It’s not about a lone wolf. It’s not about a crazed individual. It’s not about a cop who happens to be a bad apple. And it’s not about Dylann Roof, the alleged mass murderer of nine black Americans in a church.
Charleston is about us. We the People of the United States have failed to stop even the most pernicious forms of racism. We the People of the United States have failed to address endemic violence, unheard of in any other industrialized nation. We the People of the United States have failed our children, keeping too many of them in poverty, in hunger, without proper educations, facing dark futures.
We the People of the United States will not find peace by killing our adversaries abroad while failing to stem the violence at home. We the People will not find peace until we stop speaking of unspeakable crimes, like the one in Charleston, as if they were acts of nature, beyond our control.
We the People must act as a people, not as individuals who have been told that they alone are centers of responsibility. Individual responsibility, while praiseworthy in certain settings, has become an excuse. It lets us off the hook. It makes it about the crazy ones in our midst, not about the collective responsibility that we have to address our failings.
Of course there is no magic answer. We all know this. But there are measures. Forms of gun control can help. Early childhood education can help. Programs to address mental illness can help. And making racist crimes as unacceptable as those committed by terrorists would also help. Even a collective involvement in fixing our infrastructure would help, because it would remind us that we are in this together. But what would help most of all is a sense of urgency. We must not keep pretending that we are the City upon a Hill as the People bleed.
Today is Juneteenth. The day of the emancipation of the slaves in Texas, 150 years ago.
We either have to agree and do something about the violence or admit to corporate/collective amnesia and have ourselves committed.
I heard once that a failed personal relationship takes as long to get over as it lasted.
You had a two-year honey who just bolted?
Cheer up. You’ll be fine in two years.
Let’s suppose the same applies to societal relationships. That means … let’s see … owning Africans abducted from their native soil is a failed relationship writ epic large.
So let’s say slavery and its racist derivatives lasted from day one, Jamestown, 1607, right up through … uh oh … it’s not over.
So in the year 2015, that’s 508 years and counting until that relationship “ends.” Then the waiting-cum-hea ling period begins.
But wait, let’s be ultra-generous to ourselves, and call 1865 the year “when slavery ended.”
1865 to 2015. That’s 150 years and we’re not even close.
So let’s revert to the Jamestown formula for an accurate “end” date.
Cheer up. Everything will be fine in 2115.
NB: If the tone is flippant, be assured I’m sickened and saddened beyond words as I write from my new residence in France. Here there are 56 annual firearm homicides to 9,146 in the US. In Hong Kong, where I lived for many years, it’s 0.00. Same in Iceland, which I passed through on my way to France. Be assured also that I played an activist role with the Brady Campaign … but at 65, have just given up.
I refuse to spend the rest of my life in an over-armed, under-educated, racist, dystopian, un-developing nation, worried that a stop-sign snafu could get me shot.
The Confederate flag should be viewed the same as a Nazi symbol. It is not free speech. It is not honoring the history of the South. States’ rights enslaved people and kept them in horrible conditions. Germans outlaw Nazism symbols and speech acknowledging their evil past. German students learn the truth about their past and not to let it happen again.
Teaching Nazi Past to German Youth