Guest Columnists

Build hope in the face of violence

Be honest. You do not want to be killed. You do not want your loved ones killed. You do not want them to be hurt, maimed, or to witness the type of violence that leaves a bruise on the soul.

Be honest. You are not perfect. I am not perfect. I hurt people sometimes by words, active deeds and omissions. I do not shoot them.

Be honest, we are most comfortable when we are surrounded by people we know and who think like us. That is O.K. There is nothing the matter with that. There is something wrong when you agree it is O.K. to shove, hit, leave out, hurt, liable, shoot or in general bash whole groups of people or one person because you perceive them to be different from you.

Now be honest. You know you are thinking about the recent shooting. I am.

I am thinking about Orlando. . There is never a good time to talk about violence but we must. Violence surges toward epidemic levels creating a foundation of fear. #WeAreOrlando #SomosOrlando.

Be honest. In Orlando, many communities were affected. Those include LGBTQIA or lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer/questioning, intersex and allies. It also includes Spanish speaking individuals especially those in the Orlando area who often come from Puerto Rico. Add to that the entire city of Orlando, the state of Florida, all those grieving family and friends of the attendees at the Dance Club, and any person who heard the news continuously looped on mega TVs.

At the same time hope seeps through the cracks in that foundation. For instance, as I write this it is the one year anniversary of marriage equality at the federal level. This gives me hope.

Metzl and MacLeish remind us notions of mental illness that emerge in relation to mass shootings frequently reflect larger cultural stereotypes and anxieties about matters such as race/ethnicity, social class, and politics. These issues become obscured when mass shootings come to stand in for all gun crime, and when “mentally ill” ceases to be a medical designation and becomes a sign of violent threat[D1].


At Belle’s Basix, a landmark in Cedar Rapids held a prayer vigil June 12. Things reported about the prayer vigil that inspired hope were the amount of clergy from all faiths and elected representatives. That is worth shouting from the mountain top. Our Cedar Rapids police chief optimistically stated this would not happen here. These things give me hope.

Be honest. Optimism does not change the fact that violence happens and impacts us all. Violence is not just mass shootings targeting gay people or Hispanic people but in all the little ways. Cars are defaced with graffiti of hate speech as reported in The Gazette recently. A person is bloodied in a bar’s bathroom and the police can “do” nothing. If we say it doesn’t happen here or that violent news does not affect us here is just a feel good notion to help us keep our heads in the sand.

PFLAG is a support group for people and families. PFLAG was founded in 1972 with the simple act of a mother publicly supporting her gay son. PFLAG is the nation’s largest family and ally organization. We always need more than one safety net to catch those that fall through the other net’s holes. PFLAG stands unified with other groups locally and across the country. Together we are stronger. This gives me hope.

I dreamed the night of June 12th that I was on the bus of life. All over the sky was raining tears seeping into the bus. All of us tried to help each other. People helped me I helped others as I was able. We all cried in my dream and our tears blended with the rain. In the morning the sun was shining and people were helping each other. That gives me hope.

• Diane Peterson has lived in Cedar Rapids for more than 20 years. Comments:

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