Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Reflections on the Charleston Tragedy

Reflections on Charleston, or, Family Tragedy: The tragedy of the mass shooting at Charleston last week lingers in our hearts and minds, another in a long series of brutal events involving multiple victims. Good men and women at prayer should have been safe within the walls of a house of God, no matter what religious preference or ethnic background they might have been, but hatred is an invasive parasite. And we are left to ask, how many galvanizing moments are we as a nation going to squander? There is much beauty to come out of this tragedy – in the power, the grace, and the forgiveness of those who knew the victims as friends and family. There is beauty, too, in the outrage, the galvanizing outrage that has seen an entire nation seem to pull together to demand that the Confederate Battle Flag be removed from the South Carolina capital grounds. The flag is not the issue, it is a symbol of the issue that underlines the tragedy: hatred. All arguments aside, the symbol is an affront to the memory of the dead. As our President so eloquently said in his eulogy for Reverend Pinckney on Friday, the flag represents not the courage of Confederate soldiers, but the wrongness of the cause for which they fought – slavery. If we examine the history of that flag’s placement on modern sites, we realize the flag was resurrected primarily in protest against the Civil Rights Movement fifty or so years ago, and not as a reminder of the valor of soldiers who died in battles a century before that. Conversations have begun, earnestly and openly, again. They focus on words and phrases familiar to us all: love, hate, race, racism, guns, violence, gun control, the nature of symbols, domestic terrorism, faith, forgiveness. But one word pops into my head: family. We are family, the song goes, but so many of us ignore that fact. It is a mindset that must evolve if we are to survive and function. No men are strangers, not really, not if their spirits are open. In that vein, I add that there is only one race, the human race; the rest is geography. And until that is accepted by all as true, when we love, share and celebrate the things that make us different and unique under a banner of unity, then we will truly be the Family of Man. Families have squabbles, dysfunction, estrangements, even violence. But, mostly, families have love, patience, inclusion, and the warmth of peace. In the aftermath of the losses suffered in Charleston, that is what I see.

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