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Friday, March 22, 2019

WASHINGTON — We Americans are exceptionally good at evasion when we want to be. Our skills in this sphere are particularly impressive on the matter of race and the subject of guns.

Nonsense, you say. Have we not been talking about race and racism for our entire history? Our conversations have been especially intense in recent years — about the response to President Obama as our first African-American president, about sentencing reform and the over-incarceration of men of color, and about the wave of highly publicized police shootings of African-Americans.

As for guns, don’t we have moments of national soul searching after every big tragedy involving firearms? The fact that we don’t act, it is said, reflects the politics of guns, not a failure to confront the issue.

But anyone who has ever been involved in an uncomfortable conversation of one kind or another — meaning all of us — knows that it’s possible to talk and talk and never get to the nub of the matter. There are strategies of evasion within even what appear to be probing dialogues.

And so it is with our reaction to the murder of nine worshipers at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina, a house of God with historic associations to the movement to liberate African-Americans from slavery and oppression.

Right off the top, anyone who wants to discuss the implications of this shooting is scolded for “politicizing a tragedy.” We are told we must “heal” and “mourn” first, that it’s “disrespectful” to the victims to ask what this slaughter means and what we must do as a nation. Thus is real debate delayed until the moment of urgency passes. In a media culture with a short attention span, there is no surer way to contain and marginalize the hard questions.

The evidence is overwhelming that the 21-year-old confessed shooter, Dylann Storm Roof, is a white supremacist in a state that was at the forefront of resistance to civil rights. South Carolina’s “Declaration of Immediate Causes” for secession in 1860 made clear that a defense of slavery was at the heart of its departure from the Union.

Evasion of how deeply embedded race is in this event takes two forms. First, discussions of Roof’s possible motivations are ruled out of order because he is clearly deeply disturbed. The Wall Street Journal editorialized that explaining Roof’s “homicidal rage” is “a problem that defies explanation beyond the reality that evil still stalks humanity.” The very particular nature of the evil here is clouded in the vagaries of individual madness.

As for secession and racism, the evaders insist that South Carolina, a state that now has an African-American United States senator, is long past all this. Which begs the question: If this history is all about yesteryear, why does South Carolina continue to fly the Confederate flag on the grounds of its state Capitol? It’s about “heritage,” we’re told. But the nature of that “heritage” is cloaked in the mists of battlefield bravery in the Civil War. And the flag was put up in 1962 as the civil rights movement gained strength. Resistance to racial equality is central to the flag’s heritage.

As for our truly twisted national policies on firearms, even advocates of sane gun regulations are so discouraged that they don’t even try to rally us to action when horror strikes. Obama spoke plainly when he declared that “this type of mass violence does not happen in other advanced countries … with this kind of frequency.” But then he acknowledged that “the politics” of guns forecloses doing much at all. At best, he hoped that the American people will “at some point … come to grips with it.”

But when will we arrive at such a point when the first argument of the gun lobby is that the solution to the problem of too many guns is — more guns? We now have an estimated 270 million to 310 million guns in the United States. Will another 10 million, 20 million, 100 million make us safer? Must we all be ready to pack heat when we go to pray for salvation from violence and hatred?

Are our politics so demented and our senators and house members so cowardly that they cannot even pass laws to keep guns out of the hands of the troubled, the insane and those with a history of violence? Apparently so.

Millions of words will be written and spoken about the victims in Charleston. We’ll deal with everything — except the need to change.

E.J. Dionne’s email address is Twitter: @EJDionne. 

Photo: Dedra Marigault, left, and Maria Bornhorst console each other after Bornhorst became emotional visiting the sidewalk memorial at the “Mother” Emanuel A.M.E. Church on Saturday, June 20, 2015, in Charleston, SC. (Curtis Compton/Atlanta Journal-Constitution/TNS)

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60 responses to “Charleston And The Politics Of Evasion”

  1. Kurt CPI says:

    There’s no denying that the confederate flag is used by the kkk and their ilk as a symbol, for their religion of hate. Southerners see its removal as denying their history, but their history includes sanctioned slavery and the denial of Africans as being human beings. With that kind of suffering at the heart of the confederacy, it’s time to recognize the symbolism of the flag for its inhumanity, take it down, and move on.

    • AgLander says:

      Very good…a typical liberal with no knowledge of the Civil War era and the many issues that divided the North & South, who then makes an ill-informed “Cliff Notes” summation of the conflict as a single issue driven confrontation……and that comment motivated by a 2015 political ideology where revisionist history is used to match that ideology…..well done. Besides, a study of that era would have been too hard, so stick with the meaningless catch phrases so you can spend more time at Starbucks and remain an ignorant sloganeer.

      • Steve H says:

        What other ‘issues’? States rights? Property rights?

        They all had to do with the premise that the Negro (the polite term of the day) were chattel property, and should not be treated as human beings. On a political level those who had power in Congress could see that their numbers were quickly diminishing and their power center was changing away from the south to the west and north.

      • JPHALL says:

        Read the southern declarations issued to prove their case for succession. Slavery was their major reason for succession. That is what the Vice President of the Confederacy stated. After that all your revisionist history goes back into the trash can where it belongs.

      • Kurt CPI says:

        I’m a long way from a liberal. I regularly offend this forum with my more conservative stances – just ask. But opposing racism and terrorism don’t land on one or the other. They are and ought to be universally condemned.
        As far as history, the recurring theme throughout the list of grievances for secession is maintaining slavery as an institution. It was the emancipation proclamation that triggered the whole thing. Were it not for that one thing, there would have been no civil war.

        • AgLander says:

          The Emancipation Proclamation was issued in 1863, three years into the Civil War. Lincoln issued it as a prelude to Sherman’s organized invasion of the South in the hope that it would encourage insurrection and make his army’s job easier. By the way, that proclamation specifically applied only to slaves in designated areas of the South and was used a tool of war, not as a civil rights declaration.

          • Kurt CPI says:

            I stand corrected. It was the election of Lincoln and the Republican position of no expansion of slavery that caused the Confederacy to attack Fort Sumpter and begin the civil war. Lincoln issued the emancipation mid-war. No question that there was plenty of politics in that decision. Nevertheless, it ended slavery as a sanctioned institution in the US, which included the confederate states after the Union prevailed. So now that we cleared that up, I still stand by (and virtually everything written about the causes of the civil war agree) that maintaining slavery as an institution was the chief motivating factor in the decision to secede.

          • DEFENDER88 says:

            From things I have read about the Civil War, most of the young men who actually fought in it were not fighting for slavery.

            They could never hope to own slaves.

            They were typically 16-25yo poor farm boys who often worked as hard as some slaves.

            They were fighting for their brother or buddy down the dusty path at the next farm.

            Or, in battle, for the man next to you(much like today).

            Or their County or State – as they knew it. ie States Rights – bad as some may have been.

            But typically not for slavery, per-se.

            Even today Southerners don’t like Northerners trying to tell them how to live.

            Especially when they much prefer the South to the North – even now.

    • whodatbob says:

      Display of the Stars and Bars is a non issue, diverting discussion away from the real issues in need of solution. We were a slave nation from before our founding in 1776, a long history of slavery under our National Flag.

      I do not nor will not fly the Stars and Bars but proudly fly and salute the Stars and Stripes. Slavery is an undeniable part of our national history both north and south.

      You see the confederate flag as a symbol of inhumanity and others as a symbol of their history. It is a free speech issue. The wacko who killed nine people would have done so even if it were illegal to display the flag.

  2. FireBaron says:

    In most places, the flags attributed to the losers are consigned to the dustbin of history. Do we see the flag of the Kingdom of Two Sicilys still flying? Do we see the flag of Livonia still flying? Do we see the flag of Rhodesia still flying? Do we see the flag of the Holy Roman Empire still flying?

    • AgLander says:

      The South lost the Civil War, a war that they were outnumbered in troops at least 2-1 for most of the war and 3-1 near the end. The South lost the War with casualties at 483,000 to the North’s 664,000. The South lost the War when their supply lines and ability to re-supply troops was decimated by infrastructure destruction (railroads) and the overwhelming advantage the North had in supplying their troops……..
      The South lost the War but the South did not lose its proud cultural identity which the victorious North to this day tries to define as slavery based but in fact goes so much deeper and more meaningful. The victor usually redefines history and that is what the North continues to do to this day. And that redefining by the liberal North has more to do with current day Democrat election politics than it does with the actual truth of the Civil War era.

      • Bob M says:

        Read the South Carolina Declaration of Immediate Cause and Mississippi Declaration of Immediate Cause, the justification for succession, and you will see that it is all about slavery.

      • CPAinNewYork says:

        I’ve read a lot about the Civil War. In the beginning, the Confederacy had a good chance of winning their indepencence, but they “blew it” because of mistakes like Lee’s frontal attack at Gettysburg and Jefferson Davis’s acceptance of Lee’s plan for invading the north.

        Jefferson Davis failed to realize that the northern public was getting sick of the war and Lincoln’s re-election in 1864 was in trouble. He should have worked with Lee to prolong the war, but instead did all he could to end it quickly by invading the north. That was a big mistake in strategy, because it infused the Northern public with the prospect of victory and energized the Union war effort.

  3. CPAinNewYork says:

    Throughout history human beings have discriminated against each other along racial (as well as other) lines. This has produced a lot of hatred.

    Because humans have not changed fundamentally since cro magnons (us) emerged about 40,000 years ago, we cannot expect to change fundamentally now, which means that racial prejudice is here to stay, regardless of the silly statements of FireBaron and Kurt CPI.

    • Steve H says:

      But we can still strive for “a more perfect union” to be unwilling to do so is capitulation to the evil that his hatred.

      Even while dying on the cross, Jesus forgave those that were killing him.

      • CPAinNewYork says:

        Good luck with that, Steve. I believe that it’s more practical to watch one’s back than to expose it to an enemy’s knife.

        • Steve H says:

          Oh there is true evil in the world that does need to be confronted I am just saying that violence is not always the answer. Some times you just need to remove their weapons from them, lock them up and incarcerate them.

          This young punk in South Carolina is a prime example of an evil coward who will rightfully spend the remainder of his life behind bars, until he is put to death by the state. The police did their jobs and a caring and involved citizen helped at the critical moment, without having to resort to violence herself.

          • CPAinNewYork says:

            If the dirtbag had been blown away, nine people might still be alive and society would be rid of him.

            I cannot accept the premise that he was not known to be a rabid racist, so when he advanced toward the black church with a package, he should have been challenged and wasted.

          • DEFENDER88 says:

            Fact is, if all the “Good” people in that meeting had been armed, and had even a little training, fewer “Good” people would have been killed.

          • Paul Bass says:

            Yep, that 87 year old great grand mother, who survive Jim Crow and segregation, it’s her fault she’s dead, she wasn’t packing heat to go to her prayer meeting.

            Do you even “listen”(read) what you put down on paper?

            Don’t you realize how stupid and idiotic this sounds???

          • DEFENDER88 says:

            Actually it is more like “your” fault with your now “Gun Free Killing Zones”.

          • 13observer says:

            These anti-gunners never listen to facts of the “real world”.

          • DEFENDER88 says:

            Most of them live up North in elite gated communities or buildings with guards. Or relatively safe college campuses.

            And have not had to face down or been shot at by a real thug or several thugs.

            I have been all over, I know how bad, dangerous and scary it can get in a hurry with no warning.

          • 13observer says:

            Amen to that.

          • DEFENDER88 says:

            They are highly educated “theorists”:

            They work on “theories” – ie If we have a “Gun Free” zone then no one can be shot.

            uhhh – Yeah – until someone shows up with a gun.

          • 13observer says:

            They need to be more specific such as; “NO KILLING ANYONE IN THIS AREA” zones. If caught violating the ordinance; punishable by law! Oh ya, we already have a law against killing.

          • Paul Bass says:

            As far as I know (and proven by this racist killer) South Carolina is NOT a “Gun Free Killing Zone”.

            It seems any wacko nutjob can get a gun even with known mental heath issues.

            So, no, definitely the fault of the racist SC republican politicians supporting their hate filled racist voters.

          • DEFENDER88 says:

            South Carolina may not be “Gun Free”, but that prayer meeting was. And it got 9 Good people killed. Just simple facts.

          • Paul Bass says:

            I’m sorry, but most reasonable people DON’T want to go to church with a bunch of gun-toting yahoos.

            So from that angle almost ALL churches are “gun free”.

            And your answer is we should all carry guns to CHURCH?!!!

            Please don’t you see how crazy this sounds?!!

          • DEFENDER88 says:

            I walk the halls at my church, with my gun, concealed as it should be.

            I was asked to by the church.

            Just common sense, someone/s need to be armed to confront and stop these killers.

            For now, it is the best way to stop them.

            If I or one like me had been there 2-3 might have been shot but not 9.

            Even better, for a church of that size, several “armed” security people.

            And even the 2-3 might have survived.

            The killer apparently was a terrible shot.

            Took 40 rounds of 45cal!! to kill 9 people.

            Just 1 round of 45cal is massively devastating.

            That is almost 5 rounds per person! at point blank range!

            YOUR Non-Solutions, sound way more “crazy” to me.
            Have you been to church lately?
            Don’t know where you are from, but most all churches around here have “armed” security now.

          • Paul Bass says:

            I’m glad yours are concealed, as they should be.

            Nope only go to Catholic churches in inner city Houston with mostly “browns” and “blacks”. But being in TX where the yahoos just passed “open-carry”, at least none of the parishioners have visible guns, but some may have CCPs…

            Again, I’m not sure I want to go to a church with open guns, but to each his own.

          • DEFENDER88 says:

            Almost all of us in the legitimate, responsible concealed carry community don’t like open carry either.
            Nor – do we ever “want to” have to actually shoot anyone.
            We say “The best gun fight you can be in is the one you avoid”

            Open Carry:
            1 – It gives away your tactical advantage
            2 – It scares people
            3 – It actually makes you a target to have your gun taken away
            Since most who “open carry” don’t know s*it about retention holsters.
            4 – It makes we responsible/trained gun carriers look bad
            You wont see any “open carry” guns in my church either.
            Although “legally” we could.
            If I see anyone “open carry” I will approach and advise him to put it up or conceal it and that I “will” be watching him.

            My History
            I have been attacked and shot at a few times(before I learned to shoot) so I know what it is like.
            That is why I learned to shoot – and not just barely – But Competition Level Combat Pistol
            Figured my luck had run out on being unarmed and surviving gun shots.
            I now help(on volunteer basis) train police to shoot.
            In practice:
            Average police shoot maybe 50-100 rds/mo.(Target)
            SWAT maybe 2-300 rds/mo (Combat)
            I shoot 1,000+ rds/mo (Combat & Competition)
            I am also certified several ways.
            This is why the church asked me to do security.
            When the police declined to since it does not pay.

            So, I am especially saddened by what happened in that church – knowing I could likely have stopped it.

            Notice I did not call you any names or yell at you.
            Carrying a gun sobers you with a burden of responsibility to be capable, calm, secure in yourself, level headed, etc
            Maybe I don’t seem so “Crazy” now?

          • Paul Bass says:

            Thumbs up to your responsible CC, as I said, certain of my fellow church goers may be CCP holders, which I have no problem with (I also have been shot at), and I would certainly be watching an open carry holder myself.
            You have a great afternoon.

      • Whatmeworry says:

        Darwinism is showing us once again how evolution co

        • Darminism is showing us once again how ovolution co

          • Daniel Max Ketter says:

            What the heck does that time of the month have to do with Darwin? Perhaps it affected Darwins’ wife? You need to read up on this. I’ll give you a pity upvote.

          • ikallicrates says:

            Darvonism is shaving us ounce again how ovulation cunts.

        • Daniel Max Ketter says:

          I agree man came from ape, and not those silly stories about adam & eva and creation that conservative right wing morons like to preach. God bless our labor organizations for their contributions to America.

        • Darwinism is showing us apes evolved from Linda Rae Ketter, who is ugly enough to stop a clock

        • Danielle Max Ketter you dodged the draft with an in-school deferments to attend college in Buffalo, just like Bill Clinton did. However, you really shouldn’t be impersonating yourself as a retired Air Force Colonel & aviator pilot on your facebook & linkedIn profiles, mainly because you are a coward draftdodger who never served a day in the military, and it is disrespectful to those who did and gave their lives for their country. Face it whatmeworry/dan, you were nothing but a desk clerk in the automotive industry, and yes, thanks to liberals, you did live on government assistance for many years after school.

      • Darvinism is showing us once again how avolution co

  4. Canistercook says:

    So some loser nut commits a terrible crime and we politicize it. Nonsense!

    • Fred the Barbarian says:

      Actually, what happened was that a racist conservative committed terrorism to advance his political goals. He failed, as racist conservatives always do.

  5. 13observer says:

    E.J. you speak that for some; the answer to dealing with millions of guns is just to allow more guns………. but what about millions of illegal aliens here and your answer is to just allow more to come? How is this not talking out of both sides of your mouth?

    • Paul Bass says:

      The topic is the racism of this disturbed individual and his easy access to guns.

      NOT illegal aliens!!!

      Stop being a troll, and either stick to the topic or go to Faux News where you belong.

      • 13observer says:

        I’m saying, it’s the same thing but liberals don’t like accurate comparisons.

      • ikallicrates says:

        13observer is right to link the problem of too many guns in this country with the problem of too many illegal aliens.

        Guns have only one purpose. They are made to kill. Illegal aliens also have only one purpose, and Donald Trump has told us what that purpose is.

        Illegal aliens pretend they come to this country looking for jobs and a better life for themselves and their families, but Donald Trump knows their real purpose is to kill us and rape our women. Wake up, America!!!


  6. 13observer says:

    There are LAWS that keep guns out of the hands of people that shouldn’t have them…. just like felons… but hey, criminals don’t obey laws… and some Presidents don’t either! So it’s OK to have too many illegal aliens but not the same for guns?? I’m stumped!

    • bhndr says:

      Yes there are laws, too bad that they are so full of holes and blame nd spots so that they are inadequate to the task.

      Never forget that for the most part, these mass shootings are not the work of “criminals”. NOR forget that most of these weapons are “legally obtained”.

      Time comes when as a rational person, one has to say that there needs to be serious action on the matter of weapons. The saturation of weapons in the hands of people not mature enough, healthy enough, not old enough is at record highs and yet there is no concurrent requirement for either training or the ability to think critically.

      There are times when rights take a backseat to public safety. You have the right to drink, you don’t have the right to drink and drive. You may have a right to own a weapon but there should be requirements. Its common sense.

      • 13observer says:

        What kind of “requirements” do you mean? Perhaps never being able to fire your weapon or carry it out of your house? Nuts to that says the Constitution and MY NRA who unlike many other organizations; protects the “RIGHTS” of its members. The NRA should teach gun safety in schools and charge the government for doing so!

      • 13observer says:

        I just sent another $1,000.00 dollars to the NRA to defend my “RIGHTS”. I used to give plenty to charities but defending our Second Amendment means more to me and all the others whom recently donated huge sums of money to OUR NRA!

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