"They're already using the nuanced language of lack of effort," Jon Stewart said on a night when he had no jokes for his opening monologue.
The shooting Wednesday night at Emanuel AME in Charleston was different from the bigger racially-tinged violence we've had this past year. On Staten Island and in Ferguson, white police officers were responsible for the deaths of black men on the street. In Baltimore, it was again white police officers responsible for the death of a black man, this time in custody. These turned into citizens vs. authority figures.
Charleston was different: A young white man walked into a black church and killed nine black people who were at Bible study.
As some of you know, I work in news. The story unfolded very slowly for us. The shooting took place around 9:30 p.m. For a long time, all the news we knew came from the Charleston Police Department's Twitter feed.
Police are responding to a shooting in Calhoun Street.
My parents live in Charleston, and, in fact, my father had finished up giving a tour and left downtown right as the shooting happened. I got a text from my mother, who said their internet and cable went down right around 9:30. Interesting.
We first got a paragraph of news from the ground at about 11:15 p.m. That's a surprisingly long time. Over the next hour and a half, we got bits and pieces of information. You can see our first story, which incorporates that trickle, is clearly a cobbled together mishmash of information. By about 1 a.m., there were confirmed deaths, and when we finished about 3 a.m., this is what we knew. So, not much.
Looking back only 36 hours after the shooting, things came about very quickly. The suspect was arrested, the governor is calling for the death penalty and the mourning can start in earnest without the manhunt. Now there are some things that are definitely worth talking about.
The sanctity of church. The victims of this shooting were gathered in a place of prayer, comfort and safety. I don't understand the underlying feeling that compels someone to shoot people, but I have to think that, beyond whatever racial hatred is at play here, it takes a little something different to walk into a church to shoot people. Apparently, Emanuel AME has seen this kind of thing before. It surprises me that in a Bible Belt town, a house of worship isn't sacred.
I get that there are perfectly legal reasons to own guns. I definitely respect the right to hunt, and I understand that by getting my meat at the grocery store I'm just asking someone else to kill an animal for me. But also note that the suspect arrested in this case, Dylann Roof, owned his gun legally. By and large, guns used in crimes are obtained illegally.
But let's look beyond gun control for a moment. A newspaper is historically the conscience of its community, and The Post and Courier is a really good paper. But I think placing an ad right on top of a major shooting story is something I hope took a lot of discussion when they were getting ready to distribute. Sometimes it's worth saying, "Sorry, we had to pull the ad."
The confederate flag is the only one at full staff over the state capitol. Far be it from me to tell you how to show your state's colors. But. The U.S. flag and South Carolina state flag were being flown at half staff at S.C. government buildings, but the confederate flag is at full staff. The flag is a point of pride for some, and a point of hatred for others. State officials decided at one point over the past few years it should remain at the capitol. Go ahead, remember it as a symbol of states' rights. But admit that it means something else entirely to a lot of people. To many, it's a symbol of oppression. This might be the right time to take it down entirely, but at least have the respect to fly it at half staff with the others.
#WeWillShootBack. This is among the more difficult things we're going to have to deal with as a nation. While up until this point, the unifying cry has been #BlackLivesMatter, the conversation on Twitter has shifted from a position of resistance to a position of revenge. With that necessarily comes a responsibility for all to be vigilant, and to not take on an act of pure revenge — that is, walk into a church and shoot a bunch of innocent white worshippers. That would be an identical act of hatred.