Just over a week ago a senseless tragedy occurred in Charleston, South Carolina when a heartless individual opened fire on a Bible study at the Emmanuel AME Church, killing nine people for no other reason than the color of their skin. It was a despicable act committed by a person filled with hate that shook not only the Charleston community, but our nation as a whole.
In the days since, you could hardly turn on the TV or go online without hearing or seeing the picture of the gunman and a host of people trying to figure out exactly where to place the blame for the murders. Some point to the media, stating their constant coverage of incidents like this in the past have only helped to fuel the fire of deranged people, who think this is the way to make their mark in society. Like many of you, I too get fed up with the way television news stations handle the coverage of things like this, with many sensationalizing aspects of the situation. The main focus should not continue to be on the pathetic excuse for a human being who did such an unthinkable thing, because that only does what people like this want: it keeps them on the forefront of our minds. Instead, after the initial reporting of who did what, turn the focus to the community and how those affected are dealing with the situation.
At the same time, I feel I should also point out viewers or readers play a large part in what and how things are covered in the news. No matter what some will tell you they want to see, the numbers speak for themselves and for some reason bad news always attract more people than good news. I have been in this profession for six years and that is something I still don’t understand.
Others, including President Obama, have alluded that this could have been avoided with stronger gun control laws. Frankly, there is no way we can know that, nor do I really think guns are the problem. Murders happen on a daily basis without the use of firearms; for example ISIS’s weapon of choice has been a machete, yet no one really calls for a ban on knives.
There is a picture of a billboard that has been circulating on the internet that I believe points to the heart of the matter. It says “Cain killed Abel with a rock. It’s a heart problem, not a gun problem,” and to me that really sums it up. We could take all the designated weapons off the face of the Earth and I’m sure terrible things would still take place. There will still be those who hate someone just because they are different and feel taking innocent lives makes them some sort of a hero for whatever type of group they affiliate themselves with in society, which infuriates me to no end. I do not understand people like that and pray to God that I never become the type of person who does. When it comes down to it, there is only one place to put the blame for this tragedy. It is not the news media. It is not the gun used and it is not a flag. The blame falls solely on the person who pulled the trigger.
The coverage of the events throughout the last week has evoked a multitude of emotions, making me angry when I heard what had happened; sad when I thought about all the families of those who died must be going through; happy when they caught the shooter; and most of all hopeful, when I saw how the Charleston community came together in the wake of the tragedy. I am a firm believer that something good can come from even the darkest of times and this time is no different. If we all learn to have love for our fellowman and value human life, regardless of their race, gender, religion or sexual orientation then we can help ensure tragedies like this do not continue to happen.
As Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. once said “We must learn to live together as brothers or perish together as fools;” a thought that is still relevant today. The question now is which side will we as a society choose; brothers or fools? The choice is up to us.
Ashley Biles can be reached by calling 706-647-5414 or on Twitter @AshleyBiles1