The day after a one-man lynch mob executed nine people in a Charleston church, Tidewater's E.W. Jackson appeared on cable television to offer his take on the shooter's motives. Without any evidence to support his contention, Jackson suggested the white shooter could have chosen his nine black victims largely because of their Christian beliefs.
That, rather than the skin color the victims had in common with the founders of the 199-year-old Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church -- a church considered to be sacred ground to millions of Americans who know and appreciate its history.
Jackson told his Fox News audience, "a hostility toward Christians,” was a likely motive behind the bloodbath in Charleston. Then he went on to frame what appears to have been an act of domestic terrorism as part of a larger War on Christianity -- a fantasy war he and some other conservatives claim to believe is ongoing. In the doing, the lawyer-turned-preacher-turned-pundit changed the narrative. With the help of a Fox News panel of shills he crammed the tragedy in Charleston into a context of boilerplate right-wing talking points. To hell with respect for the dead.
In effect, Jackson virtually body-snatched the victims from the embrace of their grieving loved ones. On Thursday, Jackson might have stood alone. After all, in his hunger for face-time on TV he had jumped the gun. Evidence was pouring in that was already branding the shooter as an angry young man who seemed to have designed his bloody caper to imitate a Ku Klux Klan style of terrorism from yesteryear.
After Jackson's imprudent remarks, it would have been easy enough for smart Republican presidential candidates to say they didn't want to speculate about the motives behind such an act of barbarity. They could have concluded their brief comments by saying they would be praying for the grieving families. Over and out...
Yet, presidential hopefuls, Rick Santorum and Lindsey Graham, quickly chimed in to support Jackson's twisted theory. By Friday plenty of information had been presented by the churning media that bolstered the theory the shooter is a white supremacist.
Then Jeb Bush announced he wasn't quite sure if racism played a role. Later Rick Perry must have forgotten what he meant to say ... so he called the mass murder itself an "accident." Oops.
Given what has been reported since the shooter was captured and has reportedly confessed, there's just no good reason to blow off the evidence that paints him as an unrepentant racist. As far as what he was truly thinking at the precise time he was pulling the trigger, who can say?
Most importantly, other than to play a propaganda game, there was no reason for Jackson to say what he did. Furthermore, there was no honorable reason for anyone else to instantly agree with him.
Speaking of propaganda, after each episode of mass murder facilitated by firearms we've had to endure another of the gun lobby's avalanches of denial. Mean-spirited stuff, sometimes.
For instance: The National Rifle Association's Charles Cotton said, “Eight of [Clementa Pickney's] church members who might be alive if he had expressly allowed members to carry handguns in church are dead. Innocent people died because of his position on a political issue."
Like Jackson, Cotton seems perfectly willing to use the nine deaths for his own purposes. To help stave off the chorus of cries for better regulation of guns he knows is on the way, Cotton has become a body-snatcher, too.
The flaggers in South Carolina who see the tense aftermath of the massacre as just another time to dig in their heels and insist upon saluting the Stars and Bars, even as it waves over the coffins of fellow citizens whose futures were snuffed out by hate-driven violence, are body snatchers.
In the next few days, we'll see how many Republicans will have found a way to walk back their foolish backing of Jackson's War on Christians theory. Some may have to go through some amusing contortions. Others may assume their constituents "get it," double-down, and go on insisting the victims were shot to death by an enemy of Christianity.
Nonetheless, please don't forget, this same E.W. Jackson was the 2013 Republican nominee for Lt. Governor in Virginia. Oops.
A lot of Republicans you may know worked to get Jackson elected less than two years ago. In the coming days, we'll see which of the commonwealth's Republican office holders are smart enough to decry Jackson's eagerness to travel the low-road.
By the way, if the reader wonders why the shooter went unnamed in this piece, my policy is to avoid boosting the promotional campaigns of publicity-seeking murderers, regardless of their supposed motives. Since this is an opinion piece, not a news story, there's no obligation here to report his name.
The obligation here is to state an opinion and try to support it. Here it is in a nutshell:
The shameless E.W. Jackson – a man of the cloth? – should be rebuked for his willingness to become a Fox News tool, without regard for the pain it might inflict on innocent people. Opportunistic politicians who showed the poor judgment to publicly agree with Jackson should be shunned.