At just after 8 in the evening on June 17, 2015, 21 year old Dylann Roof walked into the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina. The sandy-haired Roof, with white supremacists ties and leanings sat quietly among the 12 African American worshippers attending a basement Bible study, including The senior pastor, the Rev. Clementa C. Pinckney who was also a Democratic member of the South Carolina Senate.
Just before 9 Roof stood and pulled a pistol from a fanny pack and announced to the stunned attendees that, “I have to do it. You rape our women and you’re taking over our country. And you have to go.” With that Roof began firing, stopping several times to reload. When he was finished nine were dead.
There were two other attacks against Black churches that night and the next day, one in Tennessee and the other in Virginia. In the weeks to follow, incited and by encouraged by FOX News pundits and Rightwing Talk shows, white hate groups would be suspected in at least 6 church burnings. The Charleston attack was the deadliest church shooting in American history, ranking alongside the 1991 execution-style murders at a Buddhist Temple in Waddell Arizona and the murders of 6 Sikh worshippers at the hands of a white supremacist, Wade Michael Page, at a Wisconsin temple in 2012. Since 2001 some 400 Americans have been killed by white supremacists, including almost 2 dozen law enforcement officers. In 2012 two white supremacists executed 2 Nevada police officers as they ate lunch before storming a nearby Walmart and announcing the start of a white revolution.
The Charleston attack came at a period of heightened racial tension and awareness, amid a national conversation on race which was long overdue. In the weeks and months preceding the attack an alarming trend appeared to be developing after a string of controversial deaths and assaults by police which were caught on video. Just a week earlier a police officer in Texas slammed a 14 year old girl in a swimsuit to the ground and drew his weapon after complaints that Black teen agers had attended a pool party in a predominantly white neighborhood.
After the Charleston gunman, Dylann Roof was seen in photographs with a Confederate flag became the symbol of a racist thread still evident and virulent in the American weave. Republicans quickly countered that Americans, in particular republican and southern white Americans were not racist. While that was partly true, it was obvious that the Republican Party and its Tea Party offshoot had adopted icons and legacies of a more overtly racist and traitorous past.
On the candidate trail the reaction was predictable. While all of the candidates, Republican and Democrat, condemned the shooting itself, they split along seemingly irreconcilable partisan lines. Clinton, Sanders, Chafee and O’Malley all cited America’s legacy of racism. Clinton and Sanders both called for greater gun control. Roof had obtained the gun legally through a loophole in the law which does not require documentation or licensing of person to person private sales. With a pending felony charge he was prohibited from buying the gun in a store. The Republican candidates, in contrast to Democrats, were quick to defend the Confederate flag and guns, even before the victims had been publically identified. Others on the Republican side were silent.
Former Texas governor Rick Perry, who was adamant about calling the Fort Hood shooter Nidal Hassan a terrorist instead dubbed the Charleston shooting an accident. Rand Paul jumped quickly to defend the broadest possible interpretation of the Second amendment. The NRA blamed the victims for not being armed, which included an 83 year old woman and her 7 year old granddaughter. Jeb Bush said that he didn’t know if the attack was racially motivated, then canceled a trip to Charleston. Neither Lindsay Graham nor Rick Santorum could bring themselves to admit the attack was racially motivated, despite Roof telling his surviving victims and the police that his actions were indeed racially motivated!
In fact, none of the candidates on the right could bring themselves to describe the attack in terms of domestic terrorism. The issue, which seems obvious to most on the Left and many on the Right, would indicate a growing crisis in American society that is not being squarely addressed in the media and by too many political figures on the Right, especially among the current crop of presidential candidates. Many of those same pundits demand any act committed by a Muslim to be described as terrorism. Not such demand or outrage was made regarding the Charleston Massacre.
That might point to a deeper and darker problem America faces in confronting homegrown terrorism. Former FBI agent Mike German, who specialized in domestic counterterrorism from 1988 to 2004 told Democracy Now’s Amy Goodman that:
“…you can imagine the different reaction that would have occurred if Dylann Roof was wearing an ISIS flag on his jacket rather than a Rhodesia flag. And for somebody like me who knows a lot about the white supremacist movement and having been undercover in it, seeing those symbols, seeing the target—you know, the Emanuel AME Church, like many AME churches, isn’t just the spiritual center of the black community, it’s the political center, it’s the social center, so the fact that it’s targeted fits the FBI definition, which is an act of violence intended to intimidate or coerce a civilian population. And the political purpose is obvious. One of the victims, who was specifically picked out, was a state legislator. So the idea that somehow this wasn’t political, I think, says a lot about the way the FBI views terrorism.”
In 2009 the Department of Homeland Security disbanded a unit tasked with looking at domestic rightwing terror groups. Since then the number of hate groups in America has mushroomed to more than 1000 in 2008, according to the Southern Poverty Law Institute, which tracks white supremacists hate groups, to more than 2100 by 2010. Both Michael Savage and Rush Limbaugh describe SPLI, for its outspoken investigations about white hate groups, as a terror group that should be closed down. Savage, through music choices and guests regularly courts a white extremist agenda paraded as populist.
What that points to is a problem with race that America seems unwilling or unable to come to terms with. Both Clinton and Sanders appeared to be in agreement on the issue of race and guns in America. Clinton forcefully condemned the shootings and was more candid than ever before regarding racism. Sen. Sanders issued a statement saying, “The Charleston church killings are a tragic reminder of the ugly stain of racism that still taints our nation.” Earlier this year, however, according the Huffington Post’s Paul Blumenthal and Ryan Grim (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2015/05/31/hillary-clinton-speeches-keystone_n_7463108.html)
Clinton took $1.6 million in speaking fees from the Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce (CIBC) and TD Bank, both closely connected to the Keystone XL Pipeline. The pipeline remains a hot button issue with Progressives and Liberals who aggressively oppose the pipeline over environmental, safety and property rights concerns. Grim and Blumenthal write that:
Both banks have financial ties to TransCanada, the company behind the Keystone XL pipeline, and have advocated for a massive increase in pipeline capacity, including construction of Keystone. Further, Gordon Giffin, a CIBC board member and onetime U.S. ambassador to Canada, is a former lobbyist for TransCanada and was a contributions bundler for Clinton’s 2008 presidential campaign.
It is the belief that Hillary tends to play strongly to the ambiguous, except where it is politically safe and expedient. Her stand on banks is illustrative. While saying she would be tough on Wall Street…
It is arguable that the United States had not had a true statesman or stateswoman in recent history. President Jimmy Carter, John F. Kennedy and Dwight D. Eisenhower are the first examples that come to mind. In 1990 Sanders, running as an independent against Republican Rep. Peter Smith, benefitted from an NRA campaign against Smith who supported a ban on assault weapons. While the NRA money did not go to support Sanders, his silence was enough to allow him to beat Smith and the Democratic challenger. In 1994 Sanders voted in favor of a ban on assault weapons, a vote which some believe nearly cost him his House seat that same year.
Certainly the gun issue in America and the debate in Congress has been a contentious, complex and evolving one. There are, according to one conservative website, roughly 32000 gun deaths in, with close to a 1000 accidental shootings (which the pro-gun site attempts to minimize) and about 11000 homicides. More than half of gun deaths, almost 60% are suicides. With accidental deaths, and since most homicides are committed by acquaintances, spouses and family members, that means that gun owners are far more likely to die by a gun in the home than by a stranger’s hand. What that describes is an effort by the gun lobby to manipulate public opinion for sales, portraying a community as far more dangerous than it actually is. The gun proliferation industry has gone so far as to fictionalize even the Holocaust, pushing historical revisionism to the point of saying the Hitler’s so-called banning and confiscation of guns led to the deaths of millions of Jews.
There are numerous credible sources regarding Hitler and guns. The Nazis did not impose any gun registration or restriction laws. In fact, the Weimar government plagued with rampant violence and near insurrection between communist organizations and Nazis imposed restrictions targeting both groups. Those laws remained in place and were merely tightened in 1938 against Jews. At less than 1.5%, or about 500,000 people, the Jewish population would have merely escalated and hastened their destruction with a token insurrection, that is if enough could have foreseen the Holocaust, which to most Jews in Europe, despite the growing hate speech and isolated violence against Jews still remained unfathomable in 1938. (http://www.straightdope.com/columns/read/1791/did-hitler-ban-gun-ownership)
For Bernie Sanders the issue resonates strongly. Sanders, the youngest of two sons, was born toPolish parents fleeing the Nazis. The war would end before the family would learn that almost the entire family in Poland had been wiped out in the Holocaust. Through the Nuremburg trials of Nazi war criminals the world and America would weigh the difference between vengeance and justice through the rule of law. Sanders father was paint salesman. Life in Brooklyn in the 1940s and 50s was defined in the hard-scrabble culture of poor and working class families. There were lessons to be learned there, Sanders, looking back at those formative years is candid about those lessons.
“I saw unfairness,” He told the Guardian newspaper, “That was the major inspiration in my politics.”
Listen Saturday’s from 11am-1pm to WC Turck, Brian Murray and guests on Chicago’s real alternative media, AM1680, Q4 radio, streaming at www.que4.org.
WC Turck is an author, artist, playwright and talk radio host in Chicago. He has been called the most dangerous voice on the Left. His new book “A Tragic Fate: is an unflinching look at the events leading up to the shooting down of Malaysia Air Flight 17.” His first novel, “Broken” was recommended by NAMI for its treatment of PTSD. In 2006 he published “Everything for Love,” a memoir of his experiences during the siege of Sarajevo. He wrote and produced two critically acclaimed plays, “Occupy my Heart” and “The People’s Republic of Edward Snowden.” He works with the homeless and foreclosure victims in Chicago. He partners in a weekly radio show dedicated to issues, society and politics with cohost, activist and artist Brian Murray For more information, past shows, videos and articles, visit www.revolutioandbeer.com
The Illinois Policy Institute (IPI) is a conservative think tank with offices in Chicago and Springfield, Illinois, and member of the State Policy Network. IPI is a member of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) as of 2011. IPI is also a member of ALEC’s Health and Human Services Task Force and Education Task Force. Senior Budget and Tax Policy Analyst, Amanda Griffin-Johnson, presented model legislation (the “State Employee Health Savings Account Act”) to the HHS task force at ALEC’s 2011 annual meeting. Collin Hitt, Director of Education Policy, is a private sector member of the Education Task Force representing IPI. He sponsored the “Local Government Transparency Act” at the ALEC 2011 States and Nation Policy Summit. In its 2006 annual report the Cato Institute states that it made a grant of $50,000 to the Illinois Policy Institute. The Cato Institute is a libertarian think tank founded by Charles G. Koch and funded by the Koch brothers. .