“The guilt of being alive is heavy” by Patience Carter

“Before I start to share my story, I want to recite a poem that I wrote in the middle of the night last night, which really shows everything that I’m feeling right now. And it’s a part of my healing process: writing,” she said.

The guilt of feeling grateful to be alive is heavy.
Wanting to smile about surviving but not sure if the people around you are ready
As the world mourns, the victims killed and viciously slain, I feel guilty about screaming about my legs in pain.
Because I could feel nothing like the other 49 who weren’t so lucky to feel this pain of mine.
I never thought in a million years that this could happen.
I never thought in a million years that my eyes could witness something so tragic.
Looking at the souls leaving the bodies of individuals, looking at the killer’s machine gun throughout my right peripheral. Looking at the blood and debris covered on everyone’s faces. Looking at the gunman’s feet under the stall as he paces.
The guilt of feeling lucky to be alive is heavy. It’s like the weight of the ocean’s walls crushing uncontrolled by levies. It’s like being drug through the grass with a shattered leg and thrown on the back of a Chevy. It’s like being rushed to the hospital and told you’re gonna make it when you laid beside individuals whose lives were brutally taken.
The guilt of being alive is heavy.

“‘Don’t Worry. I Got You’: These Clubgoers Risked Their Own Lives to Save Others in Orlando Rampage” by Lorraine Berry / Raw Story

Photo Credit: Joshua McGill (Facebook)

“Bravery is the capacity to perform properly even when scared half to death.” —Omar Bradley, WWII American general

Imagine a crowded dance floor. Bodies pressed up against one another. Bass thumping, driving people to move, to have a good time, to celebrate life. Now, imagine that same crowd becoming aware that they were targets. The pops of gunfire. The mad scramble toward safety.

Imagine that you were one of the lucky ones, and that you had made it outside. You were safe. And then, you heard a cry for help that would require you to give up your place of safety in order to help a stranger. What would you do?

Josh McGill, 26, chose to save a life. LA Times reporter Sarah Parvini interviewed McGill, whose story offers a nugget of inspiration in the rockpile of horror that was the mass murder of gays and lesbians at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando. On a day where homophobes are already trying to insist that gay people were not the targets, the heroism of those who were targeted deserve our respect.

Josh McGill was close to the patio when the gunfire began, and he and his friends were able to crawl out to the patio and onto the parking lot. As they stood up to run toward the police perimeter, which was a few hundred feet beyond them, the shooting resumed.

McGill took shelter behind a car while his friends continued to run to safety. McGill was safe, and he crawled underneath the car to wait for police rescue.

From his place of safety, he “noticed a man stumbling toward him, covered in blood,” according to the Sentinel.

McGill got up and brought the man behind the car. As Parvini reports:

“I think I got shot,” the man said.

McGill searched the man’s body and quickly found two bullet wounds—one in each arm.

“Don’t worry, I got you,” McGill said.

He knew he needed to stop the bleeding. He pulled off his lavender V-neck shirt and wrapped it around the arm of the weakening man slouched against him.

As the man continued to bleed, McGill removed the wounded man’s shirt and used it as a tourniquet on the second gunshot wound. But then McGill realized that the man needed more help than he would be able to provide, so he helped to ready the man to run with him to the perimeter.

The man complained that his back hurt. That’s when McGill realized that the man had been shot a third time, in the back. He managed to get them both to the safety zone. A bystander was watching, and McGill demanded the man’s shirt. He complied, and McGill used it to try to stanch the injured man’s bleeding back.

McGill got them to a police officer, who told him that a cop car would take them to the hospital. Parvini reports:

McGill’s job, the officer told him, was to lay down in the back of the car.

“We will lay him on top of you, and you bear hug him,” the officer said.

Keep him conscious, no matter what, McGill was told as they rushed off down the road.

“Hey, man, my name is Josh,” he said, his arms covered in the blood of a man he’d just met. “What do you do?”

“My name is Rodney. I’m from Jacksonville,” the man replied quietly.

“I don’t know if you’re religious or not, but I’ll say a prayer with you,” McGill said. Rodney mumbled something inaudible.

McGill made promises he didn’t know he could keep. He swore the man would be OK, that everything was turning out fine. He held him as tightly as he could.

When they got to the hospital, doctors wheeled Rodney inside.

“Words cannot and will not describe the feeling of that. Being covered in blood,” McGill said. “Trying to save a guy’s life that I don’t even know.”

McGill later found out that Rodney was recovering, but so far, he has not been able to visit the man whose life he saved.

Other heroes were not so fortunate. Edward Sotomayor Jr., 34, saved his boyfriend’s life. He pushed his boyfriend out ahead of him and through an exit door. Sotomayor was shot in the back, giving his life shielding his boyfriend.

Edward Sotomayor was fun-loving, and friends recalled that he loved to wear top hats. He was the national brand manager for a travel agency that specialized in gay-friendly vacations. On Twitter, his friends mourned the loss of “the kindest, sweetest man.”

Death is careless at times, the poem tells us. But we must take lots of care in honoring those who were lost to the hatred of homophobia, and offer their sacrifices as proof that good things still drive humans to aid each other even at great cost to ourselves.

“Orlando shooter Omar Mateen was gay, former classmate says” (palmbeachpost.com)

A former classmate of Omar Mateen’s 2006 police academy class said he believed Mateen was gay, saying Mateen once asked him out.

Officials say Mateen shot and killed 49 people and injured 53 others at an Orlando nightclub early Sunday morning.

Orlando shooter Omar Mateen was gay, former classmate says photo

Photo by Allen Eyestone.  Sidiqque Mir Mateen, father of Omar Mateen, speaks about his son at his home in Port St. Lucie, Florida on June 13, 2016. Omar Mateen who is believed to have killed 50 people in Orlando nightclub shooting. (Allen Eyestone / The Palm Beach Post)

 The classmate said that he, Mateen and other classmates would hang out, sometimes going to gay nightclubs, after classes at the Indian River Community College police academy. He said Mateen asked him out romantically.
Orlando shooter Omar Mateen was gay, former classmate says photo

“We went to a few gay bars with him, and I was not out at the time, so I declined his offer,” the former classmate said. He asked that his name not be used.

He believed Mateen was gay, but not open about it. Mateen was awkward, and for a while the classmate and the rest in the group of friends felt sorry for him.

Orlando shooter Omar Mateen was gay, former classmate says photo

“The Morality of Prosperity” by Darrin M. McMahon (wsj.com)

Grinding poverty was the norm for humanity until 1800. It changed with the rise of values like tolerance and respect for individual liberty.

What accounts for the wealth and prosperity of the developed nations of the world? How did we get so rich, and how might others join the fold? Deirdre McCloskey, a distinguished economist and historian, has a clarion answer: ideas. It was ideas, she insists—about commerce, innovation and the virtues that support them—that account for the “Great Enrichment” that has transformed much of the world since 1800.

Whatever Bernie Sanders might say, the Great Enrichment is a fact, an astonishing departure from the grinding poverty that was once the norm for our ancestors in every society of the world. Conditions of widespread impoverishment began to change around 1800, when a dramatic takeoff began—first in Western Europe and North America, more recently in India and China.

There are different ways to quantify the takeoff. But the upshot is that income in the 34 countries that constitute the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development has risen since 1800 on the order of 2,900%. All told, Ms. McCloskey concludes, the Great Enrichment is “the most important secular event” since the Agricultural Revolution that began in the 10th century B.C., and it has pulled millions and millions of people out of poverty and destitution.

How to explain this startling transformation? Economists and social theorists have put forward a number of explanations, from capital accumulation to property rights and the rule of law. Left-wing critics of capitalism, for their part, have either denied the Great Enrichment altogether or argued that the West’s wealth was extracted, zero-sum, from the colonized and oppressed.



By Deirdre Nansen McCloskey
Chicago, 787 pages, $45

Ms. McCloskey convincingly dismisses each one of these explanations. The Chinese, after all, long had a thriving mercantile culture and good “institutions.” But the Great Enrichment didn’t begin there. Italian bankers accumulated vast sums of capital in the Middle Ages and the Renaissance. But by the 18th century, their leading cities languished in faded grandeur. And the “economic effect of imperialism on ordinary Europeans” was, for all its horrors, “nil or negative.” One can’t explain the Great Enrichment by theft.

No, this monumental achievement was caused by a change in values, Ms. McCloskey says—the rise of what she calls, in a mocking nod to Marx, a “bourgeois ideology.” It was far from an apology for greed, however. Anglo-Dutch in origin, the new ideology presented a deeply moral vision of the world that vaunted the value of work and innovation, earthly happiness and prosperity, and the liberty, dignity and equality of ordinary people. Preaching tolerance of difference and respect for the individual, it applauded those who sought to improve their lives (and the lives of others) through material betterment, scientific and technological inquiry, self-improvement, and honest work. Suspicious of hierarchy and stasis, proponents of bourgeois values attacked monopoly and privilege and extolled free trade and free lives while setting great store by prudence, enterprise, decency and hope.

Such values were best expressed, Ms. McCloskey maintains, in the writings of Adam Smith and Benjamin Franklin. But they found their way into a whole range of 17th-, 18th- and 19th-century productions, from novels and sermons to newspaper columns and works of art. Collectively, they constituted a striking shift in rhetoric that justified new values for a world in which improvement and innovation were not just tolerated but esteemed.

Ms. McCloskey clearly relishes a good argument, and there is plenty of material in the book to argue about. One might take issue, for example, with the coherence of categories like “bourgeois” or “bourgeoisie,” which seem to be ever-rising in influence but are difficult to situate on the ground. She is also somewhat vague about why bourgeois ideology emerged when and where it did. Was it an effect of the Protestant Reformation? (Somewhat, she suggests.) A product of the Scientific Revolution and the Enlightenment? (Not entirely, it seems.) Finally, it is not clear why an event as complex as the Great Enrichment needs to be reduced to a single cause—ideas—in the first place. Most historical events of this magnitude are multi-causal and over-determined.

And yet, even when it is not entirely convincing, “Bourgeois Equality” is always learned, provocative and smart. It is, in fact, a rarity: a work of economic history that is engaging (and often funny) on nearly every page. There can be little doubt, moreover, that it succeeds in its overall aim, serving as a bracing reminder that ideas do matter and that they have played an essential part in forging the world’s prosperity.

That is a vital lesson for the present and the future as well. For Ms. McCloskey’s book is ultimately a call to extend the wonders of the Great Enrichment to those parts of the world that it has yet to touch. We can end dire poverty once and for all, she believes, while continuing the trend of reducing inequality between nations, even if inequality rises within them.

To leave markets free to do their work, and ordinary people empowered to innovate and improve, is an achievable goal. But as Ms. McCloskey warns, a “clerisy” of naysayers has assailed bourgeois values from the start, dismissing capitalism as unjust and decrying its freedoms as illusory. Those voices are still strong, and growing stronger, on both the left and the right, urging retrenchment and retreat. As “Bourgeois Equality” reminds us: If we hope to leave a better world to our children, this is not a time to be building walls.

Mr. McMahon, a professor of history at Dartmouth College, is currently writing a history of equality.

Contributed to the BB by Melissa Goodnight-Derfler.

Book recommendation: “On Killing” by Lt. Col. Dave Grossman


The good news is that most soldiers are loath to kill. But armies have developed sophisticated ways of overcoming this instinctive aversion. And contemporary civilian society, particularly the media, replicates the army’s conditioning techniques, and, according to Lt. Col. Dave Grossman’s thesis, is responsible for our rising rate of murder among the young.

Upon its initial publication, ON KILLING was hailed as a landmark study of the techniques the military uses to overcome the powerful reluctance to kill, of how killing affects soldiers, and of the societal implications of escalating violence. Now, Grossman has updated this classic work to include information on 21st-century military conflicts, recent trends in crime, suicide bombings, school shootings, and more. The result is a work certain to be relevant and important for decades to come.  (amazon.com)

“Shooting hits Orlando in the heart” by Willoughby Mariano (Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

The Orlando I know best was shot through the heart Sunday morning. This may sound like a cliché, but I believe it is true.

I lived there for nine years, mostly in the gay neighborhoods near downtown. If I could pull the city close and lay my ear on its chest, the streets near the scene of the massacre at Pulse nightclub are where I would hear its beating heart.

It is hard to be gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender in America, and Orlando is no different. But if your parents turned their backs on you because you are gay, if you felt that you had nowhere to go, you could find a home in these sleepy streets, 20 miles north of the fantasy worlds of Walt Disney.

This solidarity is not strictly the kind that brings together any embattled group. It is a choice of the city’s political and civic leadership. Downtown Orlando was revived in the 1990s and early 2000s by gay homeowners and transformed by gay developers, many of them drawn to the city for jobs as Disney artists and entertainers. These neighborhoods elected Central Florida’s first openly gay official—a city councilwoman who was voted into office 16 years ago and still serves to this day.

In the years before gay marriage became legal, they fought for and won a gay rights ordinance, domestic partner benefits for city employees, and a domestic partner registry. Even when Central Florida politics was dominated by forces that were lukewarm to gay rights, Orlando supported it.

Now gayness is celebrated and protected by the city’s Democratic political elite. When the editor of Watermark, the region’s gay newspaper, got married last year, a U.S. Congressman, the city’s mayor, the county’s elected tax collector, a former police chief and a host of other politicos crowded into rows of folding chairs alongside chronic club goers, artists and liberal activists.

I was a reporter for the Orlando Sentinel from 2001 to 2010, mostly covering crime and criminal justice. For five of those years, I lived within walking distance of Pulse. As a straight married homebody, exhausted from long hours as a police reporter, I never went dancing there and never knew the gay club scene.

Instead, I came to know and love Orlando best through two of my neighbors who were gay and lived in cramped apartments behind a house I used to rent with my husband. When one was too broke to buy HIV medication, they would share it.

One was Brian, an Orlando native whose family lived less than two miles away but never visited. He manned the counter at a gay-owned optometrist office a mile or so north of Pulse on the same street.

Brian felt shunned by his family, of course. But also by the gay elite who he felt treated those with HIV as outcasts. When he was feeling mischievous, he’d shout at our wealthier gay neighbors through their fence: “Arrogant fags.”

I was driving home from an assignment when one of his friends called to tell me that Brian had died of a heart attack. The service was at a storefront funeral home that did services for cheap. Rumor was that his family planned to show up out of spite, just to peer into the windows to see how lonely they had made him.

But Brian was never abandoned by Orlando. Latecomers to the service had to stand, and the crowd spilled out the door into the heat. Programs that featured a faded picture of him dressed as a court jester ran out.

Midway through the service, I saw a relative peak her head in the door and stomp away. Brian won.

I thought of Brian’s funeral early Sunday when I watched Orlando police on television, piling the wounded into the back of a pickup truck they used as a makeshift ambulance. Hours later, when footage showed at least hundreds of people, if not more than a thousand, lining up to give blood, I thought of him again.

The Orlando I love best was shot through the heart early Sunday, yet somehow, it is still alive. I like to think that it, like Brian, will win.

Contributed by Michael Kelly.

“Please don’t stop the music” by Richard Kim (thenation.com)


The Orlando shooter violated a sanctuary, but his desecration will not defeat us.

My first gay bar was Crowbar. Like all great gay bars, Crowbar was a dump: dark, low-ceilinged, shitty sound system. It was off Tompkins Square Park and Avenue B, when Tompkins Square Park was still a place you’d go to to buy drugs. It smelled like mildew, urine, cheap vodka, and Designer Imposters body spray. It’s long gone—made extinct like too many wonders by gentrification and Giuliani—but for a hot moment in the ’90s, it was the single most fabulous place in the galaxy. Dance moves were invented there. People went in, and when they came out, they weren’t just drunk—they were different people. That’s how powerful its juju was.

Before the ’80s were hijacked by hipsters in tiny jackets, Crowbar had a theme night called 1984, which was ridiculously fun. But because I was underage and stupid and felt the need to piss on fun things, I once said something catty there like: “Isn’t it kinda pathetic and weird that all these gays are nostalgic for a decade that ended 10 seconds ago?” And some guy I knew, who I considered ancient but was probably all of 32 at the time, snapped back at me: “Listen, you little piece of shit, we didn’t get to dance to this music the first time. We were burying each other. So take your bad vibes and get the fuck out of here. I need this more than you need to suck!” before twirling, fabulously, away from me and my toxic aura.

That was my first lesson that gay bars are more than just licensed establishments where homosexuals pay to drink. Gay bars are therapy for people who can’t afford therapy; temples for people who lost their religion, or whose religion lost them; vacations for people who can’t go on vacation; homes for folk without families; sanctuaries against aggression. They take sound and fabric and flesh from the ordinary world, and under cover of darkness and the influence of alcohol or drugs, transform it all into something that scrapes up against utopia.

I’ve never been to Pulse, the Orlando gay nightclub where Omar Mateen killed 50 people and wounded another 53. But I know that for some queer people there it was their utopia. Or, as Daniel Leon-Davis movingly recollects, a “safe haven,” the place “where I learned to love myself as a gay man,” and the place “where I learned to love my community.” Or as President Obama put it, “a place of solidarity and empowerment.” Last night, this place was violated.

We may never know how much homophobia drove Mateen to do what he did, or what other springs of madness and extremism he drank from. But we can definitely say this: Just as Dylann Roof preyed upon the specific openness and hospitality of the Mother Emanuel Church, Omar Mateen exploited the specific things that make gay bars magic. He took the dark, the loudness, the density, the chaos of the dance floor—and he made them his accomplices in what is the largest mass shooting in this nation’s history.

But he does not own these things, and his desecration cannot defeat us. This next week is going to suck hard—but we must remember that our joy is its own purpose; it is a higher calling.

To all the bartenders and bar-backs and bouncers and gogo boys and drag queens and club kids and freaks who make the nightlife—I love you. Stay strong.

Consciousness, sexuality, androgyny, futurism, space, art, music, physics, astrology, democracy, photography, humor, books, movies and more