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Charleston Shooting: Politicized Pain

In response to the white supremacist terrorist attack on Emanuel AME Church-goers in Charleston, S.C. this week, and as a way of voicing not only sorrow for, but solidarity with, the victims of this attack, churches in Charleston are tolling their bells at 10:00 tomorrow morning.

We at The Falls Church Episcopal will join in this bell-tolling at 10:00, and then, before our opening hymn, pause for a moment of silence and for prayers. With thanks to the Rev. Canon Frank Logue, these will be among the prayers we will use tomorrow.

There's something about this white supremacist terrorist attack that commands attention and action.

Yes, "white supremacist terrorist attack" -- I agree with those who refuse to call it a "tragedy" as if it were a random, isolated, apolitical event, because as heartbreaking as it is to admit, this massacre was neither random nor isolated.

And while a recent Peggy Noonan blog piece in the Wall Street Journal makes good points about the power of forgiveness displayed by the victim's families, she loses me when she writes, "Don’t politicize their pain. Don’t turn this into a debate on a flag or guns."

"Don't politicize their pain"?!? The massacre was, by the alleged murder's own definition, a political one -- he made it a point to say so, even as he inflicted the pain.

And Peggy, no one needs to "turn this into a debate" about flags and guns. Flags and guns have been the symbols and instruments of one side of this debate for generations. The debate is already well underway; the only question is, "what will the counter-argument sound and look like?"    

The massacre is part of an ancient, evil drum-beat. That drum-beat grows louder and louder if unchallenged, and the way to stop hearing that drum-beat is not to merely add other voices, other instruments of peace and concord to the mix, but to stop -- physically stop -- those who are drumming up oppression and murder.

Forgiveness goes a long way toward that, and more power to those families who offer it. But only the aggrieved party to a wrong can offer forgiveness. The rest of us need to express sorrow for the greater, societal evil of white supremacy racism that this massacre represents, and then move from that sorrow into action -- concrete action, political and otherwise -- to stop the evil.

We'll toll our bell. We'll say our prayers. And then we'll make it a point to look for ways to not only speak up and speak out, but to act up and act out -- against the evil of racism.

Otherwise, we perpetuate it.      

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