UnintendedWe are calling it a terrorist act. By definition, "A surprise attack involving the deliberate use of violence against civilians in the hope of attaining political or religious aims." For example, September 11, 2001. For example, ISIS. For example, Kaczynski. For example, most currently as I write this, Charleston, South Carolina. In each of these the motive was to incite people to take action. ISIS wants to start a war with the civilized world; presumably they think they can win, and they want to make people angry for revenge by beheading people, make people angry enough to go to war. Kaczynski wanted to convince people to become revolutionaries or at least to become comfortable living in nature. Dylann Roof wanted to start a race war. The Rolling Stones have a song, "You can't always get what you want", but what Dylann Roof got was completely unexpected, unintended, and the exact opposite of what he wanted. Before the avalanche, there are some signs. The immense violence unleashed still seems all out of proportion to the initiating event. An Archduke is assinated, an anti-slavery president is elected, an old established brokerage files for bankruptcy and millions are caught up in the ensuing tragedy. In high school my friends and I were in the chemistry lab one lunch period and decided to try adding water to acid. To make the experiment more interesting, we heated the acid in a beaker before we squirted in the water. The experimental results were completely satisfying: one shattered beaker, completely dry, and clouds of acidic water vapor all over the lab. We cleaned it all up, well enough so the chemistry teacher didn't understand why we were giggling when he came back after lunch. It must have seemed like the signs were all pointing in the direction of the race war that Roof wanted to ignite. Encounters with the police had inflamed towns across the country. It was all over the news. Completely unexpected, unintended, and the exact opposite of the desired outcome. The black church forgave, the Governor of South Carolina cried, the Confederate Flag came down, and the FBI admitted that, but for a mistake, gun control would have denied Roof the gun to commit the crime. It was an avalanche all right, but in the opposite direction. I think we were ready. The minority, the loud and nasty minority, on the internet and elsewhere, have covered up the real change in this country; that we are more tolerant, that we can elect a black president, that we aren't perfect, but we are making progress and this sea change has been simmering ready to boil just waiting for a trigger. Sometimes, when you try, the answer is negative. You just might still give us what we need.
16 Jul 2015
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