Sunday, June 21, 2015

The Manifesto of an Aging Southern White Woman

Like most of you, I was horrified at the events in Charleston this past Wednesday evening. I was stunned by the reaction of the community and in a different way by politicos who used the violence as impetus to push their political agendas.

I am no gun advocate.  A personal tragedy in our family when I was in college forever cemented my rejection of guns.  My 18 year old cousin was getting married the next day.  Like all soon to be brides she rushed around the house, packing, thinking of a thousand details, and likely worrying what might go wrong at the wedding or reception.  Her older brother decided it was a good time to clean his gun.  During the process, he test fired what he thought was an empty chamber. He shot and killed his sister where she stood. I come from generations of people in law enforcement and the military, but I don't have guns and I won't.

To both sides of the debate on gun control, I say, forget it, fellas...that ship sailed a long time ago. We're a country with a long-standing historical gun culture. (I'm from Texas, for heaven's sake. We carried cap pistols in my high school drill team when we wore our cowgirl outfits and fired them during our routines.) It is unrealistic to think we could ever enact a law to make people give up their guns. Should we attempt to pass such a law, we'd have the second coming of the American revolution.

No, I don't think guns should be allowed at schools. Teen-agers are known for notoriously lacking impulse control. But our legislative entities will waste valuable time, energy, and our tax dollars arguing about an issue they will never resolve. Be realistic with your goals and move onward.

I am upset both sides mentioned gun legislation in response to the massacre in Charleston. Their cynical belief it is time to exploit the pain of the American citizens to push their candidates' agendas infuriated me. This is not the time for such shenanigans. It takes the focus off the tragedy where it should be.

We've seen a lot of young men, particularly, like the shooter over the years.  Angry, disenfranchised, usually anti-social and uneducated, they embrace white supremacy and blame the government and African-Americans for their own pain, anger, and lack of success in the world. I suppose to take responsibility for one's own failure is unthinkable.  It's much easier to look to people who are different and point fingers.  "It's THEIR fault, not mine..."

In all the photographs of the killer I've seen on television and the internet,I noticed one thing about him. His eyes completely lack expression. His soul is dead inside him. I have no idea what made him the way he is, but he has no compassion or empathy, no apparent shame over the murders. There's no question in my mind whatever made him a monster, he truly is one.  To sit and talk with the people for an hour without developing any rapport, any awareness of their humanity, and then stand up and pick them off is the work of a monster, nothing more and nothing less.

We've been introduced to several such monsters in my lifetime, Charles Manson, Timothy McVeigh, and now Dylann Roof, to mention a few. I would include Adolf Hitler in this list and some of his cohorts, but they died before even I was born...

Finally, I was stunned by the reaction of the victims' families at the bond hearing and on the talk shows this morning. They forgave the killer of the ones they loved.

I don't know if I would have the goodness and grace to forgive the killer of a member of my family.  But I am impressed with the depth of the families' faith and forgiveness. To me, this should be the starting point of any discussion about going forward from this point.

If we are to survive as a nation, we must celebrate our differences not wage war against each other. We must work together to listen to people around us.  If they are in trouble, we need to try to help them, not ignore them when they spout hatred, saying "I don't judge people." It's time for all of us to help each other, not turn away as if we do not see.

I remember other words, which the forgiveness of the Charleston victims families, brought to mind.

Father, forgive them. They know not what they do.

And on an after note, this morning CBS Sunday Morning ran a clip from a film shot by one of their producers.  He went to Sing Sing prison and interviewed prisoners convicted of murder or other gun crimes and asked them what they would say to their twelve-year-old selves. The clip shown was very powerful. If you're interested the film is up on their website.

Such a film might help prevent other young people from turning the way of the Charleston killer. It's time to deal with the problem.


  1. Sharon, well said. I totally agree with every point you made. Like you, I have no love of guns. A dear freind's father found out he had incurable cancer, came home, got out his gun, and shot his son (our friend) and killed him. His reasoning was so his son would not get cancer. That said, I grew up with guns in our house. I was taught the consequences of what could happen if they were used haphazardly. I think that's one big thing missing in a society that, as you said, is not going to surrender their guns.

  2. You make a good point. Thank you, Elizabeth.

  3. Sharon, you very eloquently put words to my thoughts on this subject. Whether we like or hate guns personally, they have been a part of the American fabric for as long as America has been a country. But this kind of mayhem has not. Something else has gone missing from our society and guns are being used to express it. We need to start looking at the root of the problem. The people of that church in Charleston surely do have more compassion in their hearts than I think I could muster, but that kind of faith is one of the things that is missing. The other thing, even for those who don't believe in God and would like to remove all evidence of Him from our society, is responsibility and respect. Simple respect for life, for ourselves and for others would go a long way to putting things right. So would responsibility. We need to teach our children that they and they alone are responsible for the choices they make, for who they want to be and for their own happiness.