or laptop and record yourself asking your question; she may just include it in the next episode.

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Lead Image: Flickr/ PRO State Library Victoria Collections

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