There is a deep sadness that won't leave me. It dogs my steps. Similar to the days surrounding the Newtown massacre of first graders almost three years ago, I feel bereft of any joy when I live in a world where what happened in Charleston last Wednesday took place.
Everywhere I look I see this story and I relive the crime. The dead eyes of the shooter. The sick images of him with his white supremacist stickers and banners and manifestos. I marvel at the frivolousness of ads for cars or shoes or any of the trappings of modern society. Marvel is not quite the word - I am aghast.
For me this feels as absolute as 9/11. Remember those days after that world-ending tragedy? Time stopped. We all had to look each other in the eye. We were united. We had been attacked. This needs to be a cultural 9/11. There should be an embargo on ads, and everything else that signifies real life chugging along, until we work out this cancer that's rooted deep inside our society.
Watching the presidential candidates dance their way around it has been sadly amusing as they try not to get tripped up in their own rhetoric. Rick Perry referred to it as an "accident" and then backpedaled to say he meant "incident." Lindsey Graham explained it by saying, "there are bad people in this world." Marco Rubio was "saddened by the news." Rand Paul is "praying for everyone affected." Rick Santorum declared it was an "assault on religious liberty." Donald Trump said it was "incomprehensible." Hillary Clinton called it "heartbreaking." Martin O'Malley is keeping Charleston in his prayers. Chris Christie said it was "unthinkable." Jeb Bush said it "had a big impact on me."
Unthinkable? Heartbreaking? Saddened? Cry me a river. This is a teachable moment at the least and a world-stopping moment at most. This is the the time to confront the elephant in the room. There are many - black and white both - who lost their lives in the Sixties fighting for the rights that those people worshipping God less than a week ago at Emanuel AME Church had under the law.
There is a molten core of racist hate that has been expanding for several years under the fabric of our so-called liberty and it threatens to explode. It exploded in that church. A young man filled with pure hate brought an instrument of death into that sacred space and used it to kill human beings he did not know. Human beings who were there to praise and worship God.
We need to step back and examine this situation and raise up the fallen for the heroes they are. We need to stop avoiding the lessons these massacres give us. There are those who live in a world of pure racist fear and hate. Until we face this deeply rooted fear of anyone who is not the same as ourselves, be it their skin color or their religious beliefs or their nationality, nothing will ever change and we're on a collision course with ultimate doom.
But that doesn't have to be the end of the story. We can, instead, live the Golden Rule that many of us were taught as children.
Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.