This Is Not A
Dancing Around The Macabre In Charleston
Sometimes, one single event can bring so many things out into the open that it is scarcely possible to place them in any analytical order, although one must try if only in an attempt to communicate effectively.
So many aspects of American life (and, more significantly in this case, American death) have been thrown into sharp relief by the murders at Emanuel Church, Charleston, SC that all one can realistically do is list them in the hope that some pattern may be discernable. So here goes:
- The suspect's name. His parents couldn't spell 'Dylan' right, and gave him an extra 'n'. This makes it look like one of those girls' names adapted from boys' names which white America seems to go in for in a big way (like 'Robyn', to give another example) (*). This ambiguity may have caused the suspect to feel insecure about his identity, causing the unresolved anguish which was undoubtedly a cause of his actions (see below). And giving him the middle name 'Storm' may give a further clue to a dysfunctional upbringing (although not as much as it would had it been conjoined with '-trooper', of course)
- The suspect's appearance. Leaving aside that cold, dead-eyed expression, his general appearance has led some to speculate on the possibility of his being the result of what might be termed 'a close family relationship' (this is South Carolina we're talking about, after all; the sort of place where they know that you're an outsider if you don't have twelve fingers - on each hand)
- The suspect's dress sense. When you wear a jacket (as Roof did in the photo of him which went around the world after his escapade) which bears the flags of apartheid-era South Africa and of the no-less-racially-polarised White Man's Burden of Rhodesia, this may have given far too much away about the suspect's position on the major events of the day
- He is said to have been a drug user. That must have been some serious shit he was doing if it led him to sit quietly in a church for an hour or so before opening fire on the congregation
- Information is ambiguous on whether he bought the murder weapon himself, or whether he was given it recently as a birthday present by his father. If the former, then it would confirm an awful lot (should further confirmation ever be needed) about the American obsession with firearms - an idée fixe grounded ultimately in a wilful misreading of the Second Amendment - which gives such easy access to weaponry; if the latter, then it indicates not only the same phenomenon on an individual scale, but also another example of American Exceptionalism (sponsored by Gahd), because although we may see such an action on his father's part as being, "Well, that's America, isn't it?", and pass on by, I find it far more difficult to imagine a father - even in such places as Somalia - going up to his son on his twenty-first, patting him proudly on the shoulder, and saying, "Happy birthday, O fruit of my loins! Here's a kilo of Semtex, I'm sure you can think of fun things to do with it!".
Here are one or two further points to consider, regarding the wider reaction to the slayings:
- Within a few minutes of the killings, and once it had been established that the (alleged) culprit was of, as it were, a melanin-challenged disposition, some elements in American media and politics were already excuse-mongering, automatically assuming that the suspect was 'mentally disturbed' and that that was the main - if not the sole - reason for his actions
- Following on from this, despite the clearly reported words which Roof used just before his attack, namely that he viewed all black people as an 'enemy' to be exterminated, added to statements given by interviewees who claim to know him, and in addition to the screaming clues given by his choice of attire; despite all this, a large part of the US political and media establishment has been falling over itself in an attempt to deny that racial bigotry played any part in his actions. B.H. Obama (failed) apparently never mentioned the ethnic issue once in his oh-so-solemn official statement; and some orifices of official political and media excretion have been quick to blame drugs, mental illness and (in the case of the more mental-fundyist elements) marriage equality and abortion for Roof's actions. Some of this last category of bloviators have even gone so far as to claim that the victims were not murdered because they were black, but because they were Christians, and we all know how terribly oppressed Christians are in the US today under the régime of a President who is so obviously the bastard offspring of Malcolm X and Madalyn Murray O'Hair
- Despite the fact that Roof's (alleged, so far as it matters) actions would - had they been carried out by any convenient Muslim - have immediately been denounced as "turrrrurrrrizm" by politicos and pundits alike, there has been a curious reluctance to use the 'T' word on the part of those people who usually throw it around like incense at a basilica if a person of a non-white persuasion so much as farts within fifty yards of a cop. White people can't be terrorists, you see; it lets the side down, chaps, it lets the side down.
(And, lest we in the UK get any ideas of superiority over such bare-faced hypocrisy, let us recall that one young man is currently doing a 22-year stretch for plotting to do something with a knife and a hammer, whereas others who were actually on the verge of carrying out bombing attacks got less than five years. Can you guess the race and intended targets in each case, boys and girls?).
- Proceeding still further, it is interesting to note that when the cops arrested Roof, they did not do any of the following:
Indeed, in proud contradistinction to the way in which US cops seem to react to every small crisis as if it were the first shots of a highly-realistic Civil War re-enactment - such as violently assaulting or handcuffing young black women who were complaining at being verbally and physically abused by their local Poor White Texas Trash - not only does the photographic evidence indicate that Roof was not subjected to the cuffs, but that the Charleston Police Department seem most considerately to have provided him with a bulletproof vest; y'know, just in case any uppity nigger got any Jack Ruby-type ideas?
- Shoot him a number of times at long, middle or short distance, claiming that they were under clear threat
- Throttle him to death as he lay helpless on the ground
- Throw him into the back of a police van trussed up like a turkey and unsecured and then drive around in so violent a manner as to break his neck.
One last set of thoughts:
- What likelihood is there of their being a just outcome to any trial? Given that there is some evidence pointing towards juries acquitting or convicting a defendant on the grounds of coincidence of race between them and him; given that effective challenges by the defense (note spelling) with regard to the racial composition of the jury could see a mostly-white or even all-white jury; and given that the use of the 'mental illness' defence (actually, sod the spelling; this is our language too, y'all) works far more often for white defendants than for non-white ones; could this self-appointed guardian of the white race manage to skate on at least some of the charges despite the clarity of evidence against him, even that from his own mouth?
- What does it say about the state of a country's democracy, its public fora and its journalism (to use the word in its old-fashioned sense of the activities of people determined to uncover the truth about power, rather than in its modern, 'reformed' sense of, "We print what the government would like us to, and no questions asked" - Hi, Tom Harper!) when the most trenchant commentary on contemporary events comes not from the more perspicacious of its legislators, not from its over-compensated stenographers in the news media, but from comedians? If you're looking for incisive comment on the news in the US today, forget CNN, forget the New York Times (and certainly its Los Angeles equivalent), and don't even bother with F*x 'News'. Look instead to Bill Maher, look to Stephen Colbert, look to John Oliver (OK, a UK import, and would that we had him back here right now!). And look, most importantly, to Jon Stewart, who showed on Thursday night what a loss he is going to be when he stops doing The Daily Show in a few weeks time. Look, listen; and marvel at what The Great Experiment has been reduced to.
* To avoid the obvious accusation of racial bias on my part, black parents have similar blind spots; for example, giving their daughters names beginning with 'La-' and then capitalising the second element. You know, like 'LaToya', 'LaShona' and shit like that. I haven't actually found a case of a girl called 'LaTreena' yet, but it's only a matter of time before all sense gets flushed down the pan.