In both Paganism and Science, there is an understanding that the universe is driven by multiple forces. Now, Paganism recognizes certain forces that Science does not, but both agree multiple things affect and cause various events to happen both cosmically, socially, and personally.
When these forces are out of balance, or one force ceases to function, another often arises to take its place or thinks function without it in new ways. If rains to fall in certain areas as they used to, for example, drought will occur and change the landscape. It is that way with non-corporal forces as well, such as Law, or Justice, or kindness, etc.
It is, ultimately, a fundamental change in forces which caused Charleston to happen, as much as it was the mentally unstable young man who pulled the trigger. No event happens in a vacuum, but all things are shaped by what has happened before them.
To understand what happened in Charleston, we have to rewind the clock a bit. Not just on the history of Roof, who had long been under the influence of many powerful drugs, both medical and recreational, which no doubt warped his mind in many ways. But also on events that have happened in the U.S. that may have helped to shape his perception, as well as created a “spiritual” tidal wave upon which he was carried.
This wave of events and forces began to culminate back during the events of Ferguson, between a police officer and a black man. Many are the narratives that have come that event, and while a multi-racial jury armed with facts decided that the officer acted in self defense when he killed that black man, narratives and the belief in those narratives do not always have to do with facts. They are taken on faith, and faith breeds action based on the tenants of what that faith believes. So one one hand we had the narrative of a black man who had just robbed a store, beaten up a clerk and stolen from him, coming into confrontation with a police officer who he then tried to murder and was killed instead. And on the other hand we have the narrative of an innocent black man gunned down by a racist cop.
Based on the second narrative we saw an entire city rise to flames. Those who felt an injustice was done with the black man’s death looted and burned, screaming forth that they would not be peaceful if there was no justice. What was Lawfully decided was declared by many to be Unjust, so there would end up being no peace. While Ferguson has largely calmed down, that lack of peace moved elsewhere.
But an important thing happened. A group of the population ceased believing in the Law. They came to see in vast numbers that the Law and Law enforcement was a source of evil, corruption, violence, racism, and many other bad things.
This idea that belief in law faded becomes very important later on due to other events. Primarily, the events that led up in New York and then took place in Baltimore. While the Law is still working to determine what happened, many have already made up their minds based on narratives often based as much (if not more) on personal belief and political ideology rather than known facts or investigations. And so again, we saw riots and burning and looting, far worse than occurred in Ferguson. These riots spread to many other major cities.
But Baltimore proved an especially important catalyst, because in Baltimore, by orders of the City Government…the police did nothing to stop the rioters. Many times, the Police retreated in the face of violence and in full view of criminal activity. Following such a shameful display and dereliction of duty, many police officers began to refuse to do their duty for fear that they would also be arrested without proper investigation as six of their comrades have been, sheep for slaughter to mobs. And this did something even more important.
It made the rest of society lose faith in Law. Those who had previously not agreed that the police were a corrupt and violent organization of racists, now came to see the police rather as cowardly and powerless, men and women who would not protect those citizens who abides by the law from those who were breaking the law, destroying lives and stealing the things people often needed to survive. The media of both of the political divide came to treat the police as having failed society.
So, if you will, the essence of Law as a divine or spiritual force in society ceased to exist. No one believes in it, no one believes it has the power to do what it needs to. And so they have in essence stripped Law of meaning in their inner hearts and minds.
Which is where Charleston comes in.
But first, a bit of history/philosophy.
Law came into being with the beginnings of human society. In fact, human society is really consider to have started with the origination of Legal Codes as much as Agriculture. This is a very important thing to keep in mind.
Because humans have always desired and believed in Justice. If a man is wronged, he or she inherently desires for that wrong to be righted, for what was taken from them to be repaid. There are two ways one can obtain Justice in life. One, the latter invention, is Law. By having a clear legal code that is enforced, one can point to a Law and say “This law has been violated and I deserve Just Compensation for having my legal rights violated.” And so a Law Enforcer would then adjudicated the case, to see if indeed a wrong had happened and act to create a redress in the form of a Judgement. This appeased those truly wronged, punished those who harmed others and society, and stabilized society. But there was another way to obtain justice, an older way, a more violent way.
In the face of Injustice, when there is no Law, people will seek to redress wrongs on their own, with force. Often they are driven not with the best intentions for society or even their fellow humans, but by that innate desire to inflict Retribution on those who harm them or others.
The first act of Retribution in all this was, really, the Riots. Having no faith in Law, those who disagreed with what the Law had decided rioted and burned, but it was not a truly pure form of Retribution, because many of those involved were driven more by politics or greed or a lust for violence as they were any true desire to bring about Justice.
To me, the first real act of Retribution happen when that Texas police officer pulled his gun at that pool party. Many saw a cop going too far, though a fair number of others heard of the violence at the pool party and saw a number of young men move towards the officer in what might have been a threatening manner. But what is clear is that a rage beset the officer and he drew his weapon. Thankfully, clearer heads were there and pulled him back, but it was clear then that if not fully manifested, the waters were at least proverbially beginning to stir.
And then in Charleston, Roof went into a church and killed nine people.
Now, I do not have all the facts about what happened. But those facts I do have paint a picture that is as interesting as it is troubling. 1) his gun was obtained illegally, it has been pointed out that his father broke the law by giving him that gun. 2) Roof had been on serious drugs, some of which have psychotropic effects. He’d been on a lot of them and for a great deal of time. 3) What he said during the shooting, and before that, struck me as if he was arguing with himself about what he was going to do, and then his justification when questioned by one of the people he was shooting at. He was driven by the apparent need to redress wrongs.
It is easy to dismiss his words as the ravings of a drugged out loon filled with racism, but when we look in the larger context of what has been happening, with the riots across the U.S. primarily being committed by black people, it is little wonder that a person driven to see things in terms of racism and racial violence would then in turn bring violence back upon those he saw as destroying “his” home. For just as many in the Black community have come to see the events of Ferguson, New York, and Baltimore as a sign of cops out to kill black people, it is little wonder that someone from a similar if opposite group ideology would interpret their actions in a similar way.
This is not to excuse Roof’s actions. There is not excuse for what he did. He broke the Law, repeatedly. But in a world where Law is essentially losing its power as a force in society, when no one believes that the Law will protect them, they will endeavor to protect themselves, their collective group, and they will do it by any means they can. It will begin with those as the most extreme ends of the spectrum, for those are the ones who feel they have lost the most and have the least to loose, but eventually it will spread.
And we can have people like President Obama who can insist we need tighter laws on guns, but it doesn’t matter if it is one law or fifty that is broken, people like Roof and his father will break the law in order to do what they please, just as the rioters broke the law to do as they pleased. We can have people like Fox News who claims this was an act of terrorism, but this act was not about creating terror. Roof did not want to inspire fear, he wanted to kill those who he thought were harming others, and that is by his own words. You can have those like the Young Turks who insist this is an epidemic of Racism in the Right Wing of politics and that Roof was a product of “right wing hate,” but this was not a product of right or left politics, at least not as people want it to be. This was an act of a person with mental issues seeking to redress wrongs he felt were being done. That those he killed were innocent did not matter, just as those the rioters pillaged from were innocent of wrong doing did not matter.
And that, ultimately is the danger of retribution and why so long ago our collective ancestors created and believed in Law. Because when you seek revenge, you often as not fill up graves with the innocent as well as the guilty. And as long as our society does not believe in Law, we will have more and more people from all places seeking Retribution upon each other.