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    New Mantra: It’s Still Not OK

    By Dr. Tim Seelig–

    It’s not OK.

    If you have been following my column over the past few years, you have been looking forward to a light, breezy, even funny article. This is not that. I’m angry, as most of you are. Here are my thoughts.

    On June 13, 2016, I posted a short article to Facebook titled “It’s not OK.” It was the day after the Orlando Pulse shooting. At that time, we were certain we would soon have our first woman president, an ally. We had the hope of continued progress in human and equal rights. In November, we were shocked and devastated when that did not happen.

    There was a seed change in our country from the moment Mr. Trump announced his candidacy. Rather than his shocking comments causing an outcry, they woke up and bolstered an underbelly of our country, a white nationalist sentiment, while the rest of us remained silent. That may be unfair. We rallied and posted about our anger—but mostly to people who already agreed with us. Preaching to the choir.

    Since becoming president, he has emboldened them every day with his consistent ideology of us vs. them. The new alt right finally has a cheerleader, or even leader! According to author Van Jones, it kindled a flame that had already been smoldering. Now, their leader holds the lighter fluid and uses it without shame or consequence. These behaviors are the attributes of a narcissist with no empathy or moral compass. And it goes without saying that the majority of our elected leaders are in lock step for fear of losing money and thereby the next election.

    That is all stating the obvious. Sorry. I just needed to say it.

    I am not writing this article as an expert on anything other than my own reaction to what is going on. I do not write this on behalf of any group or in any position I might hold. I simply write this from my heart and from my own viewpoint and experience as being one of those “other” folks.

    The generally accepted definition of mass shooting is “any incident in which a person kills four or more random people.” CBS News says 2019 will be the first year in which we will have more mass shootings than there are days. As of August 4, which was the 216th day of the year, there have been 251 mass shootings in the U.S. It’s not OK.

    These eight cities resonate on our tongues as we speak them. Dayton, El Paso, Gilroy, Parkland, Las Vegas, Orlando, Sandy Hook and Columbine. But there have been well over 1,000 mass shootings in recent years alone. Our brothers and sisters died there, too. But because the number of fatalities was not big enough, there was little or no national news coverage. The sad truth is, we could never cover all of them.

    My new mantra: It’s not OK.

    It’s not OK to sit idly by! Write letters, make phone calls, attend rallies, tell your elected official or your religious leader it’s not OK. Find out who is running for office and make damn sure they promise to do something. Post on FB (even if you think those who disagree with you have long fled friend status). To do less is not OK.

    It’s not OK for the president of the United States to foment hate toward anyone who is “other.” He is a racist. Period. And a long list of other “…ists and …phobes.” His outright vilification of anyone who is not white, straight, cisgender male, Christian and rich is shocking. If you can’t check all of those boxes, he will come for you. If you are not frightened, you are not paying attention. It’s not OK.

    It’s not OK for anyone, other than military personnel, to own semi-automatic firearms. They need to be banned. No questions asked.  Find them. Destroy them. “Bearing arms” in 1791 has nothing to do with carrying an assault weapon to a Walmart in 2019. It’s not OK.

    It’s not OK for our healthcare system to throw its hands up and say, “We don’t have the resources or the ability to address mental health as it relates to gun violence.” I’ve seen the memes: Rage is not a mental health issue. We’re going to have to agree to disagree. It’s not OK.

    It’s not OK to remain part of any organized group—church, social, political or other—that stands idly by allowing this to happen without proclaiming the real truth about who is responsible and how this can be stopped. If you choose to remain a member of a group not speaking out about injustice and bigotry, you are complicit. It’s not OK.

    It’s not OK to live in our bubbles, in warm beds, with more than we could ever need or use and not hurt deeply for those with less or who are seeking a better life. Those coming to America hoped to see open arms at the end of their arduous journey—not a stupid ass part of a wall or a militia with guns. What happened to the “tired and poor”? Well, they are at our doorstep waiting for someone to open their hearts. If only the Christians in our country followed Christ’s teachings, we would not have poverty, homelessness, the sick, or elders dying alone in homes. “As you have done it unto the least of these … .” It’s not OK.

    It’s not OK to ignore the elephant in the room tromping on the tulips. Most of us in the country are, in fact, “other” according to Donald Trump’s list. Almost ALL of us are immigrants. I am. I’m proud of my German heritage and the courage my ancestors had to move here with nothing but a dream. I am proud of being “other.” When I came out, I also had little left but a dream. We must join together and stand proud and defiant against all of the abuse we are all receiving from this White House and congressional leaders. Maybe we’ll even yell about it. And, most certainly, sing about it. 

    It’s not OK to allow children to hear the incessant spew of regurgitation from our president and leaders. White supremacists were taught to hate. They didn’t just happen to turn out that way. Of course, I turn to showtunes (my substitute Bible). In 1949, Oscar Hammerstein penned these lyrics for the musical South Pacific: “You’ve got to be carefully taught. You’ve got to be taught to hate and fear.”

    We must have a plan to protect our children so that they understand this is not the way we are or want them to be. Your compassion and kindness can be the antidote. In 1987, Stephen Sondheim wrote these lyrics in the musical Into the Woods: “How do you say to your child in the night nothing’s all black, but then nothing’s all white? How do you say it will all be all right. When you know that it might not be true?” He goes on to remind us that children will listen and see and learn. It’s Not OK to teach hate.

    Yes, this post is preaching to the choir. And, by posting this, I am holding myself accountable to try to make even more of a difference. Since I’m preaching, and we’ve had the “special music,” an offering will be taken. The proceeds will NOT be given to any candidate that supports the NRA or its puppets. It will not be given to any business of any kind that supports the gun industry. I’ve done some research into companies and banks (!!!) that still fund the NRA or proliferation of guns. I’ve moved my bank accounts from one of the worst offenders on record. It’s beholden on us to follow the money. It’s not OK to support entities that then turn around and use your money for evil.

    Today, I mourn those lost this week, from Gilroy to El Paso to Dayton to Chicago and all of the others who lost their lives.

    I won’t be saying a rosary or chanting or praying or sending “thoughts and prayers.” I will mourn by repeating my new mantra over and over and over: It’s not OK. Not for me. Not for any of my logical or biological family members. Not for our country damnit. It’s just not OK.   

    Now repeat after me:

    It’s not OK.
    It’s not OK.
    It’s not OK.

    Now pick up the phone or write a letter.

    Dr. Tim Seelig is the Artistic Director of the San Francisco Gay Men’s Chorus.