I’ve got so many thoughts fighting for attention in my head right now, fighting to be expressed, to get the fuck OUT of my head, it’s a loud loud place in there today. And yesterday. And all week. I’ve been avoiding writing about any of it because it’s all such charged content. These are charged times.
I’m so deeply sad (and angry) about the murders of Cynthia Hurd, Susie Jackson, Ethel Lance, Rev. DePayne Middleton-Doctor, The Honorable Rev. Clementa Pinckney, Tywanza Sanders, Rev. Daniel Simmons Sr., Rev. Sharonda Singleton, and Myra Thompson.
There are all kinds of people out there saying “This is senseless” and “Only a mentally ill person could commit such a crime” and apparently Fox News was going on and on about this being a crime against Christianity even after the terrorist said he was doing it to start a race war, not a religious war. Those Fox News people need eject buttons on their studio seats that shoot them into space every time they blatantly try to twist the narratives to fit their ridiculous agenda.
Dylan Roof is a terrorist and needs to be tried as one. He purposely killed those people to inflict terror on all the black people in this country. As if they aren’t already burdened enough with fear for themselves, their children, and their whole community. Dylan Roof is not a kid, he’s a legal adult. Remember when everyone was all “Michael Brown is no kid, he’s 18 and an adult who knows better!” Well, Dylan Roof is older than Michael so people need to stop talking like he’s just a young buck on a murderous lark. He also premeditated this crime in a fully in tact mental state. This wasn’t a frenzy killing. This wasn’t provoked. This was cold blooded calculated terrorism against black people.
I’m so sick of people practically WILLING all criminals to be found to be mentally ill. The white ones, not the black ones because when it comes to black criminals no white people ever scramble to give them any kind of “excuse”. In the whole history of heinous crimes committed in the world, very few of them are actually committed because a person is mentally ill. Very few of them are committed by people with serious enough mental illness to have had a significant effect on their actions. The idea of “madness” is compelling to those who don’t suffer from mental illness. You can blame absolutely anything on mental illness, on “insanity”, on “madness”. Because to most people these words mean “people unable to control themselves whose brains are ticking time bombs that will suddenly, for no understandable reason, explode into violent action”.
These thoughts are beside the whole issue of what happened to those innocent people gunned down in the AME church. I bring them up because allowing news people, friends, family, or anyone to let out the “mental illness!” cry whenever a heinous crime is committed by white people does a tremendous disservice to the mentally ill community as much as to the victims of such heinous crimes.
IF you allow mental illness as an excuse for this shooting then you also have to allow mental illness as an explanation for the twin tower attacks, for the ISIS attacks on American citizens in the middle east. But you won’t, will you?
A lot of my feelings and thoughts were summed up much more brilliantly by Jon Stewart on the Daily Show. I submit a link to the segment where he talks about this awful newest mass murder:
Charleston Church Shooting
The Confederate flag and the South. This is the other super loud thing in my head. I have quite a few (many, at this point) awesome Southern friends who are creative, open minded, progressive, full hearted, amazing people. I need to say that first because nothing I can say about the South can tarnish my awareness of how many good people live there and love it. I have to admit that it’s taken me years and meeting many amazing southerners to eradicate my prejudices against it. I wasn’t raised to hate the south, there’s no family dialog that’s been passed down denigrating the south. I’ve just always been scared of it. I’m scared of it because of all the fiery religion associated with it. I’m scared of it because of all the “traditional values” that include a lot of inherent bigotry against other religions, gay people, different people, and WOMEN. Also, the KKK. The overt racism. And the fact that the south represents to me the half of the nation that fought to keep slavery legal.
Before I say another word I want to note that I’m aware that racism is rampant over every inch of our country. It’s everywhere. The north may have officially fought on the right side of a humanitarian issue but I come from a long line of racists and some of them were northerners. Though those northerners didn’t arrive until after the civil war anyway, the point is, you can believe slavery is wrong and still be racist. I’ll go further than that, though, my own grandfather’s ideas about black people were no worse than any slave-holders’ ideas about them. I fought him over words I can never un-hear and every time I remember the heinous things he said in my hearing I think of every single black person in this country who has had to hear that awful corrosive evil shit their whole lives and it fills me with shame and horror. So when I say things about the south and the racism in the south, I never do so from a place of superiority or pride. I have no family history to be proud of. My southern relatives were super poor uneducated bigoted Irish people who have nothing to be proud of just because they didn’t own slaves.
But dudes. People. Fellow Americans, all. The Confederate flag. Until this week I didn’t know that in some states you can buy a license plate with the Confederate flag on it. But more horrifying to me than that was finding out that that flag flies on government grounds over a memorial for fallen Confederate veterans.
A southern friend of mine made a case for the Confederate flag having good connotations that aren’t racist, for it standing for southern heritage. This friend is absolutely NOT a racist person. Her family is bi-racial with three races in the mix and everything I know about her is good and open hearted and open minded. I listened to her case for that flag having meaning to southerners that isn’t racist. But every way I look at it I can’t accept that a flag created by a rebel army, that flew over their camps symbolizing their fight to keep slavery legal could ever symbolize anything but pro-slavery sentiments. Southerners may be teaching their children to associate that flag with positive aspects of their heritage but it still was made by a south that wanted to keep their slaves. That south lost the war. And it seems like the south has, ever since, struggled against that fact.
I know that there’s a lot to be celebrated in the south. But it’s time the south found a new symbol to celebrate its culture with.
But dudes, I also didn’t realize that the south has named roads after Confederate generals. If you know me at all you know I don’t believe there’s such a thing as war heroes. I don’t believe any war begets heroes. I’m not sorry the north fought to end slavery, I’m so fucking happy that slavery was abolished, even if racism never was. But I can’t celebrate war in any way. And the south could have voted to end slavery, they could have gotten on board with that and avoided war but they didn’t.
War is evil. Soldiers of war pillage, torture, rape, and kill. THAT’S WHAT THEY DO NO MATTER WHAT SIDE THEY’RE ON. North or South, East or West. Doesn’t matter.
My ignorance of the south is why I didn’t realize how much it openly celebrates its soldiers and generals and its heritage that was built on the blood of slaves and whose economy was driven by slave ownership. So it never occurred to me that black southerners would have to see the army that fought to keep them in shackles celebrated in their faces every day of their lives.
No matter how many southerners have been taught by their parents to see the Confederate flag as a benevolent symbol of their heritage, that flag will always represent pro-slavery to the rest of us and as long as that flag is allowed to fly on state or federal property it’s spitting in the faces of the people who are here because their ancestors were kidnapped, raped, and sold to white people. As long as the south holds onto that symbol they’re still fighting the civil war.
I feel like my eyes are just seeing the south for real for the first time. How the wounds of the civil war are still gaping open. It’s weird to have come so far from my early prejudices of the south only to end up face to face with the darkness there that I have always feared.
If the south wants to be celebrated for all the wonderful things it does and creates and IS, then it needs to ditch the civil war and the hero worship of people who were fighting to keep slavery legal and find a new symbol for a new south.
My heart is so heavy. Having said all that about the south I now return to the beginning where I said that this whole country is racist. This whole country’s history is as dark as it comes. People whose relatives first landed here on the Mayflower, who are so fucking proud of being the first people who came here to slaughter Native Americans and steal their land – WHAT THE FUCK ARE YOU SO FUCKING PROUD OF?! Those who came west slaughtered and stole MORE. Those who went south slaughtered and stole too. Before we all got ourselves slaves. Fucking hell.
My last thought is that pride is bad shit and I can’t get with it in any way. I can get with being proud when you accomplish something you’ve struggled to accomplish like finishing running a marathon or learning a new trade or standing up to a bully. But humans are too flawed, each and every one of us, to be fueled by any kind of big pride. National pride, state pride, racial pride, or familial pride. Fuck all that. We’ve collectively got nothing to be proud of as a species.
I’d like to see individuals take pride in small good things and ditch all the epic pride. Doesn’t God have stuff to say about not being too proud? I don’t know, I’m not religious but I feel like religious people all my life have been dishing out homilies about being wary of pride while they cherish huge pride in their faith, their family history, and country – not allowing anyone to ever tarnish their pride with suggestions of imperfection in anything they worship. Pride makes people blind and it makes them complacent. It also makes assholes out of otherwise good people.
As an atheist who wants to cultivate the best qualities I can in myself I think pride is dangerous and promotes myopothy of mind, spirit, and body.
What everyone in this country needs more of is humility.