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I watched Obama’s eulogy for Clementa Pinckney yesterday.
I absolutely despised the talk of “faith in that which cannot be seen”, and I detest the lyrics of “Amazing Grace” — that idea that we’re all wretches in need of saving is part of Christianity’s poisonous power.
But still…that was an amazing and inspiring speech. As a black president, in a black church, who was acknowledging the importance of the black church in black history, and who was delivering a eulogy for a black minister, it was appropriate and beautiful — this was a man proudly embracing the deep history of a people, and giving the best eulogy I’ve ever heard. He not only addressed the personal, but also covering the issues of Pinckney’s activist causes. While the window dressing may jar to this atheist, those causes are shared, and the substance of the speech was moving (even to me!) and important.
He may have been a bit off-key, but I was also impressed that he was moved to express himself with a traditional song, and I envy him the ability to open up like that — with the eyes of the entire world on him.
On top of all the court successes this week, this was a remarkable expression of Obama’s identity and goals. I’d vote for him again, despite the many disappointments of his presidency. This is the week that may mark Obama as one of our great presidents (noting that the events of this week were actually a culmination of many years of struggle.) I’m hoping it also marks a turning point in the history of the US.
Or not. To end on a dismal note, six black churches in the South were set on fire last night. That’s also part of an American tradition of terror.
COLMES: Mike Huckabee has said if only someone had concealed carry or if concealed carry had been allowed that the outcome might have been different in that church.
RILEY: That is so ridiculous. I mean I knew these people. I’m looking at their pictures right now in front of me. They weren’t going to be carrying handguns. You want an 87-year old retired lady or you want a minister to be carrying a handgun or a 78-year old retired lady that used to work for the city of Charleston? That is so insane. You want those elderly people carrying handguns? Is that the best we can do in America? That is so nutty I can’t even talk. It’s crazy. Absolutely crazy. We want everybody to carry a gun and then you have everybody carrying a gun and then somebody gets upset and pull it out because they got it handy and they got mad all of a sudden and rather than argue, or take a swing at somebody, they just kill them. It’s crazy, that is insane.
We live in an age where mass shootings are so common that there is now a template for politicians to plug in the victim’s names, the date and location of the massacre, and synonyms for words like “tragedy” and “horror.” In the last 36 hours, we've heard ersatz condolences filled with hollow words, anodyne phrases about "unimaginable" horrors.
But the Charleston church shooting that left nine African-Americans dead while they prayed is not an inexplicable tragedy. It simply took white rage and racism and conservative political race-baiting to their logical conclusions. It echoes a disturbing trend in right-wing media inflaming fringe factions, encouraging maximum armament, and then turning around after a tragedy and saying “we had no idea this would happen.”
On Wednesday night, South Carolina’s governor Nikki Haley trotted out a boilerplate statement, calling the shooting a “senseless tragedy.” One could excuse this choice of words as a rushed assumption issued in real time, but as more and more details about Dylann Roof surfaced, conservatives refused to face the music. One by one, politicians and pundits acted like this terrorist act was one of life’s great unsolvable mysteries.
“We don't know the motivation of the person who did it," Rudy Guiliani said yesterday. "Maybe he hates Christian churches. Maybe he hates black churches or he's gonna go find another one. Who knows." Donald Trump, in a tweet yesterday, said the crime was “incomprehensible.”
Last night, a Wall Street Journal columnist wrote: "What causes young men such as Dylann Roof to erupt in homicidal rage, whatever their motivation, is a problem that defies explanation beyond the reality that evil still stalks humanity. It is no small solace that in committing such an act today, he stands alone."
At this point, Roof’s bigotry has become clear in myriad ways. Yet as late as this afternoon, when cornered by a reporter and asked if the shooting was racially motivated, presidential candidate Jeb Bush said “I don’t know.” This means Bush is either incapable of basic logic, or he has willfully decided to blind and deafen himself to one of the nation’s biggest problems.
After all we’ve found out about Dylann Roof, how can we still say we “don’t know” why this happened?
The survivors from inside the church claimed Roof said African Americans “rape our women” and are “taking over our country.” His statements are deranged fiction, but they don’t live in isolation. They exist not only on a historical continuum of racially motivated violence, but within a current narrative of white people “losing the country” and the reactive violence of rural militias and domestic terrorists. Republican governors’ complicity in fostering a dangerous cocktail of political bigotry and easy-access guns has never been clearer than after this latest mass shooting. While it is true that bigots and violent people will always exist, a persistently racist culture nurtures small-minded hatred, and politicians provide them with tools to realize it.
It is no secret that one of the baubles of the conservative movement is the Confederate flag, which appeared on Roof’s license plate. It is a symbol of white supremacy and slavery, and it is also a symbol that is a part of South Carolina's official government as the flag flies in the capital. When questioned about her state’s continued support for it, Governor Haley shrugged it off.
South Carolina hasn't exactly left its racist history behind. Haley has consistently sided with more guns, fewer voting rights, and fostering a conservative culture of fear and suspicion. Last year, she signed a new and even more expansive bill for concealed weapons and easier access to guns in her state. She was applauded by the NRA for this bill. In an age where abortion clinics are bombed, elementary school children are gunned down on a cyclical basis, and lone gunmen have unlimited access to machine guns, the idea of expanding gun rights seems inconceivable, especially in a state where a gun-related death happens every 14 hours.
Meanwhile, South Carolina was one of the first to add more restrictions on voting after the Supreme Court cut away at the Voting Rights Act and Republicans continue to pursue new voting rights restrictions aimed at black and Latino citizens.
The editorial board of the Wall Street Journal on Friday suggested that "institutionalized racism" was not a driving force in the massacre of nine people Wednesday night at a historic black church in Charleston, South Carolina because it "no longer exists."
MINNEAPOLIS (The Borowitz Report) – Scientists have discovered a powerful new strain of fact-resistant humans who are threatening the ability of Earth to sustain life, a sobering new study reports.
The research, conducted by the University of Minnesota, identifies a virulent strain of humans who are virtually immune to any form of verifiable knowledge, leaving scientists at a loss as to how to combat them.
“These humans appear to have all the faculties necessary to receive and process information,” Davis Logsdon, one of the scientists who contributed to the study, said. “And yet, somehow, they have developed defenses that, for all intents and purposes, have rendered those faculties totally inactive.”
More worryingly, Logsdon said, “As facts have multiplied, their defenses against those facts have only grown more powerful.”
While we aspire to oppose the idea of Islam while supporting the humanity of Muslims, there are among us people who are literally opponents of the right of Muslims to even exist. I do not want to be confused with Pamela Geller or the gun fondlers holding a “freedom of speech” rally while holding guns. We are polarized: one side wants to give people autonomy and respect their choices, even their bad ones, while the other wants to nuke Iran. It makes it even more difficult to point to the evils of the Qu’ran when doing so is cheered by militarists and anti-immigrant forces that wants to use the wickedness of religion selectively, to oppress non-Christians.
It also doesn’t help that there are people on the left, our allies, who are so concerned with defending the rights of Muslims (which I support!) that they overlook the crimes provoked by Islam, to the point that, for instance, supporting Charlie Hebdo is regarded as evidence of Islamophobia. That’s nonsense. I can condemn the murders of cartoonists, and the fact that I do not add any kind of qualifying “but” does not make me Pam Geller’s fellow traveler. It means that I reject any and all excuses for violent intolerance.
But, as Haider asks, “can we not stand against all oppressions, stand for equal rights while simultaneously working against bigoted narratives within religion?” I think we can. It’s just hard and requires walking a narrow tightrope. It does mean, of necessity, that us white Western opponents of Islamic idiocy do need to add careful qualifiers when speaking about Islam that are not necessary when discussing Catholicism or Protestantism.
That’s OK. There is an unavoidable asymmetry in our relationship to the various world religions. It should not prevent us from making that liberal critique of religions outside our shores.