Dear NRA: A Little Consistency, Please!

dallas

I rarely do this…but I feel compelled.

I  — like many of you — follow the news and am shocked and saddened by the tragic deaths of Philando Castile in Minnesota, Alton Sterling in Louisiana and — at this writing — five Dallas police officers patrolling a peaceful protest.

President Obama said in reference to the deaths of Castile and Sterling — two black men shot by white officers, “These are not isolated incidents. They’re symptomatic of a broader set of racial disparities that exist in our criminal justice system.”

The president referenced statistics showing — in part — that black men are three times as likely to be pulled over than whites and twice as likely to be shot.

The President also labeled the shootings in Dallas as “vicious, calculated and despicable” and ordered flags nationwide flown at half-staff to honor the fallen officers.  Amen to that.

I do want to drill down a bit though.

The National Rifle Association’s CEO Wayne LaPierre also issued a statement on the fallen Dallas officers.  It read — in part:

“On behalf of the more than five million members of the National Rifle Association, and especially on behalf of our members from the law enforcement community, I want to express the deep anguish all of us feel for the heroic Dallas law enforcement officers who were killed and wounded, as well as to those who so bravely ran toward danger to defend the city and people of Dallas.”

Again…I agree with the sentiment.

Yet..the NRA — when it comes to the deadly shootings of Philando Castile (1st photo below) and Alton Sterling (2nd photo below) — for a while remained conspicuously silent.

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sterling

And remember, while both black men had weapons on them, video shows Sterling being restrained and not reaching for a weapon when he was killed and Castile was licensed to carry a concealed firearm — which he reportedly told officers before he was shot and later died.

Late Friday, the NRA did issue a statement on the Castile case essentially saying it could say nothing yet.

“The reports from Minnesota are troubling and must be thoroughly investigated.  In the meantime it is important for the NRA not to comment while the investigation is ongoing.  Rest assured, the NRA will have more to say once all the facts are known.”

Support not nearly as forceful for Castile as for the Dallas officers.

Should anyone wonder why there is a perception that the NRA doesn’t stand up for ALL gun owners?

All I ask is for equal anguish from the NRA.  Two other families are devastated by what many are seeing as an irresponsible use of deadly force.

As President Obama said about mending the mistrust between the black community and law enforcement, “We must do better.”

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Postscript On The Confederate Flag

South Carolina has moved to put this episode behind it.  I shall do the same…following this post.

I did not see the ceremony to retire the Confederate battle flag from the South Carolina State House grounds.  I happened to have a doctor’s appointment at that time.  My wife snapped the photos you’ll see in this space from the live TV coverage.

flagfly Courtesy: KReative Works/CBS News

In my recent memory..there are two events I said I never thought I’d see in my lifetime.  One is an African-American president.  The other is the permanent lowering of the Confederate flag in the Palmetto State.   Last Friday’s transfer of the banner to a state museum relic room needed to happen…because the state could not move forward without it.

Since the Emanuel A.M.E. Church tragedy in Charleston, the flag has been nothing but divisive.  It is true that it has an indelible place in the history of America.  I will even venture to say that had there not been a Civil War, I hesitate to think of what quality of life I would have right now.  But its association with support of slavery..and representative misuse by entities like the KKK have forever overshadowed the pride that many white Southerners have in a cause their ancestors volunteered to fight and die for (whatever it may be).

flagvictory Courtesy:  KReative Works/CBS News

Many African-Americans do consider it a victory.  But really..the entire state should see it as such.  Since the “retirement”, we have seen the NCAA lift its ban on championship events in the state.  Since NCAA men’s basketball tournament sites are set through 2018, I think it’s a reasonably good bet you may see a South Carolina city as a regional site host in 2019.   Also..just this past weekend, the NAACP ended its 15 year economic boycott of South Carolina.

flagfurl Courtesy:  KReative Works/CBS News

Now that the flag has been ceremoniously folded and put away, it will be interesting to see what happens on May 10th, 2016.  That is Confederate Memorial Day in South Carolina — as is decreed by state law.

Will those hard feelings rise again?   It’s likely.

But for now…South Carolinans should do as (rapidly rising political star) Gov. Nikki Haley asks:  reflect, come together…and heal.

So…What Happens Next In Charleston?

chasSC

I’ve said it before.  I’ll say it again.

I’m so proud of my native Charleston, SC.

The forgiveness and — as President Obama so aptly put it — “grace” the city and her people have shown since the Emanuel A.M.E tragedy has been nothing short of remarkable.  I am privileged to call myself a Charlestonian.

So…what now?

It will be months before Dylann Roof has another court date and next year before he goes to trial.

That being said, I am reminded — sparked from a conversation with my wife, Karen — of a quotation from perhaps the most successful college basketball coach of all time, John Wooden:

“The true test of a man’s character is what he does when no one is watching.”

With the bright lights of the national media illuminating ‘The Holy City’, Charleston has been an example that has shined even brighter.

But…the cameras will be turned off.   The reporters will go home.

And..all that will be left is the summer heat and humidity.

What happens now?

For Charleston to not degenerate into another Ferguson, Missouri or Baltimore..the conversations about race, gun violence and the Confederate flag must continue with respect on both sides.  There will be pockets of intolerance to be sure.  But the continued “grace” the city shows — for Mother Emanuel, the city and her people — must win out.

That’s what I believe the ‘nine’ would want.  That’s what their families showed when a bond court video link allowed them to address the man who killed their relatives.

Charleston has many times been bestowed with an honorary distinction as “America’s Most Polite City”.  I believe one cannot be polite unless they truly want to be.  It is something that resides deep within the person..and cannot stay buried for long.

I believe my beloved home town will rise to the occasion..and show the “grace” that has guided it through war, Reconstruction and natural disasters.

And I’m not just being polite by saying that.

A ‘Holy City’ of Forgiveness In The Shadow of Tragedy

I originally sub-titled this blog before putting up my first post “When the news that should make sense…doesn’t”.

What happened in my hometown of Charleston, SC this week truly did not make sense.

I know Charleston to be a welcoming city.  It was with that spirit that the members of “Mother Emanuel” — Emanuel A.M.E. Church welcomed a young man into their Wednesday night bible study to sit, reflect and pray alongside them.

Dylann Roof accepted their kindness..and in return took nine of the lives in that sanctuary.

I won’t profess to know what makes a 21-year-old man so angry and jaded to commit such a heinous act.

But not only is Charleston a welcoming city.  Its people who have been hurt and wronged are a God-fearing and forgiving people.

At Thursday’s bond hearing for Dylann Roof, members of the victims’ families had the option to give impact statements directly to the accused.  Their comments are inspiring.

 

A Facebook post from a young man names Marcus Stanley — who survived being shot eight times several years ago — also demonstrates the power of forgiveness.  The day after the Charleston shooting, he posted:

“I broke down in tears crying this morning thinking about the darkness, hatred, and pain that exists in this world. My prayer is that we will all fix our eyes on things eternal, and hold to God’s unchanging hand. We have become blinded by hatred… blinded by politics… blinded by our economy… blinded by jealousy… blinded by rage… blinded by social status… and blinded by greed. Pray that those who are blind will now see. Lord OPEN our eyes so that we can see CLEARLY. Amazing Grace how sweet the sound that saved a wretch like me. I once was lost but now I’m found, was blind but now I see.”

That’s how we all should be.  I understand the anger, but in forgiveness — all burdens are lifted and the best of who we are shines through.

Please remember Charleston, SC in your prayers.

 

A Reflection On Baltimore

I’ve been watching it.   I’m sure you all have as well.

The protests in Baltimore — I’ll leave it to your discretion as to whether they were “violent” or “riots” as some have referred to them — have definitely caught the attention of Americans.

Opinions on whether civil disobedience is or has been the right course of action have been varied.  The looting and burning of businesses in the community of Freddie Gray (the man arrested by police who later died of a spinal injury) have sparked criticism of the community itself.

Sports columnist and commentator for ESPN Stephen A. Smith, on the network’s program First Take, delivered his own impassioned analysis of the confrontations between some residents and police.

Here are his comments.