You left us too soon, you nine souls of Charleston, so you probably didn't see this coming: Donald Trump is the Republican candidate for president of the United States.
Trump delivered a speech this week that should chill all reasonable people to the bone. He's prepared to punish all of our nation's Muslims for the actions of one deluded killer. New Jersey Governor and Trump supporter Chris Christie upped the ante, threatening to bomb a foreign country for the crime of one sick individual born in Queens, N.Y.
Hate can't conquer hate. Even a fool knows that. But then, some people don't want to know.
The Orlando murderer used his religion the same way the Charleston murderer used his whiteness: as a mask for bloodlust. They're all the same inside, these killers. They may ascribe their deeds to religion, or race, or a totalitarian social ideal. But their real creed is narcissistic hate. They sacrifice strangers on the altar of their own reflections.
If I could talk to the nine sweet souls of Charleston, here's what I'd tell them: We've had some serious talks since you've been gone. We've been talking about the black lives lost, about slow deaths from inequality and sudden deaths from an officer's gun. We've been talking about old folks in need and children gone too soon.
We haven't always agreed. One of our politicians said this to a Black Lives Matter activist: "I don't believe you change hearts. I believe you change laws, you change allocation of resources, you change the way systems operate."
I disagree. I still think the deepest change begins in the heart. But at least we're talking. The young people did that.
If I could talk to the nine sweet souls of Charleston, here's what I'd tell them: We may not have worked it all out yet, but we've learned a little since you left us. We've learned that economic justice and social justice must go hand in hand, or there's no justice at all.
You were studying when you died, so I thought you'd be glad to hear that we've learned something.
I was standing by an abandoned church in my hometown a while back -- it's a dying manufacturing town -- and for some reason the old hymn came to me: "Before this time another year, I may be gone."
You didn't know the moment of your passing. None of us do. Each heartbeat could be our last. The rhythm of those beats is our lifeline, our pulse. When it ends, we end. Everything we've done, for good or bad, is what lives on. I hope Trump and Christie understand that. I believe that you did.
A year has passed. If I could talk to you I'd tell you we haven't forgotten you. "Though lovers be lost," wrote Dylan Thomas, "love shall not."
Cynthia Hurd. Susie Jackson. Ethel Lee Lance. Depayne Middle-Doctor. Clementa Pinckney. Tywanza Sanders. Daniel Simmons. Sharonda Singleton. Myra Thompson.
Remember them by name. They live on.
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