For a variety of reasons, both happy and sad, I have taken a long break from posting here. Part of that reason was my arrival in a place, where I had lost the capacity for outrage and shock at all the darkness in the world. But after the events in Charleston Wednesday night, I was physically sickened as my friends were when the madness of 9/11 visited the places where once they lived. Having lived in Charleston, I more than once attended services in the historic Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church. The same church where the massacre of nine black people by yet another person addled by "strong conservative beliefs," has just taken place.
Once again, the concept of terrorism is defined downward when the gun lobby and their rightist enablers have their spin control machine engaged. It goes like this.
- First state that the shooter was mentally ill.
- Then speak in terms that confuse domestic terrorism with a commitment to “heritage and tradition”
- Infer that the murderer was a sadly confused soul who only tried to take his country back, in the light of the 2008 and 2012 election results.
- Since the bowl-cut Dylann Roof has been (thankfully) captured, life in the right wing can go on.
- Consistently pound the message that their America is under attack by alien forces,.
- Emphasize we are lucky that we do not see more images like this, given the intolerable norm of leftist control of the media and White House.
Dylann Roof used a weapon that was given to him as a 21st Birthday gift by his father. (That begs the question: Did daddy ever notice that jacket with the apartheid era flags?) Did he read the news, that Adam (Sandy Hook) Lanza was always accompanied to the range by his about-to-be-murdered mother? I watched the news for one clue of how Dylann Roof was raised, much less given a weapon after a couple of brushes with the law.
For those of us who endured listening to a parent talking hate around the family, it was only because of revulsion that we avoided the same mindset. It's easy to picture millions of parents watching the local news, hearing of a rape, and as a reflex, concluding a black man had to be involved. Parents who are prejudiced, who voice it all the time, usually produce those who follow suit as adults. Their lessons of hate become why their children hate. I cannot see a moral difference between ISIS teaching their kids to hate Christians and Jews and the people we speak of in our land. It has nothing to do with color and everything to do with hate. That's the stark reality. We live in a nation where fewer and fewer parents teach their children to love.
Try posting on Facebook that Dylann Roof is a "domestic terrorist." Many responses will state he was simply “mentally ill” and accuse the poster of driving hate. At the same time, the definition of "terrorist" to these folks is an Arab in a cave, with a rag around his head, tied down by inner tubes. As we are bombarded by memes like the one appended above, Mr. Roff is accorded terms like “misguided separatist." How we can allow the term terrorist to be defined downward so adroitly? How can we allow the record to be distorted with such precision?
This disturbed creature sat with his victims for an hour in their church. While they worshiped God and prayed, he waited. And of course no one thought to ask him why he was there, because the doors of a church are always open. Nine people killed, including the pastor. A 5-year old girl had to play dead in order to survive. The gunman told a victim he was letting her live so she could tell what happened.
Dylann Roof is now in custody. But in most places in the right wing’s parallel universe, we are not hearing that it's depraved and evil to walk into a church and kill people. We are actually being told the pastor is at fault for not packing heat. For the love of everything normal and good, if we're not safe in our church, where are we safe? And here is the “Blame the victim” position of the NRA types in a nutshell, “And he voted against concealed-carry. Eight of his church members who might be alive if he had expressly allowed members to carry handguns in church are dead. Innocent people died because of his position on a political issue.” Prepare for the new movement to arm our clergy to the teeth. On “Fox & Friends” Thursday morning, co-host Steve Doocy said it was “extraordinary” that Police Chief Gregory Mullen referred to the massacre as a “hate crime.”
This act echoes the Sikh temple shootings in Oak Creek just three years ago. And the Birmingham Church bombings of fitfy two years ago. There should not be a lot of grey area in the racist terror versus nut job debate when the killer reloads five times and says , "You're taking over our country, and you have to go," but the rightists try. Faux news tried to frame the carnage as an “attack on faith”. As Rolling Stone states, “It makes about as much sense as declaring 9/11 an act of architectural critique, but GOP presidential candidates picked up and ran with a theme that depicts white conservatives as targets just as much as the people dead on the church floor.”
We live in an era of the pre-emptive rightist media strike. When the President deplores another senseless act of violence, it is defined as politicizing the event. The Republican Party has weaponized its supporters, made violence a virtue, and has given them an easy enemy: politicized, racialized and indivisible. We can't afford to allow rational discussions of these events, because if we do, we might notice that their bastardized reading of the Second Amendment has created a thought process that the Constitution "legitimizes" an armed insurrection against the government it created, as long as the terrorists claim it’s in the name of patriotism. At the same time, they have defined the Democratic Party with illegitimacy and opposition to their American order. This is no longer an argument about whether one party's beliefs are beneficial or harmful. It's an attitude that labels one party so antithetical to the American idea that empowering it on any level is condoning an usurpation.
Democrats and minorities have become their “untermenschen” We are guilty of their new American subversion, just like the Jews of Germany were the “backstabbers” that lost the First World War. From the days of Goebbels, it’s always been about hate speech and coded language, and the big lie. We are told to fear the same social media tools they use, when ISIS leverages them. But just like their fellow rightists in the Levant, they recruit freely amongst the most alienated and rejected subsets of Western Society. And just like ISIS, these domestic terrorists are leading misfits to believe they can convert a house of God into a killing ground.
If the right personality hears the right voices, a church becomes a place where one can feel empowered to spill blood everywhere. Dylann Roof arrived at that church, because he was bombarded by the concept that it’s okay to do that, because he immersed himself into that worldview online. Dylann Roof sat in that Bible Study for an hour, because he heard Rush Limbaugh and Glenn Beck on the radio more clearly, than the Scriptures being discussed in front of him. Dylann Roof opened fire, because the lunacy was endorsed by Faux News, where they talk about things that they call news, claim to be fair and balanced, but they’re really not. Dylann Roof bought that coded language, the hate speech, and how they talk about the president as if he’s not the president. Dylann Roof arrived at a place, where churchgoers are said to be not really churchgoers or humans, if they just happen to be the wrong color or wrong beliefs. And let’s not bullshit ourselves, that’s exactly what this sick and evil young man acted on.
MANY BLESSINGS - NOEL
PS - I tried to find some footage of how the nation reacted after the horror of Birmingham in 1963. I wanted to portray that there was a time where killing folks in a church was met with the appropriate horror, shock, and grief. I also found in this search compelling footage from later that year after the Kennedy Assassination. I cannot help but feel we have regressed in the last 52 years.