Keep Your Guns, Give Your Heart

Almost exactly one year ago I spent the evening working downtown Boise for Preservation Idaho's Up On The Roof event. I stood atop the 17th floor of the Zions Bank Building sharing stories of Boise's architectural history with folks drinking wine, enjoying music, eating appetizers and loving the views. We wandered around to various fabulous and secret rooftops that night, including the top of the Art Deco Hoff Building overlooking Bannock Street and the patio on the roof of the Owyhee Hotel. It was Pride Fest Week in Boise, and several of my gay colleagues, dear friends and attendees were enjoying the night with us, and we all ended up heading to the gay nightclub, the Lucky Dog Tavern, to continue the celebration and fun.

No one checked me for anything at the door, except my ID, but I was complimented several times on my cute dress. There I ran into several gay, lesbian and transgendered friends I hadn't seen in months - older introverted men who father sweet puppies and younger men I went to college with who are ardent Republicans. I shared loads of hugs and spilled my gin and tonic and another friend quickly bought me another. There was a catwalk on a stage for a fashion show and a kiddie pool filled with Jell-O that I was *this close* to stripping down to my bra and undies and diving in to. A few of my wild friends were cheering in support and a few of my more conservative ones talked me out of it. It was one of the most silly and spontaneous and celebratory nights out in Boise I've ever had, and despite all our obvious differences - I may well have been only one of three white, hetero, 40-year-old moms in the place - we enjoyed one another in the name of love.

 Photo courtesy Melanie Flitton Folwell

Photo courtesy Melanie Flitton Folwell

This past weekend a young man entered a gay nightclub much like this one in Orlando, Florida, and killed at least 50 people and injuring more than 50 others. It was a crime fueled by hate, anger, and religion. People around the country, and certainly those in Florida and those who knew and loved these lost souls, are irate and sad and are looking for things to blame this horrific event on, rightly so. But it's not about the guns. It's never been about the guns (although I'm personally and ardently opposed to Americans owning assault rifles and I've read all the statistics about gun laws in other countries and agree with them wholeheartedly).

It's about living in a society that doesn't take seriously mental health and refuses it necessary funding and won't talk about it due to stigma. It's about raising boys who turn into young men who have never learned healthy ways to manage difference and anger and turn to violence. It's about religions that perpetuate hate of those who may look or act or believe in ways other than our own. It's about all of us adding a new Facebook profile picture in solidarity and talking, talking, talking but never taking action to change this vicious American culture that breeds shame and fear and ignorance and consumerism. And sure, it's a little bit about guns.  

But what it's really about is promoting self-love to our children at home and teaching that all bodies are valuable. It's about the right we all have to make individual choices about what to put in our body, put on our body and do with our body. The more tolerant and accepting we are of ourselves, and the little things that make us unique, the more accepting we will be of others. I know from experience that a personal revolution of love and acceptance can emanate from us and spread like wildfire to how we view and interact with others to change the world. Though we may vote or have sex or dress or love in a way that sometimes seems so opposite and contrary, we are deep down at our core more similar than we know.

It's about realizing that our mind and our hearts are the most valuable parts of our bodies and that opening both can be life-changing.

We can make all the changes in legislation and laws and regulations we want about firearms and more, but it seems the biggest changes necessary to stop this perpetual cycle of violence and hate are harder won. It's something that has been so ingrained in us and our culture and our minds for so long. It's a personal effort to alter your mindset that has to come from the deepest caverns of your soul.

So, you can keep your guns. Just give us your heart.