Saturday, June 20, 2015

Horror, Healing & Hope

Dylann Roof's booking photo [Charleston County Sheriff]
Like many, it's taken me some time to mentally and emotionally process the unmitigated horror of what took place inside the Emanuel A.M.E Church last Wednesday night.

From the shocking eye-witness accounts of the racially-motivated premeditated savagery committed by suspect Dylann Roof, I can't even begin to fathom what the victim's family members, friends, church members and co-workers must be going through as they try and process this unspeakable act of domestic terrorism that claimed the lives of nine innocent people.

The term "hate crime", while appropriate given the suspect's own statements, actions and beliefs, doesn't even come close to encapsulating the magnitude of this act of violent race hatred.

It's almost as if humanity needs a new word to describe this kind of senseless slaughter of innocents in the same way the word Holocaust (a term first used in the 13th century) became the de facto description of the mass slaughter of Jews and other peoples by the Nazis during World War II.

But if any positives have come out of this tragedy, it's not just the holding up of the scourge of racial hatred to the scrutiny of truth, it's the reaction of the local, national and global community as heroes and healers have stepped forward to counteract the killer's demented desire to spark some kind of conflict based on race.

Debbie Dills helped police capture Dylann Roof [Photo ABC News]
Take Debbie Dills (pictured left), the florist and minister who was running late for work at about 10:30am on the morning after the killing when she spotted the deranged killer in his black Hyundai stopped at a light on Highway 74 in Kings Mountain, North Carolina, turned her vehicle around and followed him for 35 miles to Shelby, North Carolina while she contacted the police with the help of her boss - leading to the quick capture of this monster and assuring he answers for his crimes in a court of law.

There are also the many members of law enforcement and emergency response teams in Charleston, SC who first responded to the shootings and helped get descriptions of the killer and his vehicle out to other police departments and to local media; and the members of the Kings Mountain & Shelby, NC police departments and federal agents of the FBI and BATF who helped apprehend the killer.

Credit must also be given to the many local community leaders in Charleston who called for calm in the wake of the killings, even as some mainstream media outlets began to warn of the rioting that might erupt; which never happened.

Audience members sing "We Shall Overcome" [Getty Images/AFP]
Instead we've watched thousands of South Carolinians from different races, religions and backgrounds come together in prayer services for the nine victims as well as peaceful vigils and prayer services around the nation.

Such as the diverse group of more than 4,000 people (pictured left) who gathered at the College of Charleston TD Arena at an interfaith service of remembrance on Friday to hear appeals for peace and unity from Protestant, Catholic and Jewish clergy and recognize more than 50 relatives of the nine victims of the shooting who attended the ceremony; which opened with a rendition of "Amazing Grace" and culminated in the entire crowd singing "We Shall Overcome". 
On the other side of the coin, it's also been quite instructive to observe the reaction of some Republicans and other American conservatives to this tragedy.

As an article on the Website reported on Thursday, both and the Fox Nation television broadcasts completely downplayed the murder of nine innocent people at a bible study by a 21 year-old white supremacist, as such things fall outside the Fox News narrative.

If you can stomach it, click the link above and read a sampling of the comments posted in the aftermath of the murders on the FoxNation thread; which include such insightful observations as: "Are we sure they were black? Or did they just check the box?" And: "Going to be a riot in Charleston, look out liquor stores and cell phone stores and electronic stores."

And we wonder how a depressed, unemployed 21 year-old white kid with substance abuse issues (and a .45 caliber handgun he bought at a gun store with no background check...) became indoctrinated with the delusional half-baked white supremacist theories he espoused; including that black men are raping white women and "taking over" the country.

Sen Lindsey Graham after visiting Emanuel AME memorial
As an article posted on reported, reactions from Republican political leaders differed.

South Carolina Senator and 2016 Republican presidential candidate Lindsey Graham attended the Friday interfaith service in Charleston and he appeared visibly shaken (pictured left) as he spoke with members of the media after he payed his respects at the memorial site at the Emanuel A.M.E Church

Senator Ted Cruz addressed the shootings directly and called for a moment of silence in opening remarks before a speech. NJ Governor Chris Christie called the shootings "depraved" but suggested the solution wasn't more laws: "Only the goodwill and the love of the American people can let those folks know that that act was unacceptable, disgraceful, and that we need to do more to show that we love each other."

A law that would've prevented the killer from having a .45 caliber handgun in the first place isn't a solution?

Unfortunately for the optimistic Christie "the goodwill and love of the American people" can't stop a nut-bag with a gun from shooting people.

Jeb Bush stirred a bit of controversy on social media by waffling and refusing to say directly that the shooter's motivations were based on race. Bush stated: "I don't know what was on the mind or the heart of the man who committed these atrocious crimes," Really?

I guess Jeb hadn't read about 26 year-old Tywanza Sanders, who bravely stood up during the shooting and begged the killer to spare the remaining members of the bible study before the killer said that he couldn't stop because black people are raping white women and blacks are taking over the country before shooting and killing Sanders as his wounded mother lay nearby.

Funny how pretty much everyone in America and millions around the world understand exactly what was in the killer's mind when he shot those poor people; everyone except Jeb Bush.

Not the kind of answer I'm looking for in a presidential candidate.

Bush's weak-ass comments seem to typify the tepid Republican response which seems to completely avoid acknowledging the racist beliefs of the killer and focus instead on the concocted conservative issue of "religious liberty" (Republican code for anti-abortion...) and not pissing off the NRA over yet another mass slaughter of innocents by yet another troubled nut-bag with a legally purchased gun. 

Bush's comments reflect his campaign thus far; so not ready for prime time.

Rick Santorum, champion of "religious liberty"
Republican presidential hopeful Rick Santorum didn't do himself (or his capacity as a potential leader of the free world) any favors when he suggested that the killer chose his victims "indiscriminately" during an interview on the Joe Piscopo Show the day after the shootings took place.

Instead of linking the motivations of the shooter to racial hatred, Santorum had the temerity to make an effort to link the killings to the mythical issue of "religious liberty" Republicans seem to feel is so important.

During the interview Santorum said, "You talk about the importance of prayer at this time, and we're now seeing assaults on religious liberty we've never seen before."

As if America doesn't already have one of the most religiously diverse societies on the planet; and call me crazy but freedom of religion has been enshrined in the Constitution since the 18th century.

Apparently Santorum hasn't figured out that the killer wasn't targeting Christians; he was targeting black people simply because they're black.  

Republican South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley seemed genuinely affected by the brutality of the killings and was quick to wave the pro-capital punishment flag by calling for the death penalty in this case, but like her GOP cohorts she's missing the message too.

She probably would've been better off supporting the long-time organized movement within her own state calling for that huge Confederate flag flying over her own statehouse to be removed.

By not publicly (or intellectually) making the connection between the extremist mindset that cultivated the twisted beliefs someone like Dylann Roof and the statement a huge Confederate flag flying over the building where state lawmakers meet makes, Haley is only demonstrating her willingness to remain detached from the mainstream American mindset which views the flag as a divisive symbol of hate and the pro-slavery movement.

Since the killer is just beginning the long road to his day in court, and the families, friends and co-workers of the victims along with millions of people around the world are still grieving for the heinous deaths of the nine victims inside the Emanuel A.M.E Church - there's much to come regarding this sad chapter in American history.

But for the time being, I think Dylann Roof's 56 year-old uncle Carson Cowles pretty much summed up the thoughts of many on this deranged killer's capture when he told Reuters news agency:
"I will say this, I hope he gets what's coming to him. They got his ass now."  

You got that right Uncle Carson.

Now that the horror is over, let's pray that the healing and hope for positive change as a result of this tragedy can now begin.

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