I happened to learn of the murders in Charleston while atop an elliptical trainer in a health club in Bergen, Norway, surrounded I would presume by a group of fit Norwegians getting their exercise on. Three large screen TV's were before us, each on a different channel, each broadcasting reports delivered by different channels. It was not a moment for great American pride, I can tell you that. Like most sentient beings, I've used the past few days to gather a few thoughts designed to reconcile at least for myself, the various counter-streams of logic and emotion I have about what happened, and so I share them with you here. There is something here for everyone, and I will likely wind up offending your sensibilities or your ideology at some point, if you are of the offense-taking ilk. Fair warning.
For my friends on the right (and the left) who are ardent Second Amendment supporters, the degree of dissembling that your spokespeople deliver when yet another one of these crises occurs is ridiculous, and it increasingly makes you look like you are unable or unwilling to face what appear to be simple truths. One of these truths is that our Second Amendment makes legal gun ownership very easy, because it makes it a basic, Constitutional right. Because it is a right, it is exercised widely, by both the sane and responsible, and the damaged and criminal. Because legal and responsible gun ownership is so widespread, illegal and unwise ownership is also common. Tidy little internet memes that bring up mass murders in other countries committed by firearms, or knives, may help with your consciences, but the numbers pale in comparison. We are a violent, gun-fueled, murderous society and we must acknowledge the role that the law plays in enabling this. Believe it or not, this is not posed as a value judgement. It is a request of friends and fellow travelers to begin to open their eyes to the obvious connection, rather than continuing to claim it doesn't exist.
For my friends on the left and those who would diminish the Constitutional right to keep and bear arms as a method of relieving both our violence problem and your consciences, your disrespect for the majesty and wisdom of the Constitution does nothing to advance your cause. This is the most brilliant piece of political theory in action since the Magna Carta, and your incessant attempts to limit and chip away at the Second Amendment raise the question as to what other of our fundamental rights you are willing to concede? Conversely, gun ownership is legal and protected by the very wording of the document, yet you would ignore it, whereas the grounds upon which countless babies are slaughtered every year springs from "emanations from a penumbra" of a right of privacy that most of you believe is an absolute and irreducible right. If you wish for change on this subject, then you must resort to one of the two (I believe) methods of amending the Constitution available. In the meantime, lawful citizens who purchase and use firearms in this country are entitled to exercise their rights, and yes, they are even entitled to believe that this right is so fundamental and cherished that horrible events such as what happened in Charleston do not abrogate or diminish that importance. You want change? Win this debate among your fellow citizens and amend the Constitution. Weakening it through dubious, guerrilla-legislating opens Pandora's box where rights you may hold more dear are concerned.
For my friends in the African-American community horrified by what happened in Charleston and convinced of its meaning as a symbol of racism in America, it is hard for me to argue with you, though I urge you to think clearly and deeply about what you have already learned about this murderer and consider whether his racism was not at least a symptom of a much deeper sickness. And while this horror may serve as fuel for the fires of race-baiting and gun confiscating, simple math tells us that black on black murder is a runaway epidemic compared to the incidence of white on black murder, even when accounting for mass events such as this. If the right has to answer for Dylann Roof, then the left must answer for Baltimore and countless other places where failed policies and one-party rule have effectively created urban "reservations" within which a significant segment of the African American population lives, and is entrapped.
And for everyone else, are you not tired of reading about these crimes, tired of reading within a day or so, reports of friends, neighbors, and relatives who come forward to tell us of this murderous mutant's previous statements of intent? Can we try a little harder with our children and our friends to make sure we recognize and act upon clear and unmistakable signs of evil at worst, and mental illness at best? I'm not talking about the kid who is on anxiety meds, or ADHD who's a little out of balance. I'm talking about true, crazed evil, like what we saw this week and what was presaged by the murderer's own statements. We can do better.