On the EDge: A note to a friend on Charleston

OPINION –  I’ve known Pat a long time.

A fellow journalist, our paths crossed during his all-too-brief stay in St. George.

He’s moved his interesting career to a few other stops along the way and I always look forward to seeing his sometimes fun, sometimes sobering, but always thought-provoking posts on Facebook.

I was saddened when he posted a comment about the killings in Charleston, South Carolina.

Pat, you see, has been to the Emanuel AME church where last week a 21-year-old man pulled a gun and killed nine people participating in a Bible study group.

He spoke to three of those victims when he attended a funeral there and this tragedy was all too real for his soul.

The essence of his post was that he wanted to say something, to express himself, to share the pain he felt, without it becoming a political statement about the left or right, guns or any of the other valid, but secondary issues enveloping this latest outrage that could possibly overshadow “the human tragedy itself,” as he put it.

I started scanning the many comments posted about the shootings that day and, well, Pat was right.

The left was hammering the right, the right was berating the left. The gun people were arming themselves for a war of words and the usual inflammatory rhetoric that accompanies it. The anti-gun people unleashed a variety of statistics about how this doesn’t occur in “civilized” societies.

I even saw another friend who immediately posted how the president had immediately “politicized” the killings.

I sent a gentle reminder to him that, well, everything is political these days and that, certainly, issues such as gun control are, by their very nature, “politicized.”

But seldom did I see mention of the nine human lives lost or a sense of anguish over what their families must be going through.

So, Pat, would it help if I said I’m sorry?

I’m a bit older than you. My generation handed down a lot of today’s problems to you, mostly unsolved.

Would it help if I tell you that I, too, am grievously saddened that we have become so flattened by inhumanity inflicted upon others that our senses are dulled and the only refuge we have is to lock our hearts behind steel doors?

Forget rationality. There is nothing rational to be made of this slaughter.

Forget objectivity. There is none when it comes to something like this. Besides, the current state of the human condition will not allow it.

But let us not forget Clementa Pinckney, 41, the Emanuel AME pastor and a South Carolina state senator; the Rev. Sharonda Coleman-Singleton, 45, a speech therapist and girls track team coach at a local high school; Cynthia Hurd, 54, a librarian at the Charleston County Public Library; Tywanza Sanders, 26, a 2014 graduate of Allen University, which Pinckney also attended; Susie Jackson, 87, a longtime member of the church; Ethel Lance, 70, a sexton at the church; the Rev. Depayne Middleton, 49, a mother of four who was also a member of the church choir; the Rev. Daniel Summons Sr., 74, a retired pastor from another church in Charleston; and Myra Thompson, 59, the wife of a vicar at Holy Trinity REC who lost their lives in this tragedy.

Let us also not forget their grieving families and friends and a community forever changed by this senseless violence.

Let’s also remember the victims of Sandy Hook, Columbine, Aurora, Virginia Tech, the Washington Navy Yard, and the many, many other sites where innocent blood was tragically shed.

Our memories are short as we move on through this troubled life, but the grieving lasts for those, like you Pat, touched by these deaths because to many of us, these are but names on a page, but to you and many others, these are faces you remember, voices that remain in your ear, eyes that looked into yours. For you, it is all too real.

I am also sorry that the misinformed among us say that mental illness is at the root of the soaring number of mass killings.

That’s a crock.

A paper published by the American Psychiatric Association in 1994 reveals that “… the vast majority of people who are violent do not suffer from mental illness.”

A study on death by homicide, suicide and other unnatural causes in people with mental illness in “The Lancet,” states that “people with psychiatric disabilities are far more likely to be victims than perpetrators of violent crime.”

And another published in “The International Journal of Law and Psychiatry” reveals that “people with severe mental illnesses, schizophrenia, bipolar disorder or psychosis, are 2 ½ times more likely to be attacked, raped or mugged than the general population.”

So, you see, Pat, there is only one reasonable explanation and it is that there are evil people in this world who carry hatred in their hearts and have absolutely no regard, no respect, for human life or dignity.

It’s a simple discussion, unlike the one posing solutions to the problem of lives taken far too early for no good reason, which should be raised by reasonable minds. Unfortunately, we don’t have many reasonable minds on either side of this issue at the moment. Besides, to do so would remove the names and faces of our latest round of victims from the eyes of a public that needs to grieve and reckon with this most current loss of innocent lives.

Age, they say, gives us a certain perspective carved out of our life experiences that we are expected to pass along to help the next generation.

Unfortunately, there is no way to place an irrational act into rational perspective.

All I can offer, my dear friend, is a hug from far away.

And, of course, a prayer that this never happens again.

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Ed Kociela is an opinion columnist. The opinions stated in this article are his and not representative of St. George News.

Email: edkociela.mx@gmail.com

Twitter: @STGnews, @EdKociela

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2015, all rights reserved.

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7 Comments

  • Brian June 23, 2015 at 8:08 am

    Ed, I join you in grieving those that were lost and honoring their lives. My heart goes out to their families, friends, and community.

  • BIG GUY June 23, 2015 at 8:29 am

    Thanks, Ed, for a sensitive and thoughtful discussion. Yes, there is evil in this world and it is disturbing, even frightening, when we search for rational answers that aren’t forthcoming.

  • NotSoFast June 23, 2015 at 10:13 am

    Your piece was Interesting and covered the right points Ed. Thanks for your input.
    Those poor souls who were gunned down by a total nut case deserve our thoughts and prayers. Their families do too. Not finger pointing. The media will play up the subject to sway peoples opinions on whatever. (I’m kind of surprised global warming wasn’t blamed for the shooter’s condition).
    (it is close to election time and ratings season, isn’t it).

  • anybody home June 23, 2015 at 10:50 am

    Thank you, Ed, for this. Our planet, unlike any other that we know of, was blessed with life. It seems that there are those on our planet who support the idea of life and others who choose to support – and perpetrate – death. I send condolences to your friend Pat.

  • RealMcCoy June 23, 2015 at 11:11 am

    (“I am also sorry that the misinformed among us say that mental illness is at the root of the soaring number of mass killings.
    That’s a crock.
    A paper published by the American Psychiatric Association in 1994 reveals that “… the vast majority of people who are violent do not suffer from mental illness.”)

    You forgot to not that the ‘vast majority’ of these ‘mass killings’ are perpetrated by people that are on anti-depressants, and with a history of mood disorders.
    Maybe the APA should re-evaluate this study, as 21 years have passed, and 10x more people are on mood altering drugs now.
    Perhaps the idea that there is a new or emerging demographic becoming more prominent- the “spoiled-overindulged-everyone gets a trophy-entitled-shows signs of being a sociopath but cant point that out because it might offend them” demographic needs to be studied now.

    • Brian June 23, 2015 at 12:20 pm

      Yeah, saying there is no correlation with mental illness is PC BS that makes as much sense as calling the Fort Hood shooting a “workplace incident”. Clearly there is a very high correlation between mass shootings and anti-depressants. It should also be noted there is a high correlation with violent video games. Correlation does not equal causation, but it does make you go Hmmmm. It just isn’t possible to drink deeply at the well of violence day after day after day and not be affected.

  • fun bag June 23, 2015 at 8:11 pm

    it’s a violent world… don’t see that ever changing…

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