Devon Dick: Charleston Killing through Eyes of Paul Bogle
The killing of nine persons at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal (AME) church in Charleston, South Carolina, including the 47-year-old pastor and senator, is indicative that the American society has a gun culture problem, especially when we recall other incidents of gun killings.
The Emanuel church produced Denmark Vesey, who was involved in armed resistance against slavery. This was different from the Paul Bogle 1865 Native Baptist War, as stated in my book, The Cross and the Machete, in that, the American Christian Uprising, including the violent rebellion led by Vesey in 1822, was based on Luke 11:23, which said, 'Whoever is not with me is against me'. National Hero Bogle, in confronting oppression, engaged in self-defence based on a biblical hermeneutic of liberation, which sought the liberation of both the oppressed and the oppressors. Bogle and his followers always sought reconciliation between the oppressed and oppressors.
American-German Reinhold Niebuhr (1892-1971) argued that violence was "not intrinsically immoral" and neither was non-violence intrinsically good. For him, it depended on the situation. He argued that if the object of the violence were the general welfare of the society or desired the greatest good for the greatest number of persons, then in those instances, violence was not intrinsically evil. Apparently, this philosophy is misunderstood and pervasive in North America, especially among politicians and movie industry producers.
Dylann Roof, the alleged killer of the Charleston nine, is a symptom of a society that glorifies violence, promotes a gun culture and does not make a distinction between violence and force. It leads to senseless violence. Roof is not only guilty of a hate crime, but he is a terrorist because the massacre had a political agenda. The governor of South Carolina and her team have done well by removing the confederate flag, a symbol of racism, from government buildings. The United States has made commendable steps in the direction of the fight against racism, with some states declaring a public holiday in memory of the Reverend Martin Luther King, civil rights leader, and with the election of Barack Obama, a man of mixed race, to the presidency. However, the problem is with the gun control.
Obama has already declared defeat in getting gun control passed in the legislature. American Church community idolises wars. The US movie industry glorifies wars and often promotes 'senseless violence', to borrow a term from a former presidential candidate. Wars are awful and usually leave no winners. Similarly, as sung by Jimmy Cliff, "No one wins the race in racism". Many genuinely believe that American lives are more valuable than the lives of others. There was, or is, an American policy of pre-emptive strike against perceived enemies. Therefore, expect more senseless violence against its citizens and other nationals.
a law unto themselves
On November 3, 2011, I wrote that it is now emerging that Colonel Muammar al-Gaddafi "was captured alive and then executed. That was a tragic mistake on the part of those who were fighting for the freedom of the Libyans. We should not countenance extrajudicial killings. Every human life is sacred." Additionally, I wrote, "One must be concerned about the death of Osama bin Laden, former leader of a terrorist organisation. At first, the initial report was that he was killed in a gun battle. There could be no argument with that. However, subsequent reports give the impression that it was an execution." Americans are becoming a law unto themselves. This is the culture which fosters individuals like Roof to engage in massacres, most horrible.
In this the 150th anniversary of Bogle's protest, the Americans would do well to adopt the principles of Bogle and his followers who eschewed violence and placed priority on reconciliation of the oppressed and oppressors in the face of oppression.
• Rev Devon Dick is pastor of the Boulevard Baptist Church in St Andrew. He is author of 'The Cross and the Machete', and 'Rebellion to Riot'. Send feedback to columns@ gleanerjm.com.