Favorite

Killer's failure 

Has any murdering terrorist ever failed more dramatically than Dylann Storm Roof? Like any punk with a gun, he managed to slaughter nine blameless African-American Christians at an historic church in Charleston, S.C. Intending to start a race war, he succeeded only in shocking the moral conscience of the state and nation. Racist atrocities like Roof's have left indelible stains on this country since its founding — Elaine (Phillips County) in 1919, Tulsa in 1921, the Birmingham church bombing of 1963. Any historian can provide a longer list, although white people have generally forgotten, partly out of shame.

To the extent that black people also forget, it's largely out of self-preservation. The African-American capacity for forgiveness often comes as a blessing and a surprise. If black people contemplated vengeance like my Irish Catholic ancestors, I've often observed, you couldn't live in the American South.

One would be naive to believe that anything essential has really changed this time. Except that the words and actions of many in South Carolina, "the home office of American sedition" as Esquire's inimitable (Irish Catholic) blogger Charles P. Pierce calls it, make it possible to think that something important already had.

I posted Pierce's initial response to the Charleston atrocity on my Facebook page. Because when fierce indignation's what you want, Charlie's your man.

"We should speak of it as an assault on the idea of a political commonwealth, which is what it was," Pierce wrote. "And we should speak of it as one more example of all of these, another link in a bloody chain of events that reaches all the way back to African wharves and Southern docks. It is not an isolated incident, not if you consider history as something alive that can live and breathe and bleed. We should speak of all these things. What happened in that church was a lot of things, but unspeakable is not one of them."

Pierce lampooned what he considered the crocodile tears of South Carolina politicians. He urged Gov. Nikki Haley to look at the "flag of treason" flying at the state Capitol before professing bewilderment.

Enter Emily Hanson, a Facebook friend I haven't actually met. Emily's profile picture showed her kissing a draft horse, one reason we connected. Another is that she often agrees with my columns.

"I am an Arkansan living in Charleston, S.C.," Hanson wrote. "Until today, I had a wonderful job telling visitors about the rich history of Charleston. I quit today because I will no longer wear the Confederate hat required by my employer. Not because the company is in any way racist or intolerant, but because I can no longer wear a symbol that represents slavery, hatred, brutality, and so much more to so many Americans.

"Mr. Pierce made many very valid points, but I caution him and anyone else who wants to get on a moral high horse and talk about the Southern docks and African wharves ... . PLEASE don't make this a Southern problem! It is America's problem and we ALL have to look at our beliefs, attitudes, and treatment of others and begin the change we want in the world to take root in our own soul. I believe it is high time to heal the wounds of our past and I did what I could today by refusing to wear a Confederate hat and praying in solidarity with the Charleston of today."

OK, so it's a little contradictory. It's not a Southern problem, but she'll be damned if she's wearing that Rebel hat.

Also from her Facebook page, I know that Emily took part in several of the multiracial civic and religious rites that have consumed the city since that terrible night. Along with an estimated 25,000 hand-holding mourners, she joined comedian and South Carolina native Stephen Colbert on the Ravenel Bridge spanning Charleston Harbor.

"Peace and love and unity in the Holy City," Colbert said.

Shortly after Gov. Haley and the rest of South Carolina's Republican establishment agreed to ask the legislature to quit playing make-believe and take down the accursed Confederate flag, Emily, bless her heart, posted some good news:

"I was contacted by my former employer, who ... has decided to retire the Confederate hat as part of the uniform. (And I got my job back!) It goes to show that one person CAN make a difference! By thinking about what I could do as little old me, I have become a part of something far bigger than myself and part of a community that is ready to heal!"

Granted, it's only symbol. But symbols can express complex realities: This time was different. This time the murdering coward failed.

Favorite

From the ArkTimes store

Comments (10)

Showing 1-10 of 10

Add a comment

 
Subscribe to this thread:
Showing 1-10 of 10

Add a comment

More by Gene Lyons

  • Art bull

    "God, I hate art," my late friend The Doctor used to say.
    • Apr 20, 2017
  • Now and then

    Almost exactly 10 years before launching a Tomahawk missile strike against a Syrian air base, Donald J. Trump enjoyed a similar triumph in an internationally televised, pay-per-view spectacle called the "Battle of the Billionaires."
    • Apr 13, 2017
  • Tribal loathing

    To many people, politics is essentially tribal, an Us vs. Them struggle between cartoon enemies.
    • Apr 6, 2017
  • More »

People who saved…

Readers also liked…

  • Trump and political correctness

    So I see where candidate Donald Trump and former Gov. Sarah Palin are complaining about "political correctness," the supposedly liberal sin of being too polite to tell the unvarnished truth. Me too. I've always laughed at the follies of self-styled "radical" left-wing professors.
    • Sep 3, 2015
  • Not again

    This just in: Nothing boosts circulation or enhances ratings like a sex scandal.
    • Jan 14, 2016
  • Never wrong

    Quite a few people make noises about leaving the country if the wrong person gets elected president. I've been making discreet inquiries in the vicinity of Kinsale, County Cork, myself — from whence my people emigrated after 1880.
    • Apr 21, 2016

Most Shared

  • Executionpalooza

    Appearances count. I was struck by a single sentence over the weekend in a full page of coverage in The New York Times devoted to the killing spree in Arkansas, beginning with a front-page account of the recent flurry of legal filings on pending executions and continuing inside with an interview with Damien Echols, the former death row inmate.
  • Art bull

    "God, I hate art," my late friend The Doctor used to say.
  • Not justice

    The strongest, most enduring calls for the death penalty come from those who feel deeply the moral righteousness of "eye-for-an-eye" justice, or retribution. From the depths of pain and the heights of moral offense comes the cry, "The suffering you cause is the suffering you shall receive!" From the true moral insight that punishment should fit the crime, cool logic concludes, "Killers should be killed." Yet I say: retribution yes; death penalty no.
  • Judge Griffen writes about morality, Christian values and executions

    Pulaski County Circuit Judge Wendell Griffen, who blogs at Justice is a verb!, sends along a new post this morning.
  • The Ledell Lee execution thread

    Arkansas Times contributor Jacob Rosenberg is at the Cummins Unit in Grady filing dispatches tonight in advance of the expected execution of Ledell Lee, who was sentenced to death for the Feb. 9, 1993, murder of Debra Reese, 26, who was beaten to death in the bedroom of her home in Jacksonville.

Latest in Gene Lyons

  • Art bull

    "God, I hate art," my late friend The Doctor used to say.
    • Apr 20, 2017
  • Now and then

    Almost exactly 10 years before launching a Tomahawk missile strike against a Syrian air base, Donald J. Trump enjoyed a similar triumph in an internationally televised, pay-per-view spectacle called the "Battle of the Billionaires."
    • Apr 13, 2017
  • Tribal loathing

    To many people, politics is essentially tribal, an Us vs. Them struggle between cartoon enemies.
    • Apr 6, 2017
  • More »

Visit Arkansas

Haralson, Smith named to Arkansas Tourism Hall of Fame

Haralson, Smith named to Arkansas Tourism Hall of Fame

Chuck Haralson and Ken Smith were inducted into the Arkansas Tourism Hall of Fame during the 43rd annual Governor’s Conference on Tourism

Event Calendar

« »

April

S M T W T F S
  1
2 3 4 5 6 7 8
9 10 11 12 13 14 15
16 17 18 19 20 21 22
23 24 25 26 27 28 29
30  

Most Viewed

  • Art bull

    "God, I hate art," my late friend The Doctor used to say.

Most Recent Comments

  • Re: Art bull

    • the nice thing about art is that it is what it is, but what it…

    • on April 22, 2017
  • Re: Executionpalooza

    • Fantastic work-from-home opportunity for everyone... Work for three to five hrs a day and start…

    • on April 21, 2017
  • Re: Erasing humanity

    • Exactly how I feel only written much better than I could.

    • on April 21, 2017
 

© 2017 Arkansas Times | 201 East Markham, Suite 200, Little Rock, AR 72201
Powered by Foundation