I have tried to imagine what I would say to even one of the families of the nine men and women murdered in Charleston.
Standing in their home, as they received the news that their loved one had their life taken from them by a man filled with hate, what could I tell them in response to their most pressing question.
To be honest, I don’t know the answer.
That there is no shortage of Americans telling me why on TV. the radio, online and in the newspaper hasn’t made finding an answer any easier.
Without missing a beat the same tired voices emerged to assure me they know why.
It is because we have too many guns. It is because we don’t have enough guns.
It’s because we are more racist than ever before. It’s because the President is black. It’s because Republicans are intolerant.
The Confederate Flag is the reason. The man was mentally ill. It was the drugs he was taking. Or not taking.
With all of what I have heard, seen and read, I would still be standing in the living room of any one of the dead of Charleston, surrounded by their sorrow, pain and tears, with nothing more to tell them than to say “I’m sorry.”
I’m sorry for your pain. For the horror of the taking of the life of the one you love.
I’m sorry you will no longer hear their voice. See their smile. Hold their hand. Seek their comfort. Share their life.
I’m sorry I don’t know why.
For me, I believe the man who killed their loved ones is Evil. I believe his dark heart is filled with sickness and hate.
I believe him to be a racist.
I also believe there are far too many like him in America.
But, somehow, I don’t think those words would provide them any more understanding of the acts of violence that took away those they loved and who loved them.
In my heart, there is anger and sorrow. I want an easy answer about why this happened.
I want to blame it on racism. I want to blame it on hate. I want to blame it on guns.
But, each of those reasons still leaves me wanting.
I can understand the President’s belief that there are too many guns, and that if it were not so easy to gain access to guns, that so many would not have died inside a church.
Yet, what if only one life had been taken inside that church that day? Would that have made the motive behind the attack anymore comprehensible?
Would it have made it easier to explain to that one family?
Is there a number where the loss becomes so numb that we are moved to act? Or a number in which were are finally enlightened as to what must be done to put an end to such violence?
I think there are too many guns in America. Too many guns that have the capability to do so much damage and carnage in the hands of people who are committed to doing so.
But, a gun can’t pull its own trigger.
It cannot decide who to kill or why to kill them.
Any more than a knife can, or a car or a pair of human hands.
Standing in their home, as a white American male, would I feel compelled to apologize for who I am?
I have taught my children to be kind. To be compassionate.
There is nothing inside their home that would give them cause to believe that the color of their skin – the amount of money in their parent’s bank account – or their standing and station in life – gives them the right to bear hatred against anyone.
My children have no privilege that was bestowed upon them at their birth except that which was, and remains, the unconditional love of their parents.
Which still leaves, for me, the question.
It is because I do not know that I continue to seek answers to that question.
I believe that is my moral obligation to the families of Charleston. To continue to seek answers to that question.
It should not be easy for any of us to answer that question.
Nine innocent men and women lost their life in less time than it takes to get a cup of coffee at a convenience store.
Each one of them. Each one of their families. They deserve that we take longer to answer that question.
Which means that we should all bear responsibility to have a conversation that extends beyond the current news cycle.
There’s no shortage of questions that must be asked. There’s no shortage of questions that must be answered.
Either we make the effort to honor their lives through that hard work or we will find ourselves continuing to ask the question.