His inquisitive nature showed up just as I was scrolling past a story from the Charleston shooting. The picture of the racist gunman had just disappeared into the top of my screen in search of other news stories when Christian spoke up.
"Who was that, Dad?"
"A very bad man," I answered.
"What makes him so bad?"
"Well, he killed a bunch of people."
"Why would he do that?"
This is a difficult question answer. You and I know that he targeted the Emanuel AME Church due to their historical significance. We know that he harbored hate for Jews, African Americans, and minority groups in general and this motivated his decision to kill. Adults understand that evil exists in real and tangible human form that plays out in horrific and violent methods.
But how do you explain that to the kid? How do you provide a safe shelter without being over protective? How do you describe the truth of a broken world without decimating their youthful optimism?
I gave him the simplest answer that I could think. "Well, he really hated them."
Then Christian asked a question that I was not prepared to answer. "How could anyone hate someone else that much?"
"I don't know kiddo. I don't know."
On an intellectual level, I understand how hate taken to its furthest extent ends in destruction and death. I get it, but I don't get it. Recognizing that it happens does not explain why. I cannot tell my son how anyone could hate someone else enough to murder them because I do not understand it myself.
Image courtesy of The State
I can rationalize the same evil that motivates a Muslim jihadist is the same evil behind Westboro Baptist Church, white supremacists, and genocidal dictators. I can see how man can commit some disturbingly depraved acts. Yet, no matter how hard I try I cannot begin to comprehend how any individual can allow their heart to be so consumed with hatred.
And I'm not OK with it.
I am not OK with kids killed in their classrooms and cafeterias. I am not OK with parishioners murdered in their houses of worship. I am not OK with police forces so quickly resorting to lethal force or the responding riots and looting.
When will American culture get fed up with it? For now, it seems like our society has a 'no big deal' attitude. These tragedies are being exploited to score political points while the pain of personal loss is forgotten.
While pundits argue about whether or not racism still exists, minority communities fight against systematic discrimination. While the gun control debate is waged between those that believe all firearms should be banned and those who long for a well-armed society, more and more innocent lives fall victim to gun violence.
I am sick of it. The United States is a nation that is far from united. We are divided by hate, unwilling to admit our flaws and failures, and we portray those who disagree with us as enemies hell-bent on destroying America.
I am not OK with it.