Somewhere in the last hour I have heard excerpts from President Obama’s statement on the Charleston shootings for the umpteenth time, and my head has finally exploded. Everybody is quick to point out his tasteless politicization of the tragedy, but a lot sort of shrug their shoulders and say “Politicians will be politicians.” NONSENSE! – We have a right to expect better of our political leadership.
See here’s the thing – it is not just that they are trying to score political points on a tragedy; it is that in doing so they say, and Obama first and foremost says, “My agenda matters more than those lives.” That leaves tasteless behind in the dust and enters the land of just plan old wrong. And Obama did it not once, but twice.
First, of course, are the much touted gun control comments:
But I don’t need to be constrained about the emotions that tragedies like this raise. I’ve had to make statements like this too many times. Communities like this have had to endure tragedies like this too many times.
We don’t have all the facts, but we do know that, once again, innocent people were killed in part because someone who wanted to inflict harm had no trouble getting their hands on a gun.
Now is the time for mourning and for healing. But let’s be clear:
At some point, we as a country will have to reckon with the fact that this type of mass violence does not happen in other advanced countries. It doesn’t happen in other places with this kind of frequency. And it is in our power to do something about it.
I say that recognizing the politics in this town foreclose a lot of those avenues right now. But it would be wrong for us not to acknowledge it.
No sir, it is wrong to acknowledge it because those dead people matter a whole heck of a lot more than your agenda. Let’s just acknowledge their lives and leave it at that. But what I find even more egregious is his comparison of this event to the Birmingham church bombing of 50 years ago:
The good news is I am confident that the outpouring of unity and strength and fellowship and love across Charleston today, from all races, from all faiths, from all places of worship indicates the degree to which those old vestiges of hatred can be overcome. That, certainly, was Dr. King’s hope just over 50 years ago, after four little girls were killed in a bombing in a black church in Birmingham, Alabama.
Now, while the words of Dr. King that the president goes on to quote are moving and stirring, I truly think the president could have found more appropriate words to offer comfort and hope after this tragedy. Dr. King’s remarks are about systemic racial corruption and the two events are not comparable in that regard. To imply that they are is to both reveal an agenda and belittle what happened. This event was perpetrated, by all currently available evidence, by a racist – but this is not about systemic racism. What happened in Birmingham was a conspiracy, perpetrated by any number of people (three were belatedly convicted and one died before he could be) and was indeed evidence that racism was a strong cultural force. This current heinous crime is evidence only that a murderous individual was a racist, but there is no conspiracy evident and the entire culture is aggrieved by his actions. To try and make this about systemic racism is to both cheapen the grief of all that feel the horror of this crime deeply and to say the the color of the victims matters more than the victims themselves.
I could continue to tear this statement apart for hours. There are entire armies of Islamic religious fanatics killing people by the 100’s and there are no fundamental problems with Islam, just some crazed individuals. But one man with an apartheid (a system now dead for some 20 years) symbol gets ugly and our nation is once again rife with racism? Those competing notions in and of themselves are so utterly narcissistic in their irony as to call the president’s judgement into serious question.
What happened in Charleston is a horrible tragedy, just horrible. It is not about guns, it is not about race (other than in the mind of the perpetrator), it is just about one hate filled man killing nine God-fearing people. That’s enough, and the fact that the president cannot see that only adds to the tragedy.