Wednesday’s murders of nine innocent people as they gathered together to worship God in an historic Charleston, South Carolina, church is an incomprehensible tragedy. For some, of course, it is also an opportunity to push political agendas that are better considered in less emotional circumstances.
Already there is the usual clamoring for more laws restricting the right to gun ownership, which follows each of the all-too-frequent mass killings that occur in this country. President Barack Obama took a few moments out of his busy schedule of fund-raising to make the familiar pitch, falsely asserting that such tragedies are unique to America before backpedaling a bit and stating that they’re simply more common here, which might or might not be true and in any case cannot be explained by the Second Amendment. The causes of such senseless slaughter are not easily understood, nor are any solutions readily apparent, and society’s ongoing efforts to grapple with the problem should be based on facts and logic rather than even the most justifiable outrage, but those of us who believe that every citizen has a natural right to arm himself against such ineradicable dangers, and that gun laws frequently prove counter-productive, will have to hope that cooler heads once again prevail.
In this awful case all nine murder victims were black, their murderer was white, the motive was apparently a severely psychotic racism, and that unusual circumstance of course raises all sorts of issues and plenty of opportunity for an appeal to raw emotion.
Those who advocate for additional penalties against “hate crimes” have predictably seized the opportunity to make their case. There’s no denying that a long-simmering race hatred is an especially odious reason to commit murder, compared to the monetary fits of passion or sense of desperation of simple lack of moral reasoning that are far more often the cause, but the results are always the same and the reasons are never clear and the legal ramifications of trying to make such distinctions are problematic and best assessed dispassionately. The “hate crimes” advocates always seize on the most horrific cases, such as the murder of Wyoming youth Matthew Shepard ,which might or might not have been motivated by anti-homosexual animus, or the brutal death of black and blameless James Byrd by being chained and dragged from a pickup truck driven by some severely psychotic racists, but such unusual stories seem to undermine their arguments. In Shepard’s case the killers were sentenced to two consecutive life prison sentences without the possibility of parole, spared the death penalty only by means of a plea agreement that the victim’s parents supported, and in Byrd’s case the less culpable killers were given similarly life-long sentences and the ringleader’s death warrant was duly signed by Texas Gov. George W. Bush, who nonetheless was subjected to attack ads during his subsequent presidential campaign that featured the victim’s daughter saying he was insufficiently tough on “hate crimes” because he had refused to sign legislation that would attach those unspecified tougher penalties. Our recent experience of staunchly conservative and Christian and death-penalty imposing South Carolina suggests that its juries and judges will take an equally strong stand against anyone who walks into a church and murders nine innocent people who have gathered to worship God, for whatever reason he might have, and whatever color he and his victims might be. The case for adding additional penalties to distinguish the victim from the other equally-bereaved murdered should also be considered by facts and logic rather than emotion.
This senseless murder of nine innocent black people by a severely psychotic white racist comes at a particularly inopportune moment in America’s race relations, as well, and those who are intent on further roiling the country haven’t been able to resist that ripe opportunity. Those who allege that white America at large is severely and psychotically racist and prone to murder, from the oh-so-respectable staff of Salon.com to that angry black woman who heckled a Cable News Networks’ white reporter and black commentator during their attempt at a broadcast, the tragedy in Charleston is a satisfying verification of their most long-simmering prejudices. There are indeed plenty of psychotically racist white people out there, as the sickening comments section on one of the media reports shows, but the facts are that a black American is far more likely to die at the hands of some impassioned or desperate or morally impaired black man than because of a severely psychotic white racist, and logic and moral reasoning suggests that this tragic fact should also be given society’s most deliberate and dispassionate consideration, so those of us who truly believe that all lives matter will once again have to hope that cooler heads prevail. In the meantime we will mourn the victims of this terrible crime, pray that the God they had gathered to worship will be merciful to their souls, and keep faith our justice system will be true to its stern purpose.
— Bud Norman