To my left-leaning readers, this might be a bit of preaching to the choir. To my more right-leaning readers, well, you might want to sit this one out. So strap in, this one’s gonna get rough.
Unless you just beamed down to the planet in the last few minutes (and I know you didn’t, I checked the transporter logs), you know what happened in Charleston, South Carolina. I want to address a couple of points surrounding the reporting of this tragedy.
First off, some news outlets are trying to make this all about an assault on Christian values and Christian religion. Pardon my French, but I gotta call a big “Bullshit” on this one. The nutjob shooter looked at his victims and specifically stated he was shooting them because they were black/African-American. This was NOT about what religion the victims practised, it was PURELY about the colour of their skin. Anyone saying anything else is either grotesquely ignorant, or just plain messed up in the head. This was a race hate crime, domestic terrorism against the African-American community. Period.
Second, there has been a great deal of commentary about the “evil” embodied by the shooter. I have a BIG problem when real-world events are framed in such nebulous terminology. “Good” and “evil” are concepts, and extremely polar ones at that. God (or your name for your favourite monotheistic deity) is good, Satan (or whoever) is evil. To try to apply such grandiose concepts to this event, and to the perpetrator, virtually guarantees society won’t deal with it. After all, we’re just little people, how can we deal in such spiritual grandiosity as good and evil? The fact is. the shooter wasn’t “evil”. He did a bad thing, an illegal thing, an immoral thing (or a moral thing using a set of truly messed-up morals), but he is a person. We can fight the stupidity, ignorance, and uninformed opinions of people – and that is what we MUST do in the wake of this tragedy. But let’s not raise the act to the level of the abstract – let’s keep it right here where we can all address it.
I won’t dive into the gun control thing – most of you know my feelings on that, and I think trying to answer that debate overshadows the real problem at the root of all this, the prevalent racism that still haunts us from over 150 years ago. But I do want to reflect on a point made by, among others, Jon Stewart. We have expended billions of dollars and thousands of American soldiers’ lives in two foreign wars to make us all feel safe here at home. Yet the number of souls lost in the twin towers on 9/11 pales in comparison to the ongoing slaughter caused by individuals, with various levels of mental problems, easily obtaining handguns and using social media outlets to either justify their warped worldviews, or to receive encouragement for said worldviews. A “war on guns” might help some, but when a rental agent threatens me with moving in “a couple niggers” (his exact words) into the house cross the drive to intimidate me, that’s not a problem with guns, that’s a problem with what’s between peoples’ ears. Until we address the lingering problems in our culture (like South Carolina flying the Confederate flag at full-staff despite lowering the national and state flag), and until we realise we are NOT in a post-racial society, but are fully stuck in a national quagmire where people are still judged by the colour of their skin and not the content of their character (to quasi-quote MLK), things like this – and the rampant police shootings of unarmed black men – will continue unabated. We don’t need to look outside ourselves for great overarching concepts like “good” and “evil”, we need to look at each other and see a person and DEAL with that person – not as white or black, man or woman, young or old, or in any other stereotypical format, but as a person, just like us, and deal with them the way we would like them to deal with us. It might be hard to love another person at first sight, but it should be natural and automatic to RESPECT that person, and treat them with the respect they deserve. It can be done – I came from a somewhat bigoted family, yet I came within a single fork in my life’s road to marrying an African-American lady. It might be hard, but we have to try. The only other alternative is too heart-wrenching to even contemplate.
Okay, that’s enough outta me for tonight. To each and every one of you, whatever the colour of your skin or the brand of your politics, I thank you for your patience. And a special goodnight to the people of Charleston, SC. May the horrors of the last few days give us all the courage to make sure this never happens again. Take care, and God bless.