SPECIAL COMMENTARY: American Tragedy & Travesty

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“Places of worship are sacrosanct. The houses of The Lord are supposed to be set aside for the uplifting of God’s most holy name through song, praise, prayers, teaching and preaching, fellowship, discipleship, and stewardship. The Holy Bible, our upbringing, and common sense tells us so. I’m extremely concerned about guns owned by Americans who are clinically depressed or otherwise mentally unstable. Loaded weapons… in churches? Is nothing sacred? Is no place safe?”
I wrote that in an op-ed column entitled “New, Old West” 16 months ago. Apparently, my words about gun violence control went unseen.
“Republicans, Democrats, and Independents know these things well. You know it. I know it. American politicians continue to remain perpetual victims of their own volition. They’re too afraid to stand up and do something about America’s racial divide – so they do nothing. Too many of them are cowards who cite conscience as a rallying cry for ineptitude as city blocks burn and unarmed citizens die with impunity. So it falls to us. We the people must pray, organize, protest, march, sing, shout, and chant to bring about justice and equality for all.”
I wrote that in an op-ed column entitled “Different This Time” almost 7 months ago. Clearly, my feelings about America’s racial disharmony were ignored.
“People are people. Individually and collectively, we’re powerful yet powerless; righteous yet unrighteous; selfless yet selfish. God grants us His unmerited grace, but we refuse to extend grace to each other. When will we learn?”
3 months ago, I wrote that sentiment in my piece “50 Shades of Black.” Obviously, too many Americans didn’t believe me.
Wednesday night, 9 of God’s people were senselessly gunned down within the sanctuary of Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in downtown Charleston, South Carolina: Reverend Clementa Pinckney, 41, the senior pastor at the church; Sharonda Coleman-Singleton, 45, an assistant pastor; Tywanza Sanders, 26; Ethel Lance, 70; Susie Jackson, 87; Cynthia Hurd, 54; Myra Thompson, 59; Reverend Daniel Simmons Sr., 74; and DePayne Middleton Doctor, 49. They were slaughtered in their Bible study class by Dylann Storm Roof, a 21-year-old white man with an unsettled personal life and a recent history of racist views against black people. Roof’s actions were premediated. He deliberately targeted that historic church, its pastor, and the congregants in attendance. His own despicable words verify that a hate crime occurred. His own heinous actions certify that an act of domestic terrorism was perpetuated against God and country.
“I have to do this. You (black people) rape our (white) women, you’ve taken over this country. You have to go.” Roof said that aloud even as he took lives within this church.
Roof deliberately injected darkness into Emanuel AME Church – a place which has been a beacon of light since its establishment in 1816. It’s the 3rd oldest church in the entire AME faith. For many years, it has been affectionately referred to as “Mother Emanuel.” Emanuel was founded by Reverend Morris Brown for freed black American citizens and slaves to worship The Lord together. Emanuel AME has endured the sinister politics of slavery, the burning down of the church by a white mob in the 1820s, the process of rebuilding which followed, the statewide prohibition of black churches by the state of South Carolina in 1834, and even the 1872 earthquake which destroyed Emanuel. Now, a massacre.
This is our equivalent to the 6th Street Baptist Church bombing in Birmingham in 1963. Dylann Roof is the inevitable, poisonous fruit harvested from the seeds of discord sown by too many of our institutions, traditions, and elected officials.
South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley said tearfully Thursday, “We woke up today, and the heart and soul of South Carolina was broken. Parents are having to explain to their kids how they can go to church and feel safe, and that is not something we ever thought we’d deal with.”
President Obama said solemnly Thursday afternoon at the White House, “This is not the first time that black churches have been attacked, and we know that hatred across races and faiths pose a particular threat to our democracy and our ideals. At some point, we as a country will have to reckon with the fact that this type of mass violence does not happen in other advanced countries. It is in our power to do something about it. I say that recognizing the politics in this town foreclose a lot of the avenues right now. But it would be wrong for us not to acknowledge it.”
I’m angry and saddened. Of all the 2016 presidential candidates, only Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders, and Lindsay Graham condemned Wednesday’s mass murder. The South Carolina and American flags are currently flying at half-mast. The Confederate flags there are flying high. Congress is silent. The NRA is silent. Support for Roof is easily found on social media. Over on Fox News, their anchors are dutifully spreading the absurd narrative that if people inside the church Wednesday night had had guns, they could have taken out the shooter.
Those on the right won’t call this an act of terrorism. You already know why.
When will anyone truly feel safe within the walls of Emanuel AME Church again? Will that take weeks? Months? Years? What happened there Wednesday night can conceivably happen in any house of worship in any city or town. That’s no longer debatable. 
Dylann Roof is convinced that black people in America have “taken over.” He wants his country back – and killed innocent people in a holy place just to make his point. 
Tragedy and travesty. Just another day in the U.S. of A.

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