By Adam Hocking
This column is not about gun control. I will leave that to the brighter political minds of our day. This column is about how we as a community, a nation, and a people can possibly respond to the explosion of hatred that took place inside of Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, S.C., on June 17.
It is about how we respond to the hatred, confusion, and madness that filled Dylann Roof’s heart and mind before he allegedly claimed nine lives and how we deal with those same awful emotions that seeped via media coverage through our television and computer screens, coating us all in the depravity of that horror scene.
The natural human reaction is to match that hatred with more hatred and add a healthy dose of fear, to close ranks and say things like, “What is this world coming to?” and, “What is wrong with people these days?”
But we simply cannot do that. We cannot let hatred divide us or drive a wedge between us because that only allows it more space to grow and fester. We have to say to ourselves that Roof’s actions are not indicative of a trend in modern society. In fact, there have been numerous reports showing that America’s violent crime rate is at its lowest point since the 1970s.
Roof is one person who did an unspeakably horrible thing and who wants our hearts as full of hatred as his, but he does not get to win. He does not get the last word.
What we must do in response to the Charleston tragedy is open our hearts wider, something Roof obviously could not do. We must move our hearts and minds farther from the brink of fear and hatred where his mind clearly rested.
We need to have uncomfortable conversations with open minds, and we need to take the leap and trust the goodness in each other. We need to be able to disagree with each other without hatred. We need to practice forgiveness like the families of Roof’s victims did in an unfathomable showing of grace, faith, and dignity.
We need to do this because, frankly, what is our alternative? Should we close ourselves off, trust each other less, and suspect each other more? What kind of world would we be building for our children? What kind of world would that be to live in?
The reality that I believe in — and I refuse to believe anything else — is that most people are good people. We are all capable of doing bad things, but most of us are trying every day to do our best, be our best, and come home to our families.
Do we disagree with each other often? Sure, but doing so with dignity and respect for one another is what has made and will continue to make our country strong.
If we allow people like Roof to make us fear each other, then he and hatred win. We have to choose love, trust, kindness, and forgiveness because, quite simply, those are better pillars for a society than hate, distrust, and vengeance.
There are more good people than bad, and love is stronger than hate. I believe that, and I hope you can too.