One of the stated goals of Dylann Roof’s massacre of those at a Bible study at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina, was “to start a race war.” What the 21-year-old was not mature enough to understand, however, was that the country has been in a race war for decades. A war not only about race, but about “us vs. them” of all types. War between American citizens and immigrants. War between Christians and gays. War between the haves and have-nots. War between gays and Mormons.
These wars have been propelled and paid for by people and organizations that stand to make a buck on the constant strife and polarization of our nation. And we, their hapless pawns, buy into it and further propel it. These organizations that came up with the myths of “welfare queens” and “persecuted Christians” and “White Pride” fuel the public discourse that creates boys like 21-year-old Dylann Roof and the likely 18-year-old boys who carved “Die Fag” into the arms of a young Delta, Utah man.
In the us v. them, we are not faultless. These organizations know that at our most base, we will lash out against those who disagree with us in the harshest tones, especially if we are sitting behind a keyboard and those we devour in our hate and self-righteousness are faceless.
As the ultra-right pits gays against Christians — a group we’ve never chosen to declare an enemy but hoped would choose to follow their own messages of love and compassion — we play into the divisiveness. A recent private conversation between a local gay activist and a local leader of an ultra-conservative think tank devolved into an anti-Mormon and anti-Christian rant that called the LDS founder a “19th Century con man and sexual predator,” and their god “imaginary and synthetic.”
This rant was in answer to a post by the think tank leader questioning Bruce/Caitlyn Jenner’s bravery in not-so-pretty terms, hyperbolizing President Obama’s efforts as to “tear the Constitution into pieces,” and saying, “I believe comparing a race to a lifestyle choice is dangerous for us [Christians] because people who disagree with a choice is considered on the same level as a racist.”
But this doesn’t excuse the disrespectful tone of the response.
Which is what those fueling this divisiveness wanted all along. They have pushed the messages that, if you are against war, you are against the soldiers. If you are for marriage equality, you are against Christians. It’s so easy for them to turn any political difference into a “you must hate” message. And we fall for it.
The politics of hate works all ways. It creates more hate and it creates more young minds who walk down the path of hate. While many point at the GOP as the party of hate, myself included, we cannot say we are without sin.
Here is my wish that Dylann Roof’s actions actually begin a discussion of mending race wars, and all other “us v. them” wars, our country is facing. Wouldn’t that be a kick in his pants?