When forgiveness matters

July 10, 2015

dr anIn the wake of one the largest mass shootings at a Black church in American history, a number of enduring heartfelt lessons occurred. One of those lessons happened during the bond hearing of the shooter, when all of the affected families of the 9 that were killed had a chance to speak during that hearing. One after one, they all spoke about their loved ones in endearing terms and then amazingly offered the words of “forgiveness” to the shooter. “I forgive you…”

As those words rang out, it took everyone by surprise, it shocked a nation, it shocked a world and it certainly shocked those living in South Carolina. No one expected to hear those words in public from any family member and especially so early in the process while holding the shooter accountable. I believe that those words ignited a fire storm and a series of events that called for action on a number of underlying issues that have plagued that state for decades, if not longer. This included the removal of the confederate flag, expanding voting rights, reducing poverty, racial equality, improving employment opportunities and a review of state policies on gun purchases. For all of that, Charleston, South Carolina and even America will never be the same.

From my viewpoint and having once lived in Edgefield, South Carolina, did my Naval Reserve duty in Charleston, and visited the city on numerous occasions, what occurred two weeks ago was a “huge moment” and it sparked a new debate about the symbols of slave history and its long lasting effects. Let us not forget that unlike other states in the old south, South Carolina has a unique place in American history for not only being a slave state, but for epic civil war battles, large plantations, shrewd politicians, sea ports, slave auction houses, secession from the union, and an enduring legacy of poor treatment towards African Americans and other migrants.

What makes the events that occurred in Charleston even more distinctive is the fact that the family members of those killed at the church chose to “forgive” the shooter. They certainly did not have to say that, but they did. And perhaps that is where we are today as a society as a whole, we have learned how to “forgive” others. This is the hard part and the struggle is real as it can get, when words cannot express how we really feel, the pain, the loss and the grief. Perhaps Martin Luther King, Jr. said it best “We must develop and maintain the capacity to forgive. He who is devoid of the power to forgive is devoid of the power to love. There is some good in the worst of us and some evil in the best of us. When we discover this, we are less prone to hate our enemies. What do you think?

Dr. Andrew Calhoun, can be contacted at andrewiiicalhoun@ gmail.com, and Facebook. You can hear Dr. Calhoun each Sunday at Grace Fellowship Church, 3879 N. Port Washington Rd. Milwaukee 414-265-5546.

The opinions expressed in this editorial are those of the writer and not of the Milwaukee Times Weekly Newspaper or NCON Communication, its staff or management. “Rebuilding Our Community” is a weekly column exclusive to the Milwaukee Times Weekly Newspaper.