I was deeply moved by the love and the loss. I was painfully aware of the mementos left behind. They were especially meaningful because many were left by the grieving families and friends of the fallen.
I was struck by all the American flags and patriotic messages at the memorial site. I have not seen that many flags in one place since I was a kid watching a 4th of July parade in the 1950's. I'm not gonna lie, all those flags surprised me.
Most Pulse victims were either immigrants or the children/grandchildren of immigrants. Like most of our ancestors they came here because they wanted to be "free;" they actively chose to become Americans. And apparently, even after great tragedy, the families would still rather be in this large, violent, imperfect country than in their heritage countries.
The pride in Orlando is for being LGBT, Hispanic, a person of color. But it is also about remaining strong in the face of adversity, about refusing to be diminished or dehumanized by hatred, about being free to live one's life without fear or shame. It is still and always about freedom, isn't it? It is still a worthy cause to want freedom to be who you are as long as you don't hurt anyone else.
I understand how political disappointments can sour one's patriotism. Hey, I'm still mad Eugene McCarthy didn't get the Democratic nomination in 1968, and George McGovern in 1972. I can't understand why the NRA fights the ridiculously minimal form of gun control Obama is pushing. I wonder at the support Trump gets whenever he says something that lowers our moral standards. These are just some of the things that have driven me to despair about being an American. But you know, despair is a loser's game.
Because there is also still, and always, the "Good Fight" we hear so much about. It has everything to do with "freedom and justice for all." I have been cynical. I took my eyes off the prize.