LOVE AND EVIL ARE COLOR-BLIND
by Wayne T. Dowdy
Wednesday, June 17, 2015: A twenty-one-year-old, white male, walked into the Emanuel African-Methodist-Episcopalian Church in Charleston, South Carolina, a church known as Mother Emanuel AME. He sat in a bible study for an hour with several prominent members and pillars of the African-American community. One of those members was forty-one-year-old, state senator, Reverend Clemente Pinckney, who was the youngest state legislator to be elected in South Carolina at the age of twenty-three. The visitor pulled a forty-five caliber handgun and killed him and eight other people whom had welcomed him into their gathering.
He did not murder Ms. Polly Shepherd so she could tell others why he killed her peers: because they were black, had killed his ancestors, raped their women, and because blacks were trying to take over the country.
The other murder victims were twenty-six-year old, Tywanza Sanders; Ms. DePayne Middleton Doctor (49); Ms. Myra Thompson (59); Mr. Daniel Simmons Sr. (74); Ms. Susie Jackson (87); Ms. Ethel Lance (70); Ms. Sharonda Coleman-Singleton (45), an athletics coach & speech specialist; and Cynthia Hurd (54), who was the regional branch manager at the Charleston Public Library System.
The shooter wanted to start a race war. His plan failed. People of different ethnic backgrounds united and remained peaceful. No one used the situation as an opportunity to loot businesses and the community. As Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. recognized, peace is more powerful than violence. Violence breeds resentment and a desire for revenge. It never ends.
CNN reported that Dylann Roof confessed to the crimes; crimes committed with the gun used to murder those people because of their ethnic background. The State of South Carolina plans to execute him for those crimes. Now his actions have become another drive for American politicians to introduce bills to take away or to restrict their citizens’ Second Amendment right to own guns, and to remove or ban the Confederate Flag from various buildings. The flag did not kill anyone.
Personally, I am saddened by the tragedy caused by the shooter’s belief system. Nine innocent people died and a young man will die for taking their lives. Years ago I would have understood the hate and racism behind such a heinous act. Evil lived within me for most of my life.* Today I do not support taking another person’s life or harming them for looking, thinking or being different, or because of something their ancestors may have done.
I believe that only one race of people exists: the human race. I base my opinion about the worth of another person on their actions; not the color of their skin, or their socioeconomic status, or their geographical location, or because of their affiliation with any organization or group. I have friends and associates who feel otherwise, blacks and whites alike. Some of whom may have rejoiced upon hearing about the Charleston Church Massacre; others who are as appalled by it as I am; and even more whose words proclaim racist beliefs, but their daily actions and behaviors do not support their words.
I do not have the gang mentality or a superiority complex. I do not fault anyone who does. To Each Their Own. Everyone has the right to be different. No one has the right to harm another person, unless to protect themselves, their loved ones, or other human beings at imminent risk of death or serious bodily injury.
DC MANSION MURDERS: Weeks before Roof entered the church, another terrible incident had dominated the news that may have fueled his hate and rage toward blacks. At least one black male who is an immigrant, is accused of torturing, murdering, and then burning a white family and their maid in a Washington, DC Mansion. The criminal act included the murder and torture of the parents’ young son. The motive is unclear as the investigation is still in progress. Racism, or an act of class warfare may have played a role in the gruesome murders, but regardless of the motive, evil won and people died. That didn’t start a race war either.
GUNS SAVE LIVES: The following is an excerpt from an essay I wrote in 2008 and sent to several American magazines to be considered for publication. Each editor passed on my 3,060-word essay: “Guns Save Lives–Gun Laws Ruin Them.”
“December 10, 2007: at approximately 12:30 A.M., twenty-two-year-old Mathew Murray walked into the Youth with a Mission Center in Arvada, Colorado, looking for overnight shelter. After his request was denied, he pulled a pistol and fatally shot 26-year-old Tiffany Johnson and 24-year-old Phillip Crouse. Murray fled the scene bathed in the blood of the innocent.
Armed with two handguns and a high-powered rifle, he left en route to the New Life Church in Colorado Springs, Colorado. He arrived at the destination at 1:10 P.M., where two sisters stood in the parking lot: Rachael and Stephanie Works, sixteen and eighteen-years-old, respectively. He shot and killed both girls with the high-powered rifle, before he entered the church with all three guns. [The murderer and his victims were white.]
Jeanne Assam was a volunteer security guard at the church. She challenged Murray to drop his weapon and shot him when he refused to comply, though, not fatally. He used his own gun to end his life.
December 11, 2007: CNN News reported that Murray had had 1,000-rounds of ammunition in his vehicle.
If he had so much ammunition, he apparently intended on killing a lot of people. It was fortunate for the church members that Ms. Assam sat in the pews armed with her handgun. Some state laws, such as those in South Carolina, prohibit guns in a church. Ms. Assam could have been prosecuted for having the gun she used to save the masses who sat in church. According to KUSA-TV in Denver, Colorado, Murray posted the following message on a Web site between the two shooting incidents in Arvada and Colorado Springs: ‘All I want to do is kill and injure as many of you … as I can [sic] especially Christians who are to blame for most of the problems in the world.’ (See http://www.foxnews.com – Colorado Church Gunman Sought Revenge After He Was Kicked Out – December 11, 2007.)”
[Due to my lack of Internet access, I cannot check to see if that link is still active, but the words I wrote seven years ago about the South Carolina laws stand true. None of the victims could have lawfully possessed a gun while in the Mother Emanuel AME Bible Study. If someone in the group had had one, then perhaps nine people would not have lost their lives.]
“The outcome of the above event supports the need for gun ownership by responsible individuals who are trained in their safe usage. The other side of the equation is that without the guns, Murray could not have murdered his victims, which is partially true. He could have killed with knives or fire [such as what happened to four little girls in 1963 when racists burned a church in Birmingham, Alabama], but that does not mean that knives and matches should be outlawed by legislators, though there are some who would probably support such insane legislation.” [“Guns Save Lives-Gun Laws Ruin Them,” Wayne T. Dowdy, 2008]
My father was a Christian who had said he wanted to die in the House of the Lord. Years later he got his wish when he died in the parking lot of his church at an Easter Revival. Perhaps the victims at the Mother Emanuel AME Church, and other people who have died while at their place of worship, wished for the same thing and found peace after those tragedies.
Mother Emanuel AME Church members gathered on the following Sunday and held their regular services, paying tribute to their members who died at the hands of evil in their place of worship.
EVIL: Murray and Roof both killed because of their hate for a certain class of people different from themselves. ISIS, the terror group known for beheading its enemies, kills for the same reason. Evil knows no color. Evil is blind to all but the hate and rage that flourishes within the mind and body where it resides.
Most of those who kill others because of something other than self-defense (ethnic background, religious views, political affiliations, moral beliefs and values, geographical areas, etc.), probably do so because they see the others as evil or someone less than themselves, who does not deserve to live. True evil lies in their mirror.
When evil lurks within the mind of someone, it will always find a reason to come out to destroy life or cause injury, regardless of any other factor. Evil does not need justification.
Evil thrives on pain and misery and inflicts it upon everyone near. It is a poison that ruins lives, regardless of age, race, sex, sexuality identity, or color. The use of guns is only one mechanism for its delivery.
The shooter stated that he had second thoughts about following through with his plan because of the kindness the people had shown him. On that day, evil won when he decided to follow through with his plan and pulled the trigger. Good people died. I wish the good in Roof had won so no one had to lose their life. It wasn’t race that caused those people to die. It was the evil in Roof’s mind that used skin color as an excuse to steal lives.
LOVE: Love won on Sunday when visitors and members of the Mother Emanuel AME Church sang songs of praise to honor those who died in a battle of love versus evil. People gathered to rejoice, rather than to mourn, even though some wept and struggled with their anger. Many parishioners prayed for God to forgive the shooter and to allow everyone to heal as tears flowed. Love suffers loss. Love heals. Love forgives. Love will overpower evil in the end, regardless of the complexion of a person’s skin.
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* In “The Search for Enlightenment” I wrote about my struggle and periodic failure to live without resorting to violence or the threat of violence to resolve issues. Each day I focus on doing the right thing so I can live in harmony with the Universe. If a predator targets me, which rarely happens, I may struggle to let love overpower the evil instincts I learned based upon my life experiences, but no matter what, I do try to be the man God created me to be.