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I'm Tired. I'm Crushed. I'm Frustrated.

My mind can't properly function today.

My soul is in a funk.

I'm in such a state because the state of my world is horrific beyond imagination. My funk is a result of an accumulation of horrible news and headlines that seem to punctuate my life on a near-weekly basis.

I tell myself I need to take a deep breath and collect my thoughts and feelings because there are so many of them running through my head. So I do what most of my friends, acquaintances, and loved ones do: I let my fingers run across a keyboard to form words and sentences that will, with the click of a button, eventually be shared with a network of people who will undoubtedly (and hopefully) share the same feelings and thoughts.

It's a reactionary impulse we all have whenever something life-shattering occurs.

We do it because we want to express our condolences, communicate our rage, and demand a solution that seems to be more and more elusive with every body that is added to the bloody pile. (180 mass shootings in 2016 as of this posting. That's 180 incidents in 164 days.)

It's a cycle with which we are all sadly familiar. We hear the news. Our jaws drop. Some of us cry. Some share links to online petitions to enforce gun control laws. Some share the opposite sentiment. Some post memes about the shocking statistics on gun violence in America. We even write about this vicious cycle. Comment wars begin. Talk show hosts debate and discuss. The POTUS makes a statement. Other politicians wring their hands, offering thoughts and prayers. The names of victims are listed and shared. Rinse. Repeat.

I've experienced this for the past several years. I go through my usual routine of reactions: shock, sadness, frustration, anger. I've posed the question before: When will we reach a point in which every single American citizen will know someone or be someone involved in a mass shooting?

"Raise your hand if you've been in a car accident or a fender bender. Now raise your hand if you or someone you know has been a victim of a mass shooting...See? Not much of a difference."

These tragic events resonate with people in different ways depending on how much you identify with the circumstances and location of the shooting. Parents of young children are completely affected when an elementary school becomes a scene of a crime. Coworkers think about their mortality when an office complex becomes riddled with bullets. And anyone who enjoys going to the movies can't help but feel vulnerable at the multiplex after a gunman takes aim inside a dark, crowded theater. (*Shortly after the shooting at Santa Monica College in 2013, I was one of the many who stampeded out of the AMC multiplex in Century City after a suspicious, trenchcoat-wearing man brought a guitar case into our screening of The Purge.)

The deaths in Orlando also hit hard for me and many people I know because it disrupted a carefree scenario we recognize all too well (although I haven't been on a dance floor in quite some time): A Saturday night out with friends, drinking a little too much, shaking your ass to loud music, wondering where the fun will take you...and then it's all shattered, plunging you into a sobering nightmare.

You think to yourself, it really could have been us. You picture yourself holed up in that bathroom, barricading the door with other hostages, hoping the bullets won't come through. You wonder if you too would think quickly enough to play dead and bury yourself under the corpses of people you just saw dancing outside not too long ago. You can't help but think about what you would do.

I hate that a fun night out for a large group of people ended in death and horror.

I hate that I will gradually go back to my regularly scheduled life days after this massacre.

I hate that I feel hopeless, especially after emailing my local Congressman to voice my support for gun control last year, attending rallies in my community, and exercising my right to vote as an American.

I hate that there exists in this country a presidential candidate whose first reaction to the latest act of gun violence is to spew a humble brag reinforcing his stance on Radical Islam -- a blatant "told ya so" without the uttering the words "hate crime" or showing an ounce of sympathy for the victims and their families.

I hate that I have to live in a society where I have to now condition myself to take a mental note of emergency exits or escape routes whenever I visit a movie theater, a bar, an office complex, or any other public space with a significant amount of people.

I hate that the image of America's latest mass shooter being plastered across news outlets is a photo of him posing in a mirror for a selfie.

I hate that I am using the word "hate" so much right now, because hate is the very seed that grows into such horrible violence. So perhaps I should use a different word.

I'm tired and frustrated. When faced with an enormous problem -- an issue that is so complicated and seems like it's beyond your grasp -- you can't help but feel helpless.

But I refuse to settle into complacency.

"Happiness is the ultimate rebellion." 
- an Orlando-based drag queen

Living for those we lost seems to be the only way many of us can pull through. We can't stop -- won't stop -- living. It might just be as simple as that. Living free, living as our true selves, may be the best way to stand up against the forces that don't respect such a basic, human need to just live.

Come at me if you think my life doesn't align with your discriminatory religion, beliefs, or corrupt moral code, and I will show you an army of passionate fighters who can take you down -- not with weapons, but with intelligence, compassion, and some fucking common sense.

Come at me if you think I'm intruding on your 2nd Amendment right to "bear arms," and I will say that you are exploiting and taking advantage of an archaic rule written over 300 years ago by a group of men who did not have the foresight to include provisions to that rule -- because they could not imagine a future in which technology allows a hundred bullets to tear down innocent lives in less than a minute.

Come at me. I dare you.




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