Orlando, Pride and the Healing Force of Love

clayton-thomason-prideRush University Medical Center celebrated LGBT Pride Month — and reflected on the recent mass shooting at a gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida — during a reception on June 28. The Rev. Clayton Thomason, JD, MD, chairperson of the Department of Health, Religion and Human Values, began the gathering with this reflection about brokenness and healing.

The Stonewall Riots took place 47 years ago on June 28, giving rise to the modern LGBTQ movement. It’s why June is Pride Month. That movement led one year ago to the Supreme Court’s recognition of marriage equality, and on June 24, President Obama declared the site of the riots, the Stonewall Inn in the West Village of Manhattan, a National Monument.

That movement and its accomplishments, including Rush’s own LGBTQ accomplishments, are what we should be celebrating. But on June 12, pride was interrupted by tragedy, by grief.

There have been many responses in the weeks since the lives of 49 people were taken and 53 more were left injured and bleeding in the Pulse Nightclub. Some responses have been predictable, because — unfortunately — by now in our national life, they are all too familiar.

Stephen Colbert observed on the Late Show, “It’s as if there’s a national script that we have learned. And I think by accepting the script we tacitly accept that the script will end the same way every time. With nothing changing.”

Indeed, nothing can change when people are drawn into a cycle of violence that leads to fear that leads to scapegoating that leads to more violence, to more fear, to more scapegoating. Hate is like using a hammer to fix cracks in a precious ceramic bowl. Violence only further breaks what we would repair. The only force that can bring healing to a world, a nation, a community, a family, a person, is love.

Repairing what is broken

 Kintsugi is a Japanese technique of repairing broken pottery using gold. You might have seen it in a museum somewhere, a vase that was repaired. You can see where the cracks were because they’re outlined in gold.

The idea is that the breakage and repair becomes part of the valued history of the object, rather than something to disguise. It embraces what is flawed or imperfect, cherishes the marks of wear made by use. The bowl isn’t thrown away. It’s used in spite of its breakage, with even greater beauty added by its vulnerability.

Like Kintsugi, our conversations and interactions — in our personal lives and in our national life, and here at Rush — moving forward from the tragedy in Orlando must be realistic, highlighting our social fractures, while also being passionately — compassionately — committed to repairing what is broken. We must not hide or minimize our wounds but work to fuse one community to another with the gold that abides within each of us: our ability to love.

That Sunday night at the Tony Awards, just hours after the shootings, Lin-Manuel Miranda, the creator and star of the musical “Hamilton,” captured this truth in part of the sonnet he shared with a grieving nation:

We rise and fall and light from dying embers,
remembrances that hope and love last longer
And love is love is love is love is love is love is love is love
cannot be killed or swept aside.

In honor and remembrance of the 49 people who lost their lives in Orlando, I invite you to spend 49 seconds in silent reflection or prayer, as your own spirit moves you, and rededicate ourselves to be a healing community of hope and love.

The Rev. Clayton Thomason, JD, MDiv, is the Bishop Anderson Professor of Religion and Ethics in Medicine and chairperson of the Department of Religion, Health and Human Values at Rush University Medical Center.

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