The other day Vester Lee Flanagan, a former employee of the local TV station WDBJ, shot dead two of his ex-colleagues on air before killing himself later in the day.
The victims, Alison Parker and Adam Ward, were white, Flanagan was black, and that chromatic distinction apparently precipitated the incident.
In the aftermath, TV audiences have been treated to yet another chorus of demands to ban guns, for, had Flanagan been unable to get his hands on one, the two young journalists would still be with us.
Miss Parker’s bereaved father has vowed to devote his life to the anti-gun campaign. We should all sympathise and – if such is our faith – pray for him and his daughter’s soul.
That, however, doesn’t mean we should accept his views. Instead we ought to wonder to what campaign Mr Parker would be dedicating his life had his daughter been killed by a drunk driver.
Would he call for a ban on cars? Alcohol? Probably not. He’d just grieve and – if such is his faith – pray for his daughter’s soul.
Everything is these days politicised, an observation to which there are no exceptions. But there are degrees, and guns are more heavily politicised than cars or alcohol, especially in America.
Guns add a stream to the watershed dividing Right from Left. The Right tout the right to bear arms enshrined in the Second Amendment. The Left argue that the 300 million privately owned firearms in America belong to a group too wide to be described as the ‘well-regulated militia’ mentioned in the Amendment.
Without going into the intrinsic value of either position, underneath it all lies the distaste the two groups feel for each other.
Both see the issue as the thin end of the wedge. The Right believes that the urge to ban guns springs from the creeping statism of the rainbow Left. The Left believes the urge to own guns springs from the creeping anarchism of the white Right, laced with the latent desire to turn firearms on blacks, women and LGBT activists.
Either way, Flanagan’s self-stated motives seem not to be taken into account seriously. Yet they point at a social malaise far more serious than any manifested by the debate on gun ownership.
That Flanagan was a mentally unbalanced man is beyond question. But his public statements, along with the testimony of his former colleagues, leave no doubt that the issue that unbalanced him was that of race.
As racism shoots up higher on the list of the secular deadly sins, its definition gets broader. Defined in the past as hatred of other races perceived as inferior to one’s own, it has gradually got to mean any recognition of racial differences – and eventually anything anyone wishes it to mean.
The concomitant passions have been getting ever more febrile, reaching the red-hot end at the slightest provocation or even in the absence thereof. Blacks in particular have been actively encouraged to see themselves as victims and seek restitution.
This sense of victimhood isn’t wholly without historical and psychological justification. After all, both founding documents of the American republic were largely produced by slave-owners, some of whom, such as Thomas Jefferson, had runaway slaves whipped to raw meat.
Blacks weren’t regarded as fully human, and genetic memory has a much longer half-life than the 150 years that have passed since that perception became unfashionable. The Irish, for example, still talk about Cromwell’s massacres as if they happened yesterday, whereas they predated the US Emancipation Declaration by 214 years.
Having said that, it’s ridiculous to base political action on conditions that no longer pertain. Yet those on the Left do just that, pretending to protect the baby of minorities while in fact seeking to throw out the bathwater of conservatism. Hence race has become another can of oil poured into the fire of political antagonism.
There’s no doubt that Flanagan was psychotic, but his psychosis was fanned by the poisoned air of political free-for-all, driven by the American Left who dominate most of the mainstream media.
Far be it from me to resort to the old mantra of it all being society’s fault, but ambient conditions do contribute to some psychoses staying dormant and some others splashing out in a red spray.
Flanagan’s psychosis would neither sleep nor even lie down. He branded his victims as racist for the flimsiest of reasons or none at all.
Hence he objected vehemently to the use of the phrase ‘reporter in the field’, for to him this evoked the cotton fields in which his ancestors toiled under the overseers’ bullwhips.
When Alison Parker mentioned ‘swinging by the office’, Flanagan took that as a veiled reference to his supposed semi-simian nature. A watermelon eaten in the office was to Flanagan a calculated insult – why, he even accused a convenience store of racism because it sold a watermelon-flavoured drink.
Would he have committed the murders if race antagonisms hadn’t been whipped up to a frenzy for political gain? Maybe. Maybe not. But either way, this, and not gun ownership, is the aspect of the tragedy that merits serious discussion.