My thoughts and prayers are with the family and friends of those affected by the terrible tragedy in Orlando this weekend.
Orlando is not so far from home. Terrorism is not a nebulous threat. Terrorism by definition is a hate crime – a political statement, and whether homegrown or jihadist, it was a crime that was simultaneously unimaginable, and yet, far too common. Long Island was devastated in 2008 when Marcelo Lucero was stabbed to death when targeted by a gang that violently pursued Hispanics for sport. And our community was shocked when Ku Klux Klan fliers were found outside Rockville Centre, amidst reports that Hamptons Bay had become headquarters for the KKK with an estimated 50 to 70 members.
Hate crimes, as we experienced in Orlando this weekend, can be gruesome and violent beyond comprehension, but they can also be micro aggressions that haunt minority communities. A passing slur on the street, an insensitive joke that renders someone powerless and ashamed.
When I started my law firm 18 years ago on Long Island, I experienced racial bias on a daily basis. Doubt was cast on my ability and thrust upon my clients as a result. Donald Trump’s own admission that he doubts the ability of an Indiana judge of Mexican heritage to oversee his case due to his ethnicity is enough proof that those beliefs have not dissipated in the past two decades.
Hatred is built upon ignorance. As a volunteer and participant with Long Island’s LGBT Network, I have seen the bullying and disrespect cast towards LGBT youth. Doubt is often thrust upon them when teachers and classmates accuse them of being ‘confused,’ or ‘experimenting.’ Those words are hurtful and lead many in the LGBT community to seek refuge in safe spaces, like an LGBT nightclub, like Pulse in Orlando.
As a family lawyer, I have only seen the real life effects of gun violence when dealing with domestic disputes. However, this experience has allowed me to see the damage a gun can do to a family, but also the healing power that love can bring to that same home. I encourage all to set aside differences of religion, politics and lifestyle to search for the common ground of love. Only through cooperation and empathy, will we be able to find a solution to terrorism, gun violence and LGBTQ rights.
There are many ways to make the world a better place, many solutions that we may disagree upon, but it is important to remember that there is not one way to eradicate terrorism or hate crimes. This week, take an action step. Give blood (RedCrossBlood.org), write a note to your lawmakers (Congress.org) or say a prayer. Do something to make the world a better place, and most importantly – be kind to all you encounter.