The Sandy Hook Elementary School, Newtown, Connecticut. An army training center in Fort Hood, Texas. The Washington, DC Navy Yard. A movie theater in Aurora, Colorado. The Sikh Temple in Oak Creek, Wisconsin. Tucson, Arizona and the resilience of Rep. Gabby Giffords. An immigration center in Binghamton, New York. Geneva County, Alabama. Seal Beach in Orange County, California. Mother Emanuel AME Church, Charleston, South Carolina.
Massacre. Mass slaughter, indiscriminate killing, mass murder, mass execution – all of these are words that define massacre according to the Oxford American Thesaurus.
Today as President Barak Obama addressed the country on national television, he did so for the fourteenth time in his presidency to try to offer words of comfort to a bereaved community and a bewildered country in the midst of the horrors of massacres within our own borders. To borrow a phrase from a former American President, Franklin D. Roosevelt who was speaking one day after the attack on Pearl Harbor in 1945, today is a “date which will live in infamy.” Yesterday in a sister city in the lowcountry of our state, the unspeakable happened; and we joined the names that will live in infamy in this country and around the world for years to come.
I have watched President Obama in these televised messages to the nation on too many occasions, and I was usually struck by the powerful personal images of hope and comfort that he offered. Today, however, I witnessed an additional layer of anger and frustration as he once again spoke about our lack of ability as a nation to give up our guns. I saw a President whose hair is almost totally snow-white and a man whose face looks much older than his years. I wondered if this president’s legacy was going to be Paul Newman’s Cool Hand Luke’s character’s classic lines: What we have here is a failure to communicate.
We have a President who rode into town as a new sheriff committed to compromise who found a posse determined to derail him. They just never mixed. And gun control? Well, that has always been just some people talking.
We grieved for the massacres in the east and the west and states in-between. We truly grieved for these losses and for the families and friends that lost people they loved…people they never even had an opportunity to say goodbye to. But the closer the tragedies are – and this one couldn’t be much closer since the suspect is from the greater Columbia metropolitan area – the deeper the anguish and the anger.
The world continues to rotate on its axis, but it seems slightly tilted to me. We are off track somehow. We have taught falsehoods to our children through our messages at home in the words we speak and the silences we allow. For example, it’s okay to hate people who are different from us. Nelson Mandela said we are not born hating, and he was right. We learn to hate as surely as we learn to ride a tricycle. Our parents teach us to hate. Our friends encourage us to be bullies. Our heroes send us conflicting images of who the good guys and bad guys are. We have national leaders in highly visible positions who don’t play well together in their houses of Congress. Shame on you. Shame on me for re-electing you year after year to continue cycles of contention and confrontation.
And so tonight I am in mourning for the survivors of The Charleston Massacre, and I find no words to adequately express my sorrow for them, for their church family, for the city of Charleston, for my state and for my nation.
Like my President, I fear for our future.