US President Barack Obama has during the course of his presidency stood before a microphone more than 12 times and issued statements of sorrow and condolence at mass shootings in America. Such mass shootings are dangerously close to becoming accepted as a part of the American way of life. President Obama stood before the microphone again in the immediate aftermath of the killings at the church in Charleston, South Carolina, where Dylann Roof, a white male, aged 21, had murdered his way into the history books. Roof killed nine people, all black, six women and three men, mostly senior citizens, and one of them the pastor of the church who was also a state senator. A survivor said that Roof told his victims that “they (blacks) raped our women and children … and had to be killed”. He used the .45 calibre pistol he bought with money given to him by his family to do just that.
This event is emblematic of the two defining American preoccupations of recent years — gun violence and racial hatred, particularly as expressed white-on-black. It is almost as if the struggles of African-Americans for their civil rights had never taken place, and there is a gradual reversion to a darker time. As for gun violence, President Obama has tried and failed to bring sanity to the madness of American gun culture. Powerful lobbies protect and support it, the National Rifle Association is a virtual sect of the Republican Party and millions of Americans say they would rather die than have their guns taken away from them — and quite probably they would, if any American government was unwise enough to try to do that. Already there are apologists for Roof’s actions and there are some who will quietly — for now — hail him as some sort of hero. The murderer was just the average white racist with a Facebook page proclaiming his affiliation to the cause of white supremacy. President Obama can expect to stand before the microphone at least a few more times before his presidency ends, because the American illness runs viscerally deep.
Published in The Express Tribune, June 22nd, 2015.
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