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Hello Nelson. Processing the Orlando Massacre
Jun 15, 2016

I am reaching out to you since you have always seem to be a mature member of our community. I feel angry and sad about Orlando and can't seem to shake it. Is it affecting you also? Any words of wisdom about how to achieve peace during these horrible times? Thank you

Response from Mr. Vergel

Thank you for your great question.

I could not sleep for two nights after the Orlando massacre this past Sunday June 12. That horrible event fueled by homophobia and religious extremism triggered some sort of PTSD in me. It brought me back to the days of despair we used to have in the 80's with AIDS. I really cannot explain why but the feeling was familiar: A combination of anger, extreme sadness, feeling violated, and imagining many of our Latino LGBTQ brothers and sisters gunned down while they texted their loved ones.

My anger grew even more when I read Facebook posts from gun lovers who oppose any type of restrictions of weapons of mass destruction even for people previously or currently part of a no-fly terrorist list. Some were also not even mentioning the fact that this was a gay bar.

The estimated total number of guns (both licit and illicit) held by civilians in the United States is 270,000,0001 to 310,000,000. The estimated rate of private gun ownership (both licit and illicit) in the United States is 101.052 firearms per 100 people, so there are more guns than people in this country. Easy access to guns by angry men caused 35,000 deaths in 2014.

Many religious and political leaders have fueled hate towards LGBT, so it is not only a problem with Islam. This needs to stop.

I went to a vigil last night in Houston and one of the speakers was a mother member of Mothers Against Gun Violence. She demanded that we took action as a community much like we did during the AIDS crisis. She told us to text the word ORLANDO to the number 64433 to get involved. You can also text DISARM HATE to the same number and they will directly put you in contact with Congress by making the phone call for you.

I needed to manage my anger and sadness and constantly searched for words of wisdom on social media. Finally, my young niece Natalie Baker wrote this great post that helped to soothe me a little:

"The hardest times unleash our true colors. The rest of our lives and the lives of our future generations will be determined by the words we use and the actions we take in these times of fear and anguish. I will not be a part of using the hate-fueled slaughter of my community to fuel the hatred towards and inevitable slaughter of another. Hatred is hatred is hatred is hatred. Omar Mateen is Dylann Roof is Adam Lanza is Christopher Sean Harper-Mercer is James Holmes is Osama Bin Laden is every bigot who couldn't find a purpose in life bigger than hating people and trying to evoke their suffering. Those tortured souls have more in common than their religion or country of origin can set them apart; do not fall into history's trap of selecting one trait of one person to find a larger enemy to fight against. If you are looking for an enemy, it is the nature of violent hatred that they all share. That is the thing -- not religion, not ethnicity, not country of origin -- that unites them in the atrocities they committed. Do you share that thing with them? I don't. Feeling hatred and lashing out won't take away my sadness, and it won't take away yours. We've been raised with narratives of seemingly noble wars, good against evil, but we forget that the other side has been fed the same narrative, that they too took up arms because they were told they could defend their people by slaughtering others. I'm tired of it. My enemy is not a particular belief system or birth country or ethnicity, my enemy is the act of hatred and the tools used to commit violence in its name. My enemy is the assault rifle and the idea of us vs. them that leads to people using it against each other. That's what I'll fight against."

This made me feel that there is still hope. That hope can be fueled by each one of us and the younger generations that now seem not to buy into hate.

We need to ACT UP and remember that SILENCE=DEATH.

Sad but still hopeful,


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