Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Comments on the UU Church shooting

As readers might know by now, the Sunday morning shooting at a Unitarian Universalist Church in Knoxville, TN has captured national attention and is being prosecuted as a hate crime. The hate crime penalty is being pursued due to a letter the shooter wrote detailing his hatred of what he considered to be the liberal movement as well as his own economic frustrations. It has been noted that in addition to the progressive, inclusive tradition of the Unitarian-Universalist church, members also founded a local ACLU chapter.

While it can be tempting to use the church shooter as fodder for a culture war debate (as this conservative blogger criticized, using examples of left-leaning blogger reactions to the shooting), we should be clear that a mentally-ill, lone gunman should not be heralded as the vanguard of a trend to roll back movements for social justice. No one should want to have him as an icon or a hero.

However, the "Shadowboxing" blog on the madison.com website did point out that we don't hear the word "terrorist" much in media discussions about the shooting. But as with our current "war on terror," these kinds of violent acts come from disempowered people. Violence happens when people are desperate and run out of options. It doesn't matter if it is an individual who feels he has no economic support and lashes out with a gun, or a band of rebels who do not have a sanctioned army and express their lack of power by bombing an embassy.

Reading the news everyday, even the forum posts written by similar frustrated people, one might wonder if we as a people will ever learn from these examples. Employing the irresponsible use of the rhetoric of violence only inspires the disempowered to take extreme actions.

The only answer is in maintaining a healthy democracy. In a healthy democratic society, people have a voice and an education and can get help when they need it. We will continue to work to maintain our democratic process as outlined in our Constitution. We will continue to work for equality and freedom. But while we do this work, I hope we can all raise the level of the debate beyond violent rhetoric or the temptation to vilify those who do not agree with our ideas.

Simply, the best way to fight this particular war on terror is through ensuring our collective power and the maintenance of our democracy.

There will be a community vigil at the First Unitarian Society in Madison, WI to recognize this tragedy
When: Wednesday, July 30, 5:30 p.m.
Where: First Unitarian Society, 900 University Bay Dr.
Web: http://www.fusmadison.org/
From FUS: As many of you are aware, 2 people were killed and 7 others injured at an intergenerational worship service at the Tennessee Valley Unitarian Universalist Church in Knoxville, Tennessee on Sunday morning. There will be a Memorial Vigil for these members of our larger Unitarian Universalist community on Wednesday, July 30 at 5:30 p.m. in the First Unitarian Society Auditorium. This will be a time to reflect, to mourn and to share feelings about this tragic event.