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Charleston Musings

You’ve got to be taught
To hate and fear,
You’ve got to be taught
From year to year,
It’s got to be drummed
In your dear little ear
You’ve got to be carefully taught.

You’ve got to be taught to be afraid
Of people whose eyes are oddly made,
And people whose skin is a diff’rent shade,
You’ve got to be carefully taught.

You’ve got to be taught before it’s too late,
Before you are six or seven or eight,
To hate all the people your relatives hate,
You’ve got to be carefully taught!

from South Pacific

I wanted to write something lighthearted this week about Father’s day, or maybe on the stupid controversy in Chicago over “Chiraq.” But then the Emanuel AME Church shooting happened in Charleston.

There’s a lot of speculation that Dylann Roof had to have been mentally disturbed to do something like that. Perhaps he is. But more likely is that Roof, like other terrorists, got caught up in someone else’s sickness.

People almost never wake up one morning and think “I’m going to shoot up a church today,” or “Let’s cut this guy’s head off for ISIS,” or “Why don’t my buddies and I fly a jetliner full of passengers into a building.” Things like this usually take three things:

1)  Weeks to months of planning;
2)  a mindset that tells you the best thing you can do with your life is to throw it away in an orgy of senseless violence, which usually requires…
3)  someone—usually several someones—sitting in a position of authority, safe and sound away from the fighting, telling people over and over how all the problems in their world are the fault of “these people;” that we are at “war” with “those people” and the best thing you could do with your life is to take up arms and strike a blow against “those people,” no matter how useless, even if it costs you your own life.

You notice the people railing against “those people” are never ones to take up arms themselves against the “enemy.” They’d rather sit in safety, spewing hate and “inspiring” expendable “cannon fodder” like Roof.

The saddest—the saddest—part of the whole thing is that Roof reportedly almost didn’t go through with his planned shooting because his intended victims were so “nice” to him! Makes you wonder, if only…

There’s a debate going on over whether Dylann Roof should be charged as a terrorist. I’m for that, but I don’t think, in the end, it’ll make much difference to his victims. But society should recognize that it’s same sick kind of thinking at work.