Murder creates pure chaos. It smashes life’s normal, forward progression — it eliminates continuity. It annihilates our belief in the reasonableness of the world — it assaults faith. It is the visitation of the monstrous to our safe havens.
Mass murder expands that chaos to a degree profligate and virulent. Its consequences never stop. Generation after generation, its heirs will recall the names of the dead and the story of murder’s appearance, as if man, in acting the part of a monster, is able to embed suffering in time, as if committing this most terrible violation, itself a supreme act of disorder, also modifies the law of entropy and makes memory an exception to that law of physics.
“Everybody counts or nobody counts,”* and so begin with the names and faces of the murdered: Susie Jackson, 87, mother and grandmother; Daniel L. Simmons, 74, a staff member of Emanuel, whose son and daughter spoke for him; Ethel Lee Lance, 70, who worked for Emanuel for 30 years and whose photograph shows her to look like the matriarch of us all — survived by children and grandchildren; Myra Thompson, 59, wife of a Vicar whom she leaves behind; Cynthia Hurd, 54, survived by her husband and brother, a librarian for 31 years; Depayne Middleton-Doctor, 49, mother of four daughters, “a minister who loved to sing”#; Sharonda Coleman-Singleton, 45, mother of three, track-coach; Reverend Clementa Pinckney, 41, father of two, a pastor since age 18; Tywanza Sanders, 26, who threw himself in front of the body of his aunt, Susie Jackson, when the killer pointed his gun in their direction, and who spoke to him, who tried to persuade him to stop.
In a recent photograph, the white man who murdered them wore a coat with white power insignias across his chest. This man sat with them while they spoke about Jesus and salvation and forgiveness. He was welcomed. He listened for an hour. In that hour could he not see that these six women and three men were human beings whose humming lives were vital and to be cherished as his own? No. He told them why he was killing them. They had been born. They were black.
No, he could not see, for racism is the state of being blind while declaring that one can see all. Racism bears the grotesque shapes of both open and camouflaged hostility, of denial, of arguments against the lived, true experience of millions — for example, yesterday the Wall Street Journal* argued that “institutional racism” no longer exists. One wonders about such an argument when so many presidential candidates of the Party the Journal supports with all its influence deny or only reluctantly concede that these murders targeted black human beings. Will their Editorial Board witness the long lines of cars following hearse after hearse down Charleston streets under the slave-nation flag of the Confederacy? No, because racism is the state of sacrificing the needs of whole populations so as to consolidate power and exercise leverage. No, for racism is also the very selective blindness of the elites. Racism can be a subtle, nuanced instrument.
The killer Roof is a product of our History. He does not stand outside it as presidential candidate Lindsey Graham suggested: “I just think he was one of these whacked out kids. I don’t think it’s anything broader than that.” History also forges a physics of hatred. All one need do is look and measure and grieve.
#from one New York Times story