Family Open Thread

Folks here in the United States woke up to the news that 50+ people are dead and 400+ have been taken to the hospital after a gunman in Las Vegas opened fire at a country music concert. This is now the deadliest mass shooting in U.S. history, eclipsing the Pulse nightclub shooting in June 2016. Police expect the death toll to rise. According to the Washington Post, the gunman was identified as a 64-year-old white male named Stephen Paddock. He was found dead by officers on the 32nd floor of the Mandalay Bay Hotel and Casino after the shooting. This horrific news comes on the heels of Hurricane Maria’s destruction of Puerto Rico, where officials have bungled the recovery and relief efforts in myriad ways. Instead of responding to those failures with action, the “president” of the United States has focused his latest round of thin-skinned Twitter attacks on the country, particularly San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulin Cruz who spent the weekend combing through rubble looking for survivors while Trump played golf and called her lazy.

We usually post a roundtable on Mondays but we decided that this Monday we could really use the space to be together as a family and process some of our grief and anger as we continue empower each other to take action. Politically, this year has been just as overwhelming as we knew it would be when Trump was “elected.” We have faced down series after series of attacks on people of color, immigrants, trans people, gay people, poor people, people who rely on the Affordable Care Act, and on and on. It’s devastating enough to weather tragedies with a competent caring president in the White House; the fact that a narcissistic man-child completely without empathy occupies the Oval Office makes it even harder.

If you have resources, tips for how to help the victims of either of these tragedies, tools for activism, encouragement, or just pure white hot rage and despair, please share them in the comments. We love you all very much and we’re never going to stop fighting alongside you.

Heather Hogan is an Autostraddle managing editor who lives in New York City with her partner, Stacy, and their cackle of rescued pets. She's a member of the Television Critics Association, the Gay and Lesbian Entertainment Critics Association, and a Rotten Tomatoes Tomatometer critic. You can also find her on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

Heather has written 786 articles for us.

75 Comments

  1. Thank you for this. Remaining open to the news these months has been like running a gauntlet. It’s so easy to feel helpless in the wake of unrelenting tragedy, but I have to believe that every little thing counts.

    Donating money to causes is important if you have the financial freedom to do so. It’s helpful to the people who desperately need it, but I find it doesn’t always do a lot to make me feel like I’m making a dent. It’s hard for the human brain to understand how useful $20 if that $20 needs to travel around the world and pass through the hands of 8 NGOs.

    Volunteering at a local level is powerful. It’s community building, and communities can lay a foundation of long-lasting change better than any individual. It also allows you to experience how well-spent actions can effect positive change in a visceral way, a feeling which can safeguard against despair.

    • For others who have money to move, moving money to small local groups led by people most affected is an important part of my practice, alongside how I spend my time and what I read. Examples include a local black women’s history mural project for youth led by a black woman art teacher, a local effort led by black formerly incarcerated person to employ people leaving prison in organic farming, and all-native-women reproductive health group called The Changing Woman Initiative in Santa Fe, The Nationz Foundation, led by a black trans woman who has lived her whole life in Richmond VA where Nationz works. I’m also part of a giving circle that moves to almost entirely poc-led (otherwise rural anti-racist white) local lgbt activist groups (http://fundingqueerly.net/), and it’s really empowering to move money along with others.

  2. it feels like in battlestar galactica (i think?) where they’re flying away from the planet in their spaceship and when you look back at the planet every place on the planet is blowing up one by one and you know that people you love or people somebody you know loves are still there on the planet, except that we’re not in a spaceship, i’m not sure where we are actually

    • This is exactly what I was going to write. I’m so tired and sad and pissed and depressed but I cannot stop reading Twitter and refreshing Facebook and checking every news outlet I don’t despise. It’s so draining and paralyzing.

    • I feel this so hard. Definitely still in the “white hot rage and despair” phase of 2017, but it’s the relentlessness and emotional exhaustion of the news cycle that takes it to the next level. Thanks for sharing, it helps to know that others are feeling this too.

    • so true. I was just lecturing a friend the other night, telling him to turn the sodding news off. Now with this further glimpse into hell I am right back where he was. Its like being trapped behind glass having to watch hideous things happening you can do nothing about. For me the anxiety is crippling and its damaging my health. I am torn between knowing its good to care and knowing that I am getting sick from worrying so much.

  3. Woke up from a nightmare, and it’s looking pretty similar out here in the waking world. Sending love to Puerto Rico and Vegas, and Florida (my family), and everyone caught in the ripple effect. Am I the only one who feels stuck in a stupor of heartbreak at how ugly everything has become? I started out this year staying active, fighting back, and now I just feel stuck.

  4. In the past week I’ve been coming to the realization that I’m not really feeling what’s happening. Like my body/mind/spirit have maxed on grief and maybe even compassion. The horror I feel this morning is a twinge instead of the wave I feel like it would normally be and I don’t know what to do with that. My day job requires me to be compassionate toward people going through it and the constant barrage of awful outside of that is sapping my ability to show up for them too. I recently tried taking a week off from following the news entirely to see if that would help but now it’s that much harder for me to pay attention. It’s like my heart is aching in too many directions and I’ve almost stopped noticing it, and I hate that. I don’t want to stop caring.

    Does anyone have ideas how to deal with this?

    • I really feel this, Athens. I too took some time off from following the news recently (during some recent health problems), and found it almost…intoxicating. I forgot what it was like to live my life out from under the shadow of the news. Now that I’ve let it back in, I find myself almost resentful of each new update. Which is fine when it’s just something terrible that Trump said, when anger is the right response, I guess. But not so much when there’s a/multiple tragedies going on out there. Part of me thinks that we are all collectively going through the stages of grief, and that it’s normal to have a depression/numbness period? But also part of me selfishly doesn’t *want* to leave the numbness, because any other feeling is exhausting. Sorry this is less helpful advice and more…commiseration, hopefully?

      • No apologies, commiseration is good! It’s helpful knowing it’s not just me. Intoxicating is a good word for that feeling of taking time off. I knew there was bad stuff still happening but I felt like the weight was lifted, or more distant, or something. With that analogy, letting it back in really does seem almost like a hangover. But at the same time something has to give, right? We can’t be up on everything all the time. You can only process so much before your brain starts to shut it down. I want to believe there’s a balance somewhere between knowing what’s happening and fighting for good, and taking a break to do happy things. I’m trying to do both, but the balance isn’t easy?

  5. I am deeply shaken this morning. Three good friends of mine were in Vegas last night (all marked safe thank god) and two of those I didn’t even know were there until they checked in. I’m struggling, wondering who else might have been there that I haven’t heard about yet.

    My entire heart goes out to any Vegas Straddlers and anyone else touched by this horror.

  6. I woke up today feeling completely numb. Yesterday, I had a horrible gut feeling all day long that I couldn’t shake. I take medication for anxiety so I am used to feeling like there is some impending doom headed my way but it has only gotten worse over the last year. I can’t stay away from the news, but reading it makes me feel awful, and it’s hard to find the right balance of staying informed and protecting my sanity. Anyone have tips on how they practice self care and still stay uptodate on all that is happening?

  7. I keep thinking after each tragic event maybe this time we will have a serious conversation to have our gun laws in order. But, I don’t think that will ever happen. My heart goes out to all those affected by the tragedy and the State of Nevada.

    Maybe we should take time and just have a glass of water, take a deep breath and shout fuck. Or, go to a safe space and be around community and support.

    • yeah it was impossible for obama to make any progress on gun control, i’m not holding my breath for a trump administration to move any faster.

      but seriously; their whole thing about “the only thing that can stop a man with a gun is another man with a gun” but like, this man was holed up alone in a hotel room and shooting from above, there’s no man with a gun who could’ve stopped him.

  8. As I read through comments on Facebook and Twitter from anti-gun control groups, all I can think about is that headline from earlier this year that was like “I Don’t Know How To Explain to You Why You Should Care About Other People,” and, honestly, that’s kind of my sentiment about the last year as a whole. The last 10 months have continually broken my heart. I can’t imagine what the people who lost friends, partners, siblings, parents, kids to a tragedy that we could’ve prevented a thousand times over must feel. My heart is tired. I wish I could explain to my conservative family why their politics are literally deadly.

  9. hello, i’m terrified and my heart hurts and everything about today makes me so sad and mad that the only answer is to focus on what i love, what i care about, who i love, who i’m growing to love, and all the other aspects of myself that are the antithesis of this man and what he was and did.

  10. Thanks for this. Sending love to you all, no matter where you live.
    I’m personally struggling with feeling like I’m not doing enough. I’m a journalist, so it’s not like I can be super partisan either way on social media. But then again, is even that enough?

    I’d like to suggest that all of you step away from social media/the news if you need to, no matter what you do, but especially my fellow journos. You all matter and are loved, so if you need to do something silly, that’s okay. Do something that makes you happy. We need you. <3

  11. Heather, I’d like to thank you for putting quotation marks around the words “president” and “elected”. Even the small smile they elicited from me made me feel marginally better, and I guess that’s all we can ask of each other in times like these.

    Here’s hoping that you are all able to find something small to smile about today.

  12. I just want to say to our family of color that I’m so sorry this white terrorist is getting the benefit of the doubt in news coverage when victims of color are never extended the same and are painted as complicit in their own deaths. I literally can’t imagine how that must feel. And to all of us in the lgbtq+ community, I am also feeling the pain of knowing that no pastor will tell their congregation tonight that these people brought the attack upon themselves because of their “lifestyle,” since it didn’t happen at a queer nightclub. If you live with mental illness, I’m sorry you’re going to be lumped together with this atrocious person because the U.S. doesn’t want to have a serious talk about masculinity, whiteness, violence, and gun ownership.

    I love you. I love us. I just wish I knew what to do next. Watching the news makes me feel like I could sleep for a month!

  13. Thank you for this thread.

    A tweet I read once has been helping me, where they said they’re therapist told them it’s okay to turn off the news for a little bit, we aren’t designed to be attached to it every second of every day and in fact, doesn’t even help keep us informed because we’re so busy trying not to fall apart from the information.

    Things I’m doing today to keep going/ be relatively okay:

    Praying.
    Sharing trusted resources/plans of action when I can.
    Donating.
    Learning about coding and video games and how to make things and probably about to spend money on Night in the Woods after wanting it for a long time and feeling okay about that.
    Reading.
    Writing.
    I might paint why the hell not.
    Talking to my sister.
    I’m someone who thrives in repetition so you bet mantras are getting worn the hell out.
    Looking at posts and notes and texts from people who love me and letting myself be in awe that they love me this much and this well. Working on figuring out how to love this much this well, back.
    I’m probably gonna watch Sky High or Bojack Horseman or Power Rangers. It’s probably gonna be Power Rangers.
    Being like alone but also not isolated by going in and out of online communities.
    Listening to music and working on getting other jobs because I don’t know what free looks like but I’m trying to be it.

    What are you doing? What do you need?

  14. Hey lovelies. I am so thankful for this roundtable/open thread type thing. This has been a brutal year for the US already. Bw hurricanes (three massive deadly ones), orange dickwad fake “president”, an unbelievable amount of terrifying legislation and another unnecessary mass shooting my head feels like it might explode. Also, I work retail a very white privileged neighborhood and not a soul I interacted w today had anything but complete and utter bullshit to talk about. Not a co-worker, not my boss. Nothing. I mentioned the Las Vegas story to a co-worker after getting into work today and she just fucking shrugged. It’s so disheartening.

    I also want to/need to rant about the speech orange cheetoh gave that I heard bits and pieces of on NPR on my drive home. Did he really have the gall to quote scripture? (yes. of course. i am not questioning this man’s gall.) Did he REALLY call the shooter evil? (yes. of course. of course. he. did.) Every single time that he said the word evil ab the shooter I just kept thinking NO. MENTAL ILLNESS DOES NOT = EVIL. JESUS CHRIST. I can’t even have a screaming bitch sesh w anyone bc right now I am running low in the friend department ever since I got rid of the toxic people around me. I am so grateful to you autostraddle!

  15. It’s the certainty that this isn’t actually going to change anything, that after a week no one will be talking about it, that things will just continue exactly as they are, that’s the worst for me. Everyone will agree that it’s very tragic, and then it will just go away, and when it happens again that will be very tragic too, and surely no one could have predicted or prevented it.

  16. Thank you all for the work you do every day to make Autostraddle a safe and accepting haven for all of us. It’s the only site I check every day because I know it’s going to make me feel safe and welcome.

  17. I feel so powerless. I have been having trouble just taking care of myself day to day, and I watch and listen as tragedy after tragedy unfolds and wonder, if I can’t even get out of bed, how can I work to stop this? How can I work to help and support others in the aftermath? How do I push through these feelings of helplessness? I am at a loss. I am grieving with you all.

    • I don’t know anything about you. I only know about myself. The hardest part is giving myself permission to be not sick, to be okay when so many people are so senselessly so far from okay. Because like you said, how can you work to stop this and help and support others if you are in bed? We can’t do much if we are so far from ok. My first step has to be to get myself to ok (not fantastic, just ok). Heather’s morning routine essay gave me permission to do this work of making myself ok first thing in the day, because it is hardest for me to do, like eating veggies first. The larger world is making my mild anxiety & depression more and harder to handle. I was having trouble getting out of bed the weeks after Nov 8 and made myself a poster with what women of color who I look up to are going each morning and put it by my bed (https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B6ndlXxddt3FekQzcUx5V2VFS0k/view?usp=sharing). Some other things I have done over the last several months is two friends and I realized we’re all having extra trouble doing the basics so we each have a sticker chart for one thing we want to do to take care of ourselves, and we check in with each other each day to say if we did it or not, I am going to therapy again (not accessible for everyone, and took my months to give myself permission to do it), I wrote a Mary Lambert a fan letter about how her music helps quiet the self-harm thoughts, and I asked friends to send me media that is healing so now I have a library of healing media that I try to steer myself towards if I am falling into a spiral of news links. These things help me be ok enough to do things that address all the Badness, and I am focused on very tangible, tiny tasks addressing immigration and queer liberation (and I do them with people I am getting to know, not on my own). I also have a list of things I’m choosing not to do and to let other people do. These things help on an increasing number of days, but not all days and not today. I was a mess today. My mom says the birds of sadness may fly around but don’t let them nest in your hair. I let them nest today and tomorrow I will bat them out. I hope you can find space to take care of yourself and take it one step at a time for others at least, and also for yourself because you being well helps others be well.

  18. so this may or may not come out making any sense. This morning I read a (2016) article in National Geographic that is about what western lab scientists are learning about why placebo effects and ‘traditional’ healings work. The idea is that the ‘theater of medicine’ (e.g. white coats or incense) creates an expectation of relief. A lot of that happens subconsciously. For some parts of how our bodies work, to some degree, this expectation of relief can prompt our own bodies to heal, e.g. releasing opioids produced by our own bodies. This effect is socially reinforced – if other people have experienced healing thru the same method, we have a stronger expectation of relief and a stronger actual relief. So I was thinking that this is metaphorical to society at large and this ‘expectation of relief’ is hope and inspiration. ‘Si Se Puede’ and ‘Black Lives Matter’ and other visionary statements that seem to defy reality, and other practices that create the expectation that things can and must be better really do work in ways that are subconscious and that we can’t see. On the other hand, fear and blame and helplessness are like adrenaline – they are a real response to what is really happening and they also make healing harder. They have to be actively countered with healing and soothing and reclaiming of hope, like we sing or hold a person’s hand when they are experiencing physical pain. Autostraddle staff do these healing things on a daily basis, and we can help each other pass around the visionary healing and soothing stuff as much as we can, becuase it works on us in ways we can’t see or feel immediately. This has been said in different ways by people wiser than I, and adrienne maree brown’s “What we pay attention to grows” gets at it more briefly. Thanks for the invitation to take some space, Heather.

      • I’m glad. Thank you for autostraddle. <3 I learned in the same article that we create stuff scientists call endocannabinoids, so named because they act like cannabis but we make them inside our bodies :0

        • thanks very much for this dev. My dad and I were just talking today about the epidemic of unhappiness (misleadingly, in my opinion, termed ‘mental illness’- and Im diagnosed with several mental illnesses myself!) we are all seeing around us and thinking about how coldness and separateness contribute to this. Our Western cultures are so brutally individualistic and this brutality causes pain- even among those who are the most passionate advocates of individualism.

  19. Sending love and angry commiseration from Canada. I am so sorry that Americans have to live in constant fear of these massacres, and for the endless grief they cause.

    When you resist gun violence and all the other awful things going on in your country, remember that across the world we are looking on with great pride and admiration. We are in your corner.

  20. This thread, and participating, reminded me to return to this poem, reminded me to return to listening to people who have survived genocide . . . ” . . . . This morning my grandmother is teaching me something very important. She is teaching me that the easiest and most elegant way to to defeat an army of hatred is to sing it beautiful songs until it falls to its knees and surrenders. It will do this, she says, it will do this. It will do this because it has finally found a sweeter fire than revenge . . . ” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PZzPWKJvu7I

  21. Sending love from Australia ?

    The spate of terrorist incidents at performance venues this past year or so (Las Vegas, France, Ariana Grande) has got me really spooked. In about a week I’m going to be part of a MASSIVE performance at Melbourne Festival that is explicitly and unapologetically political and queer, and is also possibly the largest performance by scale this city or country has ever seen. I’m scared that something is going to happen at the shows. I know Australia doesn’t have nearly as big a gun problem, but guns are legal here in this city (I live down the road from a gun shop!!) and there’s a ridiculous homophobic campaign going on coz of the plebiscite and there’s always racism and gwargh :(((((

  22. First of all, sending so much love and light to everyone affected by the attack in Vegas. This should not be a thing that keeps happening and I don’t know why our country keeps letting it.

    On top of this horrible Las Vegas news, today it was announced that the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals will not reconsider HB 1523, aka the anti-LGBTQ law, in my state (Mississippi) which means the bill could take effect as early as this Friday. I legitimately don’t know how much more horrible news I can take.

  23. Frodo: I wish the ring had never come to me. I wish none of this had happened.
    Gandalf: So do all who live to see such times. But that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given to us. There are other forces at work in this world Frodo, besides the will of evil. Bilbo was meant to find the Ring. In which case, you were also meant to have it. And that is an encouraging thought.

    To me, the encouraging thought is that though these times are difficult, we get to share them with so many amazing and inspiring people. We can’t give up on hope, because we won’t give up on each other.

  24. I listened to this after Pulse and Yo Viviré

    Celia Cruz- La Vida es un Carnaval

    The best summation I can make of this song is terrible things happen in this world and that does NOT cancel out the good things. Sometimes you have to focus on that good, find that thing and wrap yourself in it to ease the ache.
    It’s not wrong to ease the ache and embrace the good things.
    Keep dancing.

  25. Prayers for the families who lost loved ones in Las Vegas. Pointless violence these days make us all feel hopeless and the growing number of hate speeches is scary. Nothing will ever justify of what happened in the US and in France this weekend. We also witnessed the violence in Spain against the people of Catalunya. It feels like the world has lost its capacity to dialogue.
    I work in international development and everyday in the field you see people suffering directly from violence and ill placed loyalties. It is a daily battle to have people reconsider some of their views and cultures, to have them understand that some practices are harmful to others in their families and societies.

    I agree with others who said about getting off phones, television and just avoid the news. It is overwhelming and seems like there is no break between bad news. This week I had horrible news regarding LGBT laws and I am heart broken over it.
    Sometimes I envy people who live avoiding all things happening in the world and enjoy life in a bubble… it would be easier for sure.

  26. when i first moved to canada about 6 weeks ago, i thought i would be thrilled to get out of the USA. yet with horrible thing after horrible thing rattling the country, i want nothing more than to hug my brother and my cousins and be on the big red couch in my living room with my family. being far away from it all just makes me feel more helpless.

    i hope that everyone is able to take some time to care for themselves and others, if they have the capacity and ability. hang in there, everyone.

  27. I must admit, I struggled with this yesterday…

    Of course, my heart goes out to the victims and their friends and families. My thoughts and prayers are with them and I hope peace finds them again one day.

    But the vast difference in the responses, to the shooting in Las Vegas and the hurricane in Puerto Rico…that one would be worthy of empathy and the other is told they’re just lazy and ungrateful. On one hand, we’re reminded of our shared American values and offered a promise of unwavering support, but on the other, that support is conditional.

    I wondered yesterday what 45’s response would’ve been if it’d been a Jay-Z concert that was targetted, instead of Jason Aldean…which just made me angrier, both at them, and at myself for thinking that. I’m just angry…and I’m trying so hard not to let this godforsaken administration rob me of my empathy

  28. First – here’s an article I wrote for survivor support: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/59d27eaee4b043b4fb095b5c

    Second…
    I’m feeling more broken today than I was yesterday. I’m a survivor of a mass shooting that happened in December of 2007 in which my sisters were killed… ironically at a church. (ask me sometime about how that feels now being out… HA) Yesterday I was doing all my normal “get out and help” things (like the article above). Today I have been, but it’s been way harder. I had the honor this morning of attending a fundraising breakfast for our local queer youth organization, Inside Out. Matthew Shephard’s mother, Judy, spoke. It broke me down. She spoke about her experience as the mother of someone who had been murdered. I related so hardcore and totally broke down at this. I’ve been kinda a wreck ever since. It feels good to come here and say something about it. I’ve not been sure how to process all I’m feeling right now. I have people to process with, it’s just, different somehow.

    • I can’t begin to understand how you’re feeling now. I hope that you can find the support that you need within your circle. For what it’s worth, I hope you will be able to accept consensual internet hugs, and best wishes.

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