Saturday, June 20, 2015


Shakespeare knew.
From Romeo and Juliet, Juliet to Romeo, Capulet to Montague:
’Tis but thy name that is my enemy;
Thou art thyself though, not a Montague.
What’s Montague? it is nor hand, nor foot,
Nor arm, nor face, nor any other part 45
Belonging to a man. O! be some other name:
What’s in a name? that which we call a rose
By any other name would smell as sweet.
Of course, they both ended up dead.  it's perhaps not all that simple.
Still, words, names, count.
God, after all, named the world into existence (or so claims Genesis). The word, logos (λόγος), calls forth the thing.
God said, "Let there be light, and there was light."
Which, as I've noted before, is a pretty cool trick.
And brings me to Charleston, South Carolina, and what was surely murder whatever else it might be. Ah, but that "whatever else."
DOJ is trying to determine whether it was a hate crime or terrorism.  Presumably, that's so that they can prosecute the bad guy if South Carolina decides to give him a medal.  And folks across the spectrum are arguing about which of those it should be called.
As if it mattered.
Murdering people is offensive. Murdering people because of their race is offensive. What you call it is irrelevant. When you understand that, the debate over whether to call it terrorism begins to look a lot more ridiculous, narcissistic and offensive.
Which is of course true.  Kinda.  Because naming is explaining, and explaining gives us categories that tell us what to do.
If it's Terrorism, we have a box we can put it in.  And we can add it to the war.  Something to eradicate.  Send drones.  Take out the leaders.  Kill enough of them and its over.  (Just look how well that's been working in the middle east, but I digress.)
If it's a hate crime, well, then we educate or send people to church where they'll learn about love. (OK, that was a bad example.)
If it's racism?  Hey, that's over.  Remember, we elected a Kenyan as President.  But if we'd just get the Stars and Bars off the S.C. flag.  (And after all, Texas won't have to put them on license plates.)
Or maybe it's guns.  Obama says to control them.  The gun lobby says the problem is that we don't have enough. 
Or drugs.  Rick Perry, who called the killing of 9 an "accident," blamed it on drugs (while admitting he didn't know what he was talking about).
Also, I think there is a real issue to be talked about. It seems to me, again without having all the details about this, that these individuals have been medicated and there may be a real issue in this country from the standpoint of these drugs and how they’re used.”
So crank up mandatory minimums.  Or decriminalize.
Or provide the mental health care crazy people need.
Or maybe it's just evil.  Which is maybe a result of Adam and Eve eating that piece of fruit.  Or maybe untreatable psychopathy that isn't the same as being crazy.
Or gee, maybe he was just born that way.

The thing is, none of this, no name, will change the fact.  Scott again.
No matter what characterization floats your boat, there will still be nine dead human beings in Charleston, and none of them will be you.
And nothing will bring them back.
Of course, we'll put up a plaque.  Raise money.
And then?
Nikki Haley, South Carolina's governor, called immediately for the death penalty.  Mark Berman in the Washington Post.
“We absolutely will want him to have the death penalty,” Haley said Friday morning. “This is the worst hate that I’ve seen and that the country has seen in a long time.”  
Of course, she's not alone.  Even some from the family of Dylan Roof who's been arrested and charged with the killings. Bob Fredericks in the (sorry) NY Post.
“If he’s found guilty, I’ll be the one to push the button myself. If what I am hearing is true, he needs to pay for it” uncle Carson Cowles told “Good Morning America.”
The local prosecutor, Scarlett Wilson, expresses more restraint. Mark Berman, again, in a different story.
The prosecutor who will pursue the case against the gunman accused of killing nine people inside a historic church in Charleston, S.C., said Friday she has not decided whether she will seek the death penalty in the case.
She said that decision would come at a later time, after she was able to speak to the relatives of the people killed Wednesday inside the church.
“My first obligation, my primary obligation is to these victims’ families,” said Scarlett A. Wilson, the prosecutor for Charleston County, at a news conference Friday afternoon. “They deserve to know the facts first. They deserve to be involved in any conversations regarding the death penalty.”
Actually, her obligation is to "justice," whatever that might be, and then perhaps to the people who elected her.  But at the moment that's almost (not quite, but almost) a quibble.  In any event, what of those "victims' families"?
They forgave him.
Jeffrey Collins for AP.
Felecia Sanders survived the attack on her Bible study group by pretending to be dead, but lost her son Tywanza.
On Friday, she came face to face with the alleged shooter, as she had the night of the slaughter.
“We welcomed you Wednesday night in our Bible study with open arms,” Sanders told Dylann Storm Roof, who appeared via video conference for a bond hearing. “You have killed some of the most beautifulest people that I know. Every fiber in my body hurts … and I’ll never be the same.”
“Tywanza was my hero.”
And then Sanders did something remarkable: She forgave the young man who has been charged with nine counts of murder for the bloody attack at the historic Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church.
“As we said in Bible Study, we enjoyed you, but may God have mercy on you,” she said.
Sanders was one of several family members of victims to be given a chance to address the court during Roof’s bond hearing. Others also forgave him. They advised him to repent for his sins, and asked for God’s mercy on his soul. One even told Roof to repent and confess, and “you’ll be OK.”
One more from Collins.
The families are determined not to respond in kind, said Alana Simmons, who lost her grandfather, the Rev. Daniel Simmons.
“Although my grandfather and the other victims died at the hands of hate, this is proof — everyone’s plea for your soul is proof they lived in love and their legacies will live in love, so hate won’t win,” she told Roof during the bond hearing. “And I just want to thank the court for making sure that hate doesn’t win.”
See, forgiveness and mercy are words, too.  They don't explain.  They don't categorize. They don't offer easy solutions.
But they heal.  Which is probably the most any of us can hope for in the wake of horror.

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