Sunday, June 21, 2015

The Worst

In my personal lifetime's history of the nation, the church shooting is the worst thing that’s ever happened to the United States. The worst. Sorry. I know that speaking in superlatives never does much good, and I certainly don’t intend to minimize the grief or memory of anyone associated with a different national tragedy. But I don’t think there’s anyone but the four of us really reading this site, and I love each of you, and I know you love me, and I’m just confessing to basically the three of you that, in my particular head/heart, this one is the worst. The worst. If we are not going to honestly try to be a place where all sorts of different people live together within a framework of mutual respect and equal opportunity, for my money, there is no United States of America.

Also, on this day that the Lord has made and Sunday morning and Father’s Day and Juneteenth weekend, etc., I just can’t quit thinking about the individual lives, families and various communities of people that were ended and wounded by the shootist on Wednesday evening. Dear Lord, I pray they find ways to be extraordinarily, supernaturally near you right now. Please.

What felt to me to be the wisest and most inspiring responses in the wake of Wednesday evening were how people (police/governments, the shooter’s family and individual citizens) worked together to finally track down the shooter Thursday, how people have been gathering together in Charleston to weep and pray together and how the families of the victims begged for God’s forgiveness of the shooter at his initial hearing.

What felt to me to be the smartest and most correct responses in terms of more tactical, where-do-we-go-from-here planning were Jon Stewart’s commentary Thursday and the president’s Thursday—and then Saturday: “I refuse to act as if this is the new normal, or to pretend that it’s simply sufficient to grieve, and that any mention of us doing something to stop it is somehow politicizing the problem.”

I’m on Facebook, and that quote was sent around yesterday with the note to “share if you agree.” Like everyone else, I hate those sorts of social-media tests, but I decided to go ahead and participate in this one. As a 46-year-old person who has loved getting to be a citizen of this nation as much as anyone ever, I just feel like I have to commit myself to doing stuff to help ensure we continue having the United States and not turning into the world that the shooter apparently wanted and actually did something to bring about.

So, I don’t know. I pray, so I’m praying. And I write, so I’m writing. And I ask questions and follow good instructions, so I’m asking questions. I'm not necessarily asking for responses to any of these, though I certainly value your all's intelligence and goodness. I'm also not going to be offended if there are no responses. The questions are just where I am in my head and my heart.

What would’ve helped the church shooting not happen?

What gun-control measures specifically?
What would be the problems with such restrictions?
What’s the argument against gun control generally?
What would the folks who are against gun control generally do to prevent the church shooting?
What is the NRA?
What is the lobbying landscape with regard to gun rights, and who are its major players on either side?
Why do lobbyists matter?
What are the associations among lobbyists and particular politicians?
What does the Second Amendment say?
Why does it say that?
Why does that matter today?
What is the rest of the existing local/state/federal regulatory framework around guns?
What does it mean when people say that we don't enforce the gun laws we have on the books now?

What’s the deal with organized hate?
Why is it appealing, and to whom does it appeal?
Who are its major players?
What do they want?
How significant is their influence?
What is the most effective counter influence?
Where do all of the Confederate flags come from? Who puts them on all of the bumper stickers, T-shirts, etc.?
Why are some folks so protective of the Confederate flag?
In what ways did the church shooting grow out of the Confederate flag’s prominence in the shooter’s life?
What other symbols/groups were important to the shooter?
Why did other symbols/groups not appeal to the shooter?

How was the shooter involved in drugs?
To what extent did drug involvement factor into the shooting?
What else? Family? Friends? School? Other activities? Diet/exercise? Lack of job?
What does the shooter hope for his life?

Thanks for reading this.


  1. The one I still think about all the time is the shooting at Heath. For me Heath was a second home in many ways for the four years I was there and it is still hard for me to believe that something so horrific happened there. I can still remember seeing that my school was on the front page of USA Today and learning that that is not a good thing.

    I would imagine for you this one hits so close to home in part because you are so involved at church and in part because you are married to a minister. Certainly we think of church as being a safe place in our country, and the fact that someone could violate something like that with such cruelty is hard to imagine.

    I wish I had answers to any of your questions. I think we all wish we had answers, but alas we all sit and watch these tragedies happen again and again and we essentially do nothing to prevent them. The Onion has this one nailed with the headline "'No Way to Prevent This,' Says Only Nation Where This Regularly Happens"

    As long as there is such a strong group of people who refuse to even think about any kind of change, I assume these tragedies will continue to happen over and over and over again.

    There was a time when tragedies would trigger some sort of response, but when a mentally ill person walks into a school of children and begins to gun them down and this produces no result, I'm afraid nothing will.