Yesterday morning my daughter told me about the mass-shooting in Orlando. I had no words other than “I’m so sorry” and “It’s so, so sad.” Now, with more time to think about it, I DO have more words – two of them. But first, a story:
Once upon a time there was a king who reigned over 127 provinces that stretched from India to Ethiopia. He decided to have a banquet. He invited all the nobles, offcials, military officers, and princes from each province to a celebration that lasted 180 days which, as the text tells us, was a “tremendous display of the opulent wealth of his empire and the pomp and splendor of his majesty.” On the 7th day of the feast, when he was drunk with wine, he sent for his wife, the queen, commanding that she come before him, adorned with her crown, so that all of the men could “gaze on her beauty, for she was a very beautiful woman.”
Queen Vashti said NO. This, as you might imagine, set off a chain of events that had all kinds of ramifications; suffice it to say, she was deposed, kicked out of the castle, and devoid of all rights and privileges. One single word spoken that changed her entire world.
There is so much more about her that I’d love for you to know, that I’d love to tell, but this is what matters today: Queen Vashti said NO. She knew what was being asked of her was wrong. She chose fierceness over fear. She rose up and stared down every single risk, consequence, and cost. She said NO because it was the only right thing to say.
And because we are her daughters, her lineage, her kin, we must say NO, as well.
The NO that rose up in her that day is the same NO that rises up in each of us when we read of the mass-shooting in Orlando.
NO is the only acceptable response. NO is the just response. NO is what must be spoken to this kind of violence, to the sale of assault weapons, to evil and darkness, to the harm and death of human beings who are just. like. us. NO means there is nothing to discuss, nothing to argue over, nothing to think about, nothing more to consider. NO is the only word to speak. No matter the risk, consequence, or cost. We say NO because it is the only right thing to say in the face of such tragedy, such death, such darkness.
And in the midst of our fierce and fearless NO, we also say YES.
YES to compassion. YES to human dignity. YES to generous care. YES to candle-light vigils. YES to political reform. YES to every person who needs and deserves safety. YES to sanity. YES to change. YES to each other. YES to reform. YES to endless hope. And YES to love and love and love that endures
no matter what.
A single word, spoken definitively, has the power to change the world.
May it be so.