Dear Members of the Congress of the United States:
Yesterday, I woke up to a beautiful summer morning here in Portland, Oregon. The sun was shining brightly, there was an anticipation of a gorgeous warmth in the air to cap off what had already been a really stellar weekend. Though I was up early to go to work, I still felt the sense of optimism and positivity that I greet most of my days with. It was going to be a good day.
Then, of course, I did what any modern American today does – I checked my phone. I opened up Facebook, and before I could even swallow my first swig of coffee, I was gut-punched by the news coming out of Orlando, Florida. Overnight, while I slept soundly and safely in the house I share with my long-term partner and boyfriend, twenty, no thirty, no fifty gay people, mostly men, and mostly younger than I am, were mowed down in a night club in an act of bloodthirsty homophobic hate.
Once again, I found myself clicking through news stories, reading status updates of shock, of grief, of dismay. It was the same when the AME Church in Charleston was ravaged by hate. The same when Umpqua Community College in my own state was the killing ground. San Bernadino, Newtown, Aurora, Columbine… On and on, and back it goes, back as far as I remember. Blood and hate and violence when a person with an axe to grind gets their hands upon fully-legal-to-have assault weapons.
Today, after a day full of grief and sadness, where I attended vigils among my GLBT community, while I fought back the tears all day just to get through my day at work – a bus operator here in Portland, and not a space where I can safely be my out-and-proud self – and while my boyfriend and I exchanged words of sadness, rage, and grief, I’m now, once again, reading the headlines in the news. Of course, like clockwork, it’s full of prayers and thoughts, “it’s not the gun’s fault,” and “it’s a mental health issue” arguments streaming across every news source and place that, just yesterday, mapped out the pain and agony of a ruthless and bloody scene in Orlando.
Today, I’m writing to you, not just as a citizen of Portland, Oregon, but as an active, political, vocal, proud American who has simply had enough with the bloodshed. I’m tired of thoughts and prayers. I’m tired of your inaction and inability to shoulder the burden of guilt that rests with you and your defiance with regards to enacting tough, bold gun reform laws. I refuse to be quiet any longer, and I refuse to be placated with platitudes – “thoughts and prayers,” as you are so quick to call them.
I need you – we need you – to stop the shenanigans. We, us – the American People – need you to do your job, step up to the plate, take responsibility for what you have not done, and move forward with sensible gun laws. We need more than your words. We demand your deeds. Action.
Don’t you dare quote the Second Amendment to me either. I know the “well regulated militia” part as well as the “right to bear arms shall not be infringed” part.
Change this law. Change the direction of this country.
Or, face the real possibility that this issue will run you out of office. It’s not just the Right with their Tea Party who can make real change happen. Us over here on the left, out here grieving the loss of so many people, GLBT, People of Color, and the others that are not represented well among your halls of Congress, demand this of you. We’ve had enough.
I’ve had enough.
Please. Be a human and have some integrity. Stop taking money and advice from the NRA and the rest of the gun lobby. Notice the blood on your hands.
Your Fellow American,
Thomas W. Palmer