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Sunday, June 21, 2015

Terrorism in Charleston

The murders of nine people in a Charleston, South Carolina church are heartbreaking. But as soon as I heard the news this week, I couldn't help but wonder: how will Fox News spin this? And, true to form, the story here has become as much about the reaction to the crime as the crime itself.

Dylann Roof, a 21-year-old white supremacist and all-around loser, stepped into the Emanuel A.M.E. church. He sat for about an hour, listening and even participating in a Bible study group. He is said to have almost left, since the people there were so nice to him. But still, he took out his gun and said, "I have to do it. You rape our women and you're taking over our country. And you have to go." He then shot and killed nine people, all African Americans, including the pastor Clementa Pinckney, also a South Carolina state senator.

This is all terrible, and anyone with a heart feels it breaking. Not only must we hear about mass shootings on a regular basis, but we still have to put it up with this vicious kind of racism. And there is no doubt about it, this crime was racially motivated.

But the first reaction was that it was not a hate crime. Steve Doocy, host of Fox & Friends, was amazed that anyone could consider it a racist act, instead spinning it that it was a crime against Christianity. I have to stop and wonder if Doocy really thinks something so bizarre, or whether he, a good puppet, simply follows the marching orders of the brain trust at Fox. The mission over there at Bullshit Mountain (credit to Jon Stewart) seems to be that there is no more racism in this country. Tie this in with the epidemic of policemen shooting unarmed black people, and Fox is busy trying to sweep it under the rug.

In fact, I could build a case that Fox News and it's ilk caused this crime. Dylann Roof was not spawned in a vacuum. He has been seen in pictures wearing badges from apartheid South African and Rhodesia (his website is called "The Last Rhodesian"). In the picture above, he waves a Confederate flag. He hated integration, and wanted a civil war: "I have no choice. I am not in the position to, alone, go into the ghetto and fight. I chose Charleston because it is most historic city in my state, and at one time had the highest ratio of blacks to Whites in the country. We have no skinheads, no real KKK, no one doing anything but talking on the internet. Well someone has to have the bravery to take it to the real world, and I guess that has to be me."

Other reactions have been just as heartless or bizarre. Rick Perry initially called it an accident--oops! My gun went off during Bible study and I'm sorry! (Roof reloaded five times). Others, like Mike Huckabee, have taken the stance that if everybody was armed, this wouldn't have happened. This, even though study after study (and common sense) tells us that if you remove one gun, less crime would happen than giving out a thousand. Perhaps the most despicable response (among many) was NRA board member Charles Cotton's, who basically said that Pinckney got what was coming to him for supporting gun-free zones like churches. I wish nothing but horrible things on Mr. Cotton.

I doubt Roof would be considered insane--he was raised and formed his views in a culture that still harbors racism. And the symbol of that racism is the Confederate flag. While South Carolina governor Nikki Haley was talking about coming together and healing, not only will she address gun laws, but she will not do anything about the Confederate flag that flies near the state capitol. This issue causes a lot of grief; I wrote it about it back when and don't want to get back into it now, but I feel certain that anyone who displays a Confederate flag is not a fan of black people, and would like to live in an antebellum world.

There has also been a fuss about whether there is terrorism or not. Of course it is. We seem to have come to view terrorism as something only capable of being perpetrated by Muslims, or foreigners, or anyone other than white Americans. Timothy McVeigh was a terrorist. So was Eric Rudolph. So is Dylann Roof. Terrorism is defined as a violent act intended to instigate fear for ideological reasons. Roof wanted to start a civil war--how clearer could his ideology be? Instead, conservative talk-show hosts get all defensive, with Bill O'Reilly saying we shouldn't use this occasion to malign the country. What the fuck are you talking about? Going around with blinders on, about racism and about guns, is only getting people killed.

At least this horrible event may have some good--there are cracks in the Confederate flag support. The Republican presidential candidates ran scared, saying it should be up to South Carolina without answering the question (to his credit, Jeb Bush did have it removed from the Florida statehouse). Lindsey Graham, a South Carolinian, says the flag is "who we are," which I suspect would be denied by the vast majority of South Carolinians. To my great surprise, it was Mitt Romney (who no longer is running for anything, mind you) that stepped up and called for the flag's removal. A Republican legislator in South Carolina has introduced a bill to have it removed, and it should be heard right around the South Carolina primary. In a coincidence, the Supreme Court ruled that the state of Texas does not have to put the flag's image on state-issued license plates, despite the wishes of racist citizens.

There is also an effort afoot to have a Confederate-flag burning day. I don't feel that's necessary and I wouldn't want to take part in it, But I kind of want to see the reaction of the troglodytes who sport this flag, and the cowardly politicians who look the other way while it flies.

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