Dylann Roof

I have been thinking about this for the last week; specifically if I should even put down my thoughts about it and if it will make any difference if I do. In the end, I decided it matters to me.
Reading Dylann Roof’s manifesto this morning, I couldn’t help wondering why there is still debate among conservatives regarding Roof’s motivations. He was clear when he told the arresting officer, “I wanted to shoot black people”. His actions are definitely a hate crime, but not the anti-christian actions teabaggers and Fox News are making them out to be. True, he killed people in a church, but I suspect he chose the church because he was unlikely to find people who would be shooting back at him there. The Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church has been serving their community for almost two centuries. Known affectionately as ‘Mother Emanuel’, the congregation was involved in the civil rights movement and hosted Dr. King and his wife in 1962 (Rosa Parks was also a member), and has been active in charity work and community outreach throughout it’s history. From the beginning, the church has been a bright spot in the American South – a region that is universally known as being rabidly racist and backward. South Carolina still flies the confederate flag, sending the clear message that the beliefs that guided it’s past are still alive and well in that part of the country.
This is where Dylann Roof attempted to start his race war; the place in which he was welcomed to the bible study/prayer meeting with no questions asked. The place he targeted because it has a large community of black people, none of whom were armed when he went in with a gun himself.
Murdering people in a house of worship is despicable regardless of the faith, unless there is undeniable proof that the building is being used to plan kidnappings, killings or terrorist activities. None of that was the case at Mother Emanuel. Roof was the only killer or terrorist there.
There are so many elements of this that make my heart ache; the cowardly nature of it, the waste of good people, the pointlessness of the shooting itself…nothing was accomplished except to cause a community needless suffering. The race war Roof had hoped to ignite isn’t happening and he wasn’t able to shoot himself because he was out of ammo, so now he rots in jail. Hardly the memorable exit he had planned to make.
Every image and video clip of him show a young man with almost no visible spirit, eyes empty, going through the motions of living but with little life actually in him. It’s difficult to describe and disturbing to see. In his manifesto he came across as hateful and angry, but also somewhat mechanical, a person who had accepted what he thought was his fate and was just counting the minutes until his ‘work’ was finished and he didn’t have to live with that fate any longer. In his mind killing nine people he didn’t even know made perfect sense, even though they had never harmed him. I’m really struggling with that. My empathy puts me in the places of the families and friends of the victims. If a soulless monster gunned down my parents or brother while they were at worship, how would I react? I know myself well enough to understand that I’d be devastated first – then angry. I’d want the shooter to suffer in prison. However, the victims of Mother Emanuel have taken a different approach: they’ve forgiven Dylann Roof and let him know they harbor no ill will or desire to inflict revenge. I find that beautiful, amazing and inspiring.
If anything good can be taken from this, it’s that humans have the deep capacity to live their convictions and let love prevail, even when faced with such boundless and seething hatred. Every human being can learn something from their example and make their own corner of the world a better place – provided they are open to it.
Roof is likely to be in the news a lot over the next few years as the investigation, trial and eventual sentencing commence. I doubt that deluded boy will ever see life outside of confinement. Every view he has for the remainder of his existence will be through metal bars or chain-link fences.
Meanwhile, Mother Emanuel will continue to be a beacon to it’s community for strength and healing. Their charity and ministerial work will go on long after Dylann Roof is but a memory and the tragedy he caused is part of their distant past.
I find that comforting. May they be surrounded by love, light and healing energy as they begin the process of recovery.
Blessings and love to them all.

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