June 19, 2015

Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church Shooting

I don't know what causes me more pain, reading that a hate-filled racist shot and killed nine people in the oldest black church in America, or the dog and pony show that began the moment the last shot was fired. They were still counting bodies when Fox News announced this was an attack on faith. The doctors were still cleaning up from their failed attempt to save the ninth victim's life when President Obama announced this shooting should motivate Americans to give up their guns. Before the names of the victims were even known, race advocates across the nation were proclaiming this was a terrorist attack aimed at keeping black people oppressed. And even late night comedy got involved with Jon Stewart pleading for somebody to do something.

I cannot comprehend racism. But then, neither can I comprehend the "gangsta" culture that has overtaken America's working poor. Almost no one realizes that the majority of people who receive handouts from the government are neither black, hispanic, asian, nor any other minority. The majority of working poor in America are the same as they have always been: poor whites with no opportunity to advance. No one seems to notice that for every rich white man with a corner office there are hundreds of thousands of homeless white men, women, and children living in our streets. Black community leaders want everyone to believe that because of slavery and the Civil War blacks are the most hated group in America, all the while conveniently ignoring that even today the vast majority of slaves were and remain white. The second largest group of slaves has always been, and remains to this very day, Asian. Blacks were never more than a tiny percentage of enslaved people and today that percentage is almost zero.

I'm not black. I would never pretend to be black. Nor would I try to claim I empathize with black people who feel oppressed. Nor would I pretend to sympathize with the white people who hate blacks. To be bluntly honest, I find the entire issue ludicrous. White people who hate blacks, black people who hate whites, both groups are completely insane. Yes. Insane! This level of paranoia and hatred is a form of mass hysteria and I cannot comprehend why people allow themselves to wallow in it. Nine people who gathered together to study the Bible on a quiet Wednesday night are now dead. Shot down in cold blood by a man so filled with hatred he sat through the entire Bible study, prayed with them, and then went out to his car to retrieve his gun so he could kill them. Now the whole world knows his name.

NPR has published the names of the victims, but I will not pretend to know their names. In three days, four at the most, no one will remember their names, not even the NPR staffer who wrote the article. Their families will feel the loss as an empty hole deep in their chests for the rest of their natural lives. Prayer, counselling, and compassionate friends will help them learn to carry that hole around, but it will never go away. Once taken, a life cannot be restored and a loved one cannot be replaced. I can empathize with those left behind. This is a pain I know well. It is a pain we all have in common at some point. Those who are taken suddenly and without warning hurt the most because we who are left behind cannot stop ourselves from speculating what good those who died might have accomplished if they were still here with us.

Violence is as much a part of our human existence as is the hatred which creates it. The pain we carry reminds us that we are still alive; it reminds us that we ourselves can die instantly and without warning. Yes, it is true, the young man who killed these people is no different in his hatred than any ISIS terrorist cutting the head off a captured Christian. I will not pretend to understand hatred so deep it leads someone to brutally murder innocent people. I do not empathize with people who walk into an unarmed crowd and kill indiscriminately. I refuse to let some talking media head, some community activist, or some cable television comedian put me in the same class of person as the insane people who perpetuate these acts of mass slaughter. The death of the children at Columbine, Sandy Hook, Westgate Shopping mall, Beslan, and so many other places cuts me just as deeply as it cuts anyone else. The families are cut deeper, far deeper, and the burden of pain they carry far exceeds my own, but it still hurts me because I am human, and a father, and an uncle, and a brother, and a son. However, I am also a realist. I know that there is no human way to prevent these crazy individuals from slaughtering strangers.

I grieve for the nine people killed at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church. I really do. I grieve every time I hear about another violent death, another rape victim, another natural disaster. But it pains me just as much when people in power try to use these tragedies to force their ideology down my throat and demand I live my life in accordance with their own paranoid delusions. We cannot remove violent people from our midst. As long as there are humans there will be violent humans. The only thing each of can do is individually prepare ourselves for the fateful day one of these predators crosses our path. The victim is always the first line of defense against the predator. The one genuinely fatal flaw in modern American society, the one lunacy that drives all of our worst mistakes as a society, is this insane, delusional idea that with just the right social change we can live in a world without violence. It will never happen. Violence and hatred are part and parcel of who we are. Our violence is what brought us up from a naked scavenger on an open savanna to the peak of civilization. None of our art, our pacifism, our love of nature, our scientific success, our miraculous healing powers, or our religious fervor would be possible if we were not at our very core a wild, violent animal capable of picking up a rock and killing the stronger, better equipped predators we shared that savanna with.

Our hatred is as much a part of being human as is our love. It is each of individually who chooses which aspect of our potential we will develop. We cannot destroy the ability to hate without also destroying the ability to love. So stop this silly arguing over which laws to write and which freedoms to restrict in order to make sure this never happens again. It will happen again. It is inevitable. When it does, I will grieve just as deeply for the next set of victims as I now grieve for the nine who died Wednesday night.