It’s a never ending story.
The characters change, the settings, even the props. But it has the same beginning, middle and end.
It starts with someone we’re told is mentally distressed. This antagonist has lost his way, is mixed up in the wrong people, drugs, music, movies, culture, religion, cult… As far as we know, he’s “wrong in the head”. It can’t be helped. Actually we’re told to feel sympathy for his situation. And we often do. Maybe only slightly, but we do.
Why couldn’t his parents, spouse, siblings or friends prevent this? Why couldn’t he realize what he was doing was wrong? Why did he have to be this way? Questions can rarely be answered. We never really know the truth. It’s just the way it is.
The middle of the story takes us on a journey to a wholesome place. A supermarket. A park. A movie theater. A school. A church. This is where we meet the silent participants, those who must face the wrath of the disturbed man who can’t grasp what he’s doing. He’s never alone though. He carries fire.
His blaze razes the scene to the ground. The silent ones are now still. But it couldn’t be helped, don’t forget. Remember that sympathetic feeling you’re encouraged to hold. But now there are bodies, gray shadows where vibrant color once lived. Then comes the chase, a siren, metal clinks on flesh, and flashing bulbs; the swarm has arrived and statements are made.
You’ve been waiting for the ending. Well in this story the ending isn’t. It’s a continuing. Here the leaders of Storyland come together to murmur sadness for the loss. They wish they could stop the man getting the fire, or to at least make it more difficult. Alas. The fires keep blazing. And the gray shadows grow.
But it’s not a story.
Dylann Storm Roof is 21 years old, and on his birthday his father presented him with a firearm. A .45 caliber. Dylann drove his car, complete with a Confederate emblem attached to the front. Dylann headed to the historic Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church. Inside, Dylann sat for around one hour with a small congregation of African Americans brought together for bible study. There was a recent college graduate, a librarian, mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, and a pastor who was also a South Carolina State Senator.
And for nine of them he presented his birthday gift.
It’s reported Dylann told his victims they “rape our women and you’re taking over our country,” but he isn’t the first to use this rhetoric. Young Mr. Roof echoed over 150 years of white supremacy, punctuated with nine gun shots. Twenty-one year old Roof wanted to incite a new Civil War to cleanse the nation of the non-white contingent.
That racism is rooted to Roof’s core is indisputable. He wore symbols favoring Apartheid South Africa. But his prejudice is sanctioned by the state. At the State Capitol flies proudly the flag of the once seceded, pro-slavery states. Every flap is a slap in the face of African American citizens. Not just those within South Carolina’s borders but all black Americans.
Two flags atop the statehouse were lowered to half mast honoring the nine lost. Yet the Confederate can be seen standing on the grounds. This one is under the remit of the General Assembly and cannot be lowered, only altogether removed. Yet it still flies. Nine dead because of the color of their skin, and the symbol of slavery and Civil War proudly remains.
The sanctioned execution of America
America is a nation which believes itself to be the founders of freedom but her citizens are not. Many walk the streets, in Charleston and Columbia, reminded of what came before: chains, whips and grotesque, inhumane violence by those who thought themselves superior. This wasn’t even two centuries ago. Today, most are innocent but America continues as a nation of racist extremism.
Paramount to this is America’s execution of her own citizens. She kills them. She may not pull the trigger but she has the ability to prevent another from acting out. Can she completely cease the killing? No. But she can, and chooses to not, make it harder, rarer and unacceptable.
Two weeks before Christmas 2012 Adam Lanza executed 20 children and six adults at Sandy Hook Elementary School. Most of those killed in Newtown, Connecticut were of a white background. And even the grieving mothers and fathers of murdered children couldn’t get the United States government to enact harsher laws for gun control. A few states – New York, Connecticut and Maryland – did legislate for stricter protections, but more actually relaxed their restrictions.
If the fatal shootings of white school children in New England cannot convince American legislators something needs to be done then the death of nine African American will make no difference.
The National Rifle Association will tell us more guns are needed – people need and have the right to defend themselves, after all. The apparently rigid Second Amendment is proof of this because Americans need their guns. Why did Mr. Roof need his?
Is everyone with a gun dangerous? No. The majority of owners are not. Many have real, legitimate needs. Some live in rural areas, miles away from a neighbor let alone law enforcement. What if someone attacked? That’s too long to wait for the police before something could go terribly wrong.
Children are being killed by guns, like Sandy Hook, at institutions which should be safe, like Virginia Tech., surrounded by loved ones at an outing, like in Aurora. However it’s surely time to admit there’s a problem when children are able to take a gun from a someone they know, travel with it to school and shoot and kill someone else’s child. Like Columbine.
But Columbine was 16 years ago. Sandy Hook was less than three.
America won’t change.
She’s scared of the dangers thousands of miles away in the Middle East and will spend trillions of dollars to invade a country for “liberation and peace”.
She’s fearful of the non-white threat from her southern borders and will spend billions trying to erect some kind of barricade to stop her lands from being ravaged by the unknown and unclean.
But when one American massacres others because they hate someone else for their skin color, then there’s not much she can do.
On Wednesday nine innocents were killed for living as black people in the same country as a hateful racist.
And America did nothing.