It is with a heavy heart that I revisit the words of Dr. Maya Angelou:
Words are things. You must be careful, careful about calling people out of their names, using racial pejoratives and sexual pejoratives and all that ignorance. Don’t do that. Some day we’ll be able to measure the power of words. I think they are things. They get on the walls. They get in your wallpaper. They get in your rugs, in your upholstery, and your clothes, and finally in to you.
That day has come. A day when we measure in mourning the power of words. It visited us this past Sunday, when a piece of our humanity was torn asunder, ripped apart by hatred, ignorance and stupidity. At least 50 people, almost all Latinos, and mostly Puerto Rican, were gunned down in a horrendous act of hate.
Let me be clear : I call it out for what my heart knows is true. This was a mass LGBT murder, and most of the fallen are our own. And we are to blame.
We have remained silent in the face of a vicious war of words against the Puerto Rican LGBT community: a war waged by candidates, politicians and so-called apostles, by the media and those select few that own the airwaves. A war sanctioned in the name of God and country.
And I will name names:
Ricardo Rosselló Nevares, Wanda Rolón, Jorge Raschke, Carlos Pérez, César Vázquez, René Pereira, Pastor Eric Rios, Jorge Escribano, Thomas Rivera Schatz, Dando Candela, Los Seis a las Seis, La Comay, among others.
These are the merchants of hate, the artisans of a blind homophobia, and the horsemen of this tragedy. Because of them, many LGBT Puerto Ricans left the island, looking for a life were they could love in freedom, only to meet the end enjoying Latin Night at Pulse.
Today you attempt to hide behind the dark cloak of terrorism. You cry in front of the cameras, parading your “profound sadness” at such a despicable act. You rush to embrace the families of the fallen, as one more photo-op fabricated by marketing managers. You wring your hands in contrived despair when you are signaled out , such as the “Apostol” Wanda Rolón did in an answer to the condemnation by the LGBT activist Pedro Julio Serrano:
Acusar a líderes religiosos es un acto irresponsable que invita a la violencia. Por este medio hago responsable a Pedro Julio Serrano de cualquier ataque en contra de cualquier líder religioso, familiares y de mi persona.
So what have you been doing, Wanda? Answer me that. You have been the handmaiden of a campaign of detestable hatred, which you now try to conceal behind crocodile tears, because you fear the time has come when your words will be called out and you will have to answer. You hold Pedro Julio responsible? No. We hold you responsible for years of a hate speech.
And you, Ricky? Now you come out and woefully state this:
El terrorismo solo genera odio y violencia. El respeto y la tolerancia es nuestra mejor arma contra este mal. Mis oraciones están con las víctimas de esta horrible tragedia ocurrida en la ciudad de Orlando y sus familias.
This when you have made it a pillar of your campaign to deny the LGBT community their inalienable rights. Shame on you, you charlatan of the truth.
Today I grieve for the fallen, but I also grieve for us, that must continue to live in a world plagued by intolerance.
That is why I am compelled to write this. To call out what is murder, pure and simple, against a specific community. One that is targeted again and again. One that has been driven out of their own homes by the words of those that hijack freedom.
We must stand together and collectively say NO. No more, you will not win, I will not let you. I will not allow you to kill my sons and daughters, my brothers and sisters. I will not listen to your word filled with hate. I will not permit you to spew hatred on your campaign trail and then cry along with you when you say you are saddened by a monumental tragedy such as this. I will not stand by while you murder me where I dance, sing, pray and eat.
As Edmund Burke wrote: “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good people to do nothing.”
Today, I will fight you with my words, for they are all I have. Words are things, as Dr. Angelou wrote. This time, your words —those that you have stamped in your upholstery— have caught you out.
Susanne Ramirez de Arellano is the former News Director for Univision Puerto Rico and a writer and journalist living in New York City. She has a blog in El Nuevo Día called Dos Caminos y Una Subversiva. Comments can be sent to her email. You can follow Susanne on Twitter @DurgaOne.