No sanctuary from violence


We don’t know a lot about Dylann Roof, the 21-year-old suspect in the shooting deaths of nine people in Charleston, S.C. What we’ve learned thus far paints an ugly and disturbing picture, but it’s a partial portrait at best.

This much we do know: Nobody comes from the womb fueled with rage and hate and a full-blown plan to walk into a historic black church — a church — and coldly gun down nine human beings. Nobody.

A tearful South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley said at a news conference, “Parents are having to explain to their kids how they can go to church and feel safe.”

Which leaves us asking the kinds of questions with which we’ve become more familiar than anyone, or any society, should ever be.

Such as: What kind of poison is poured into the ears, the mind, the heart, that can lead to something like this? Who or what poured it, and why? Maybe we can never fully understand when or how the seeds get planted that grow into such deadly toxins. But if we ever stop trying to understand, we will have simply surrendered to evil.

Survivors of the shooting say Roof walked in and sat among praying parishioners for almost an hour, then went and sat beside the pastor before opening fire.

“I have to do it,” the shooter was quoted as saying. “You rape our women and you’re taking over our country. And you have to go.”

If that is close to an accurate quote, then this can safely be classified as, among other things, domestic terrorism — no less an act of terror than blowing up a government building in Oklahoma City or crashing airplanes into skyscrapers in Manhattan. A Facebook profile picture of Roof wearing a jacket with the flags of apartheid-era African nations is just another brush stroke in the picture.

But regardless of whether it was terrorism, one man’s fanatical racial hatred or just deranged and ultimately inexplicable rage, nine human beings were killed in cold blood, in a house of worship. They were mothers, daughters, fathers, sons, sisters and brothers.

Sadly, if predictably, the gunshots had barely stopped echoing before this tragedy became sociopolitical fodder — pundits and political factions making Charleston’s horror into a political issue, while in the same breath accusing political foes of making it into a political issue.

Maybe just this once, if only for a little while, we can try to ignore the ideological racket and listen instead for the weeping of the victims’ families and friends, the soft voices of condolence from decent people all over the nation and the world, the quiet mourning of our fellow Americans after yet another violent and senseless assault on our common humanity. And maybe, if we listen hard enough, the falling tears of God.

Columbus Ledger-Enquirer

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