I’m weary this morning. Weary and angry and sad.
It’s been three days since those horrifying events in Charleston. I still can’t comprehend someone walking into a church, spending an hour with the members, and then killing them. I’m grieving because these people were my fellow Americans, and they were my brothers and sisters in Christ.
But I can’t even grieve properly anymore. I can’t focus and reflect and pray and feel the sorrow that comes with something like this. I can’t, because I was immediately put on the defensive. Our President, the man tasked with leading all of us and guiding all of us, attacked most of us.
In the very first words he spoke after this tragedy, he drew blood from the majority. He attacked us…the very people he claims to lead. He attacked our core and our standing in the world. He attacked my grieving.
I couldn’t even deal with the sorrow and hurt I was feeling, because this man –and his minions who took up the rally cry immediately thereafter- prevented me from doing so. They had me instantly on the defensive.
Before I could deal with how Charleston affected me, I had to defend myself. I had to defend my First and Second Amendment rights. I had to defend my Faith. I had to defend my conservative political views. I had to defend my character against charges that I am a racist and a bigot and full of hate. I had to do this because I didn’t immediately call for the removal of the second amendment and the confiscation of guns from the citizenry. I had to do this because I feel that if someone had been present with the capability to shoot back, Dylann Roof likely would not have killed those nine people in that beautiful Charleston Church. Doubtless he would have killed the first one. Maybe he would kill another in the gun battle. Maybe some of those who were killed would have instead been wounded. But they would have been alive. Alive is always better. That’s how I feel. That’s what the evidence supports. In every circumstance, cities and states with open carry laws, and with reasonable concealed carry laws, have far lower incidences of gun violence. One point is plain and indisputable: Dylan Roof committed this atrocity in a church because he knew there would be no one there who could shoot back. South Carolina law prohibits the possession of a gun inside a church. In more practical terms, South Carolina law identifies churches as targets for crazed killers. This is why he didn’t open fire in a police station. To debate this point is myopic.
I had to defend myself against charges of being a racist, because I maintained that, while Dylann Roof is clearly a racist and verbalized that as the reason for his actions, this murder is not indicative of the state of race relations in this country. This man does not represent how white America feels about Black America. Period. But there are people who want to make that the narrative…who need to make that the narrative because it keeps us divided. One of those people happens to be the president.
So Thursday morning, while I was driving from Virginia to Delaware to visit family for a few days, the president made his statement. Within 30 seconds he was warning that he blames guns. He attacked the Second amendment as the real killer. For good measure, he threw the entire country under the bus on the world stage. He made the statement that “These things don’t happen with the same frequency in other civilized countries…” The unmistakable implication is that America is a savage nation overrun with gun-toting nutcases and the rest of the world gets it right where we get it wrong…again.
I’m not surprised by this from Obama anymore. But I’ll never get used to it. I’ll never get used to hearing our president attacking the country and the people that he claims to lead. I’ll never get used to him consistently berating our nation openly. I’ll never get used to the outright disdain he holds for this country. He never even waited for the nation to grieve. He never tried to comfort or console. He went straight for the guns again. And he did it by stating that we are less of a nation because we have incidents like this and other countries don’t. He backed his play with a lie. The facts are that we don’t have more incidents like this than other “civilized” countries. On average, when scaled to the size of America’s population, gun violence is about the same in other nations, even when gun controls are tighter.
I could write about that, but I don’t want to. Not today. The gun control battle will wage regardless of this event.
I want to talk about the division.
We have never been more divided as a nation than we have been since this man took office in 2009. We’ve never been more closeted and segmented and prone to stay in clusters of only those we know and trust and who hold similar ideals. We’ve never been wearier of fighting with each other over things that never caused such battles before.
We’ve never been less of a community.
Since Barack Obama came to office, we have been divided along racial lines, religious lines, political lines, lifestyle lines, income lines, gender lines, geographic lines, parenting-skill lines, and patriotism lines. Those who disagree with him are labeled haters, bigots, ignorant, racist, crazy, unwilling to compromise, unwilling to listen. When you spend half your time defending against lies…you get tired.
By early Thursday morning, before I had even begun to digest what had happened the night before, this man and his followers had already attacked my right to own a gun. Then they attacked my defense of that right. Then they attacked me for defending that right, saying that my defending that right only shows that I am a hate filled nut job who thinks we should all be shooting at each other. Then they attacked my faith, because I said that if someone in the church had a gun, maybe this thing is far less than it became. They attacked me because they said “Nobody should have to carry a gun to church out of fear.” Which is a good point, except it denies reality. A gun in church lessens the fear. At least the part where you find yourself helpless when the madman pulls out a gun and starts shooting. They questioned what kind of Christian I am who thinks that way.
They attacked me for disagreeing with this president. I’m just a racist, they claimed. If George Bush had said what he said, I’d agree with him. First of all, no I wouldn’t. I hold fast to my Second amendment rights, regardless of who is in office. Secondly…George Bush wouldn’t have said it. Bush, Reagan. Clinton, all the Presidents who have come before, showed the dignity of the office by never politicizing a tragedy during those early days of grief. They knew that the role of President sometimes requires decorum enough to hold their tongue and lead the nation in calm mourning, knowing the time would come to deal with the political side of the event. But not this president.
This man sees every event as a chance to advance his cause. Those lives, those precious beautiful, faith-filled, godly lives taken in that church in Charleston last Wednesday, only mattered to him insomuch as they gave him another opportunity to advance his cause, and to belittle this country on the world stage.
The attackers moved from the guns to the flag. There is a Confederate flag flying at the state capitol in South Carolina. It’s been the center of many a debate. For many, it’s a rock of offense. Personally I have never understood the reverence paid to that flag. But I defend the right of people to fly it. The attempt to connect the flag to the shooting is an outrage. Two inanimate objects a flag and a gun, got together and colluded to kill nine people in a church. That, ultimately, is the theory they have put forth. And if I don’t buy it, if I hold to the belief that Dylann Roof is simply a very evil man with a dark heart and who is obviously not sane…I am a hater, a bigot, a right-wing nut-job, an ultra-conservative who wants gunfights in the streets, and especially…a racist.
I’m none of those things. I’m a conservative but not far right. I’m a patriot who values this country far more than anyone’s ideology. I’m a dad who wants his daughter to be safe when she goes to church or school or the mall. I’m a realist who knows…who knows, that evil exists in this world and that rather than trust evil, insane people to obey gun laws and drug laws and driving laws, (because they never do) I need to proactively protect myself and my family.
I’m a patriot. I love this country like it was my own family. A piece of my American family is broken and hurting in Charleston, South Carolina right now and I have only just begun to be able to process my grief. Because my president wouldn’t let me for the first few days. I was too busy defending myself, between my own tears, against claims that somehow I wanted this tragedy.
That’s really what they are saying. That any of us who don’t agree with the solution, endorses the problem.
Shame on you Barack Obama. Shame on you for dividing us once again in the face of such a tragedy. Shame on you for fostering such an attitude in this country that people like me can’t even share in the grief of our fellow Americans and brothers and sisters in Christ, because you seized the event for your own purposes and your minions ran with the ball from there.
Grief and anger lie side-by-side to begin with. A president should not be taking advantage of that to divide a nation further, and move his agenda forward.
Charleston, South Carolina…the tears of millions are falling all around this country for the horror you suffered. We’re not bigots, not racist, not gun-crazies, not haters, not ultra anything. We’re Americans. You are our family. The only thing that should matter right now is the grief we feel and the coming together this should engender.
Instead, we’re being divided by the very people who claim to be uniters. Underneath the rhetoric being tossed around like grenades…there beats a broken heart in this country.
God bless us. God help us. God save us.