On the Solstice — our longest day, usually a day of celebration — I could think of nothing but Mother Emanuel Church. I read memorials beautifully expressed by The Post and Courier for the nine people killed on June 17 in Charleston during a Bible study.
The grief over this terrible act will be long, longest for the nine families, who will never get over such overwhelming loss. It will be long for the church, long for the Charleston community and long for our state.
It would be unfair not to mention the unbearable pain the Roof family must surely be suffering. Where in the life of this child did things go so wrong? Of course, I can’t answer that question.
I strongly feel that subversive others, possibly groups, influenced this horrible racist act.
However, I can speak about certain actions that must be taken by the S.C. Legislature and Congress. First, our legislators and congressional members must enact stricter gun laws. Do this now. Initiate bills to ensure that not just anyone can walk into a store and buy a gun, particularly semi-automatic weapons.
Secondly, our Legislature should support the call to remove the Confederate flag from the State House grounds. Gov. Nikki Haley has taken the right steps toward this end. Any dignity this flag might have had has been so compromised by hate-mongers that whatever historic symbolic meaning it had is now lost. It is a divisive symbol, easily removed and placed in a historic or Confederate museum. Do this now.
Finally, we must not ignore the obligation we have as Americans and South Carolinians to use speech carefully. Be aware of using language that may seem harmless, but in fact does great harm to people of color and to our American character. When someone says “we need to take back our country,” from whom do we take it? Radio broadcasters and their guests, politicians and individuals alike often repeat this phrase. It’s divisive. It separates “us” from “them.”
The most prominent example I can use to explain what I mean is our own President Barack Obama and the First Lady. No presidential family in my lifetime (I am 80 years old) has been as verbally maligned as they have. They are a loving couple and thoughtful parents, as far as I know. For voters who espouse the term “family values” what better example can you find among our politicians?
Have your opinions about policy, but let your speech give the president the respect he deserves. Language is our way to offer thoughtful public opinion and one way to let people know what we think about them. If you continue to repeat names, terms and expressions that harbor hatreds, you can bet they will seed twisted minds. It is not true that “sticks and stones may break my bones, but words can never hurt me.” Words are powerful, significantly so.
Finally, let me congratulate Charlestonians and my fellow Southerners who have spoken out against this terrible killing of nine accomplished men and women.
We have shown the world, by the leadership of the nine families who now will suffer long and hard, what it means to love, to forgive. Many of us have expressed our shock and outrage.
I am grateful for Gov. Haley’s leadership. Now our state politicians must take action.
We Americans stand united as one nation.