On the evening of June 17, 2015, a young man walked into the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina with terror in his heart. For an hour he sat with the group gathered for a prayer meeting. Then he turned his thoughts into action and opened fire. His bullets were meant to start a race war.
I sometimes think of the young man, now sitting in prison awaiting trial, and how despondent he must be to see the results of his actions – the survivors and church community forgave him; people the world over came together to honour those who were murdered and the enduring symbol of oppression in America, the Confederate flag, came down from public spaces, not just in South Carolina but in other southern states. Sorry young man … your evil intent backfired.
As I gazed out my window this morning, 12 hours after the massacre in Paris, the evergreen tree outside my mind gently swayed to the whiff of a breeze; my dogs Betti and Itsy napped in their doggie bed as usual, and my morning coffee was as welcoming as always. Interspersed on my Twitter feed with reports of Paris were tweets like:
“Free tour of Hubspot”
“Steph Curry’s jersey sales are up almost 600%”
“Self stick extendable monopod with built-in wireless”
“These 5 Kenyans prove that innovation isn’t just a Silicon Valley thing”
“Osborne eyes housing benefits”
And my favourite, in its absolute inanity: “Happy National Pickle Day”
Life goes on. For some, life has changed drastically – the families and friends of those who were massacred, security personnel, world leaders. But life, in some form, continues.
I reflect on the aftermath of Charleston, and regardless of the still-dismal state of race relations in the USA and attacks that take place all over the world every day, I remain convinced that evil will not win. Its triumph is temporary. It only conquers when we succumb to fear and intimidation, when we stop speaking about injustice everywhere (not just in Paris, but all over the world), when we stop taking action to bring peace, love and justice to all.
To those who planned and carried out this and other acts, to all those who have and are planning to carry out such acts – be aware that your victory is fleeting. You can kill bodies, but you cannot kill love.
“Goodness is stronger than evil. Love is stronger than hate. Light is stronger than darkness.” Archbishop Desmond Tutu