A Confederate Flag Comes Down
We Know—We Know
Vintage readers will remember “The Shadow”--a radio mystery program of the 1930's (www.oldradioworld.com). With slow eerie music in the background, Orson Wells began each episode, “Who knows what evil lurks in the minds and hearts of men? The Shadow knows.” The Shadow, a crime fighting vigilante, made invisible because of his hypnotic powers, would then proceed to make the city safe from the bad guys, at least, for the time being. I don't think I missed an episode.
Nobody knew what motivated the evil perpetrators, but the shadow knew.
The Governor of South Carolina gave a press conference following the racist driven murder of the church folks in Charleston. Backed by the larger than life Confederate flag, she had the temerity to say, “We'll never understands what motivates a crime like this.” Well, of course we know the reason Dylan Roof murdered those church folk. They were black and he said he wanted to start a race war. Lawyers will call him the alleged murderer until the courts have had their say but “We'll never understand what motivates.” Really?
About the flag behind the governor: From the moment the Confederate flag was lowered over Fort Sumter in defeat 150 years ago to this day, it remains the symbol for far too many people that the racism that drove the Civil War drives today's society. It may have been just a harmless and humorous decoration on the Dukes of Hazard's car but, for many, it reflected the emotional leftovers of a war during which we killed over 600,000 of each other. I know, I lived in that world for all my growing-up years.
We don't need The Shadow to tell us of the evil of racism that lurks in the minds and hearts. Nor do we need a crime-fighting vigilante to combat racism on our behalf. What we do need is to come clean about our own incipient racism. And we need a cure for our spiritual laryngitis.
There is hope. What may be different about the Charleston shooting, compared with so many others, is that something tangible has already changed. The nine innocent folks who were killed in Church are even now transforming our lives. For one thing, Confederate flags, now acknowledged symbols of racism, are coming down all over the South. Not all of them, of course, and that battle is far from over.
But what happens if and when all the flags are down? Lawyers will determine legal guilt. That is their job. But developing new strategies of reconciliation, that's on us. We must surrender to the same powerful love the Charleston Church martyrs demonstrated. We must begin with confession of our own culpability, however subtle. And we must change our pattern of life.
Several years ago, I had a a mind to run one more marathon, but most everyone I contacted, had a mandatory time limit in which a runner had to complete the run. I knew I could never make it in the time required. Then I talked to the event organizer in Casper, Wyoming. He told me they loved senior runners and that I could start early and finish late and that there would be someone there to record my time. I didn't register or run, but that's another story. What I know, however, is that the struggle to overcome racism is difficult, at best, that we must start as early as right now, be prepared to finish as late as necessary but stay in the race.