Here are my remarks from last night’s candlelight vigil at St. Petersburg City Hall for the victims of the Orlando mass shooting:
“For me, tonight is not about guns or religion or politics or sexual preference. It’s about hatred.
Once again, it’s about the idea that someone who looks, acts, loves, thinks, believes differently than you do — because they have a different world view, a different perspective or a different set of values — that they are somehow dehumanized.
Once again, we are forced to deal with a compassion that is crippled – or that hasn’t been given a chance to develop – a sense of power that is pathological, a fear of multiculturalism, a fear of pluralism. A fear of diversity.
When our fear and intolerance is left untouched, unattended, to fester and rot, it is no longer fear. At that point, it has turned to hatred. And, the only thing needed to turn that hatred into violence is an excuse.
I have no words for the victims and their families in Orlando tonight. There is nothing I can say to take away the pain, suffering, sadness, confusion and anger that they are feeling right now.
What I can, and will, say is to those in our community who still have a chance at a teachable moment in someone else’s life.
Dr. Martin Luther King said that “only light can drive out the darkness” and “only love can drive out hate.” He did not say that we should tolerate it. He did not tell us that love would gently wash the hate away. He did not tell us to hug it out. He told us to drive it out. And this requires action.
That means it’s up to all of us – not just the parents, not just the priests, not just the teachers, not just the elders and not just the young – all of us, to put a stop to hatred when and where we see it. At work, at school, at the beach, in line at the grocery store.
If you don’t stand up for what is right – the most good, the most just, for the most people – someone will get away with the unspeakable. And last night someone got away with the unspeakable here in our own backyard.
A real neighborhood has no need for fences. A real village has no use for borders. A real community trains its members how to do less harm, not more. A real community shows each other how to love more, not less.
My only hope is that the victims, their families and the rest of our community across this great country get some rest tonight, because there is a long road ahead and a lot of work to do.”
Watch video of the entire service below: