In Charleston, political opportunism piles on tragedy
June 22, 2015
On Wednesday, June 17, the Glock automatic pistol owned by white supremacist Dylann Storm Roof woke up and decided to drive to Charleston and kill African-Americans. Perhaps it found inspiration in the website of the Bushmaster .223 owned by Adam Lanza, author of the school massacre in Sandy Hook, Connecticut. Maybe it had been chatting with the Remington model 870 shotgun owned by Colorado's James Holmes.
Whatever lit the fuse, that afternoon, the Glock drove to Charleston, South Carolina, and found a target of opportunity at the historic Emanuel AME Church, where it was welcomed into a bible study group. After a while, it rose and slaughtered nine attendees, including the pastor who was also a state legislator. When arrested the following day, the homicidal pistol demonstrated no remorse.
The above is a peek into Barack Obama's view of the world. He said as much when, a few hours after the butchery at the Charleston church, he mounted the bully pulpit and called once more for … gun control. His comments were echoed by others on the Left who, taking Rahm Emanuel's advice to heart, are determined not to let this crisis go to waste.
It's the classic conjurer's trick: diverting the audience's attention with a comely assistant, so they won't notice him grabbing the rabbit from under the tablecloth. It's one we've come to expect from a leader so bereft of ideas that, in the face of tragedy, he reverts to the equivalent of "round up the usual suspects." It's another in a long line of missed opportunities and an insult to the majority of people in this country who know that a firearm is a tool like an axe, a car or ammonium nitrate fertilizer; it's good or evil, depending on who's using it and why. And they know, viscerally, that such talk is a diversion from the question the president assiduously avoids: why was Dylann Roof so alienated, so devoid of the normal and positive sensibilities necessary to live in a free country that he embraced an ugly, violent alternative vision of reality for which he was ready to kill? And, if South Carolina has its way, for which he will die? Because that is the truth with which we have to grapple: Dylann Storm Roof was willing to die for his beliefs.
Nor is he alone. In 2006, Naveen Avzal Haq attacked the Jewish Federation of greater Seattle, killing a woman and wounding five others. In 2013, Dzokar and Tamurlan Tsarnayev killed 3 and injured 183 at the Boston marathon. In 2014, Zale Thompson, a.k.a. Zaim Farooq Abdul Malik, attacked four New York City policemen with a hatchet, seriously wounding two before being shot to death. His victims were two among more than 75 policemen killed and wounded in attacks during that year and this in assaults or shootings.
If you think the above justifies banning firearms, you have fallen for the trick: the bloodiest mayhem in the past decades has been wrought by, in descending order, commercial aircraft; agricultural fertilizer; and cooking implements. The important thing is their meaning, not the tools: Over the past few decades, the country's social contract has started to unravel. This should have been the president's first — and only — concern, after condolences were presented.
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But, he can't talk about that because a frank discussion on this would be uncomfortable and would offer no political advantage. The man who had an unparalleled opportunity to unite the nation squandered the moment in favor of six years of unrelenting efforts to shape the politics of the Democrat party into a litany of race and class grievances.
Against this background, Farron Barksdale saw no reason not to shoot two Athens, Alabama, police officers to death; they were just the tools of an oppressive, racist society. And, Dylann Roof hadn't the forbearance, the intellectual tools or the optimism to argue his point of view. Instead, he apparently decided to act as he was told he should, a lethal replay of the ancient argument of sincerity versus authenticity — with fatal results.
That these men and others like them increasingly see more advantage in destroying, rather than preserving, our society is a sign of a deep sickness in the national soul, calling for immediate, persistent and effective treatment. It will involve constant reminders that this is, in fact, the best country and the best government that man has ever invented; that it offers rewards for labor and freedoms that the rest of the world sees even if we do not. And, that it is fragile, so maintenance is a job for all, not a task allotted to a few. This is a labor of decades, and one at which we must neither shirk nor fail, lest the country slip into history.
Given the present, I'm not optimistic.
Morgan Liddick writes a weekly column for the Summit Daily News.
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