Voice of reason

The Dodgers are home tonight, and I am so glad.

I need to hear Vin’s voice, because the world has gone mad.

Charleston, South Carolina, is a beautiful place. It’s shrouded in oak trees and lined with stately homes and boasts some of the best fine dining in the nation. It’s a place of living history and gracious ghosts. I’ve shared laughter and wine and salt-scented breezes with some of the best people I know there. 

It’s called the Holy City. Like just about every place in the South, there’s a church on every street corner. But the ones in Charleston ... the architecture, the stained glass, the past and the present stopping to rest a spell together as the sun shines its honeysuckle benediction ... they’re something else.

Last night, a horrible thing happened in this beautiful place. 

Hate walked into the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Church and opened fire, shooting dead nine prayer service participants, including the church’s pastor, who was also a state senator and lifelong public servant. 

This church in particular, the oldest black church south of the Mason-Dixon line, embodies Charleston’s palpable history. Founded in 1791 by believers fleeing racism, it was burned to the ground in 1822 after one its founders, Denmark Vesey, organized a failed slave uprising. Driven underground, the church continued to exist, and officially re-formed in 1865. Coretta Scott King led a march from its steps. Added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1985, it is referred to with affectionate adulation as “Mother Emanuel.”  

Emanuel. God with us. 

There is not much to find of God in the mental pictures of bloodstained pews. There is even less of Him to go around in some of the predictable but no less sickening reaction to the horror.

A white kid with pro-apartheid patches on the jacket he wears in his Facebook profile picture shot up a black church, but some stumbled over themselves to insist it was not about race. Some postulated an alternate theory: It’s an attack on faith. 

Sure. Just like Birmingham in 1963. And in 2006.

There are those who will grow red-faced at the suggestion that this may be the 800th example this calendar year of how American gun culture is just a teeny bit wack. The Charleston shooter, by emerging accounts an unstable young man prone to cracking racist jokes, was given a gun as a birthday present by his father.

My daddy owns a gun, at least one. Always has. He taught others to use them safely and responsibly for years as a firearms instructor. 

That is not the same thing. Owning a gun to hunt, or for protection, is not akin to making firearms available, whenever and wherever, to whoever may want one, for whatever reason. Background checks, mandatory waiting periods, or already available but not demanded technology that can control who fires a gun would not keep a weapon out of my father’s hands. They may have kept one out of this young man’s hands, and out of a Charleston church. And if they didn’t, at least they would have been in place. Few things make less sense than insisting something won’t work before seeing if it will.

If you don’t think the ammosexual love in this country is out of control, consider this: On the front page of today’s edition of the Charleston Post and Courier, a well-respected institution that has produced some of the best writers I know and just won a Pulitzer Prize, there was a sticky ad. Above the detailed, on-deadline coverage of the massacre sat a promotion for a local gun shop, advertising its “Ladies’ Night.” I know, as a former journalist, that there are pre-determined production reasons why this happened—though measures could have been taken to prevent it. But it would be impossible to conjure a starker illustration of this sick picture.

It’s about guns. And it’s about racism. The suspect was not born thinking whatever reprehensible things now flow through his mind like warm cow shit. He was raised, inculcated, incubated, and then unleashed, another example of the home-grown terror that poses more of a risk to us than any black-hooded member of ISIS ever will—and is much, much closer.

It’s not evil, as simple and reassuring as that sounds. It’s inevitable. And it will be until we admit this country has a race problem, it has a gun problem, and those problems have to be recognized and confronted before they can ever be solved.

I don’t know if I believe in evil, but if it exists, its opposite will be settling in behind the microphone as the sun sets over the San Gabriel Mountains. Vin Scully will wish everyone a very pleasant evening and welcome us to Dodger Stadium, and then he’ll call the game.

If a Dodger player makes a mistake, he’ll say so. If he swings at an outside pitch or misreads a ball in the outfield or makes a bone-headed baserunning gaffe, Vin will pull no punches.

Does it seem silly to talk about baseball in the face of such tragedy? Maybe. But sports can provide a much-needed distraction from a world that gets too sharp, and Vin has rocked me to sleep for years. And whatever happens in tonight’s game, and in the 94 that remain in this season, you can count on this: Vin will call it like he sees it. 

That is a comfort I need tonight, because I’ve had enough of the wailing of “why” when no one really wants an answer. The only thing more horrifying than depravity is the denial of it.