An open letter to Grace Dolan Sandrino

Dear Grace:

First let me start by saying how much I truly admire your courage, your sheer determination and sadly also recognize the years of torment and searching, both internally and externally, that you’ve endured and probably continue to suffer in your struggle to find your own identity and become comfortable in your own skin. “It gets better” –yes, but really, when you’re coming from behind, having been given the short end of the stick –does the fight ‘to be’ ever fully end for some of us?

My empathy comes, in part, because I too –as a gay man from a couple generations ago, have struggled at least in part, along that same path. I’m from a time though when society was even far less accepting (if you can believe that) and in fact hiding our identity, nearly zero public tolerance, much less from the police –all of which made gay bashing, persecution and abuse an acceptable norm. 

That said, trust that I get where you’re coming from. The Orlando massacre was a metaphorical bullet in all of our backs. In many ways, it was even worse than Stonewall. Wherein as you already likely know, to those whom we paid to serve and protect relentlessly and violently harassed their own citizens. Orlando, indeed, suddenly made it seem like we were reverting to the dark ages. If Orlando sets any precedent it’s that terrorists and nuts jobs are now ramping up their aim on American soil for the most vulnerable or what they may deem as ‘soft targets’ for the maximum kill.

So, like you, I too am very concerned for our future not only as LGBTs but as Americans and citizens of a great republic. The divisions we sometimes face can seem insurmountable, the hate and persecution staggering and at best difficult to endure, any resolutions seem hardly adequate and messy to wade through in order to… What? Come to some all too fragile, flimsy, imperfect, common agreement. Obviously not facing the divisions is not an option. So trudge on, we must –knowing that mistakes will be made and therefore we must remember to try to remain open-minded and adaptable and determined to fight for equality yet knowing too, there never will be that perfect solution that makes everyone happy.

While I couldn’t agree more with your take on “those bigoted and ridiculous bathroom bills” and “common sense guns bills” alas, I can only agree so long as those bills do NOT penalize responsible, good and caring gun owners. 

You see, for me, I am first an American and secondly a gay man – my primary and fundamental rights and liberties are first given to me and protected by the Constitution. Bottom line: without the liberties as outlined by the Constitution I will never have (or keep) any rights as an American, much less a gay man. So no matter my race, gender, orientation or sexual preference the Constitution for any true American should come first.

As important as the entire Constitution itself is the second amendment –that which guarantees me the right to protect myself, my family and my belongings from any threat foreign or domestic –from citizen or tyrannical government. The second amendment is the only thing that ensures every other freedom we currently have, or are striving to get and therefore it is without doubt, without question --thee most important amendment of them all. It is the very keystone of our entire republic. Any bill or law that inhibits that God given liberty can only be taken as being anti- America.

And yet, sadly, none of the people in Orlando could protect themselves. Not one person ever really had a chance. Why? Because (and while I’d bet my last dollar every one of them wished for one) – as we all know, not one of them had a gun. Not one. And so it became “like lambs to the slaughter.” I would have much rather had the chance to #shootback. I would have given my life to protect myself, my family, my friends and citizens. I would have much rather faced the evil than cower in fear and hope for a savior in blue. Wouldn’t have you? Wouldn’t you have risked your own life and pulled the trigger to save your mother? Your lover? Your friend? I strongly suspect you would have.

The more the focus on pointing fingers at another party, the more it divides us and continues the effort of edging away our liberties. The more smoke screens and illusions are thrown about: what types of firearms are acceptable etc., the more the issues are confused and muddled and slowly, methodically, the result is disarming of the people. Case in point: the very rifle they’re intent on vilifying and outlawing is precisely the best rifle we have to protect ourselves. And the more we become complacent and falsely dependent on a government that is not, nor ever will be, there in time to stop the crazies, be they terrorist groups, lone wolf, or your average psycho nut job –the greater the chance is we may face the peril first hand. 

Criminals will always find a way to get guns. If not guns, then bombs. If not bombs, then fires. Or poison. Or cars as weapons – the list is endless. People that want mass death and casualties will figure out a way to hit soft targets. Happyland Nightclub is one example that comes to mind, 84 dead. Gasoline. 

‘For the people by the people’ to me does not mean a government that disarms the people. No. In fact ‘for the people by the people’ means exactly the opposite. It means we must exercise the right to come together, to protect one another, ourselves, our family our friends; it means we must finally realize that we cannot wait for the cops to come. We must learn how to stand up for ourselves. We must take back the right to responsible carry firearms and then be ever vigilant.

Those willing to answer the call of being a true American -- LGBT, straight, black, white, Latin, Asian, et al., all must train ourselves to learn how to use a gun safely and responsibly and to learn how to assess the situation and act accordingly. It is our duty ‘for the people by the people.’ In fact, in my opinion, it is training that government should be required to offer any citizens willing to stand up -- free and very thorough training done by qualified people. 

As paramount as all the above we must also never forget what made this country great -- we are our history and what every last freedom we take for granted nowadays was built on, starting from the American Revolution, is just as pertinent today as it was back then. The threats we face today may indeed be even greater, more subversive, clandestine and underhanded. The laws apply to all, immigration and otherwise, we all must abide by – laws that were designed to protect and realize the rights of all Americans. The causes have not changed, nor pray will they ever. We forget why we fought the American Revolution and we will be doomed to repeat it. It’s about liberty. It’s about freedom of speech, freedom of expression. I have the right to protect me and mine. And should, God forbid, the event ever come to pass that I need to, I will protect myself and others first and worry about the jail sentence later. 

And lastly, you’re right, “We are stronger than you think” and this heinous event, this persecution, as persecution always does, has only made us stronger. 

I wish you all the best and know that while I may not really know you, you have a very special place in my heart. 

Marc W. Director