In just a little while, the funeral service will commence for Rev (and state senator) Clementa Pinckney at the Mother Emmanuel AME Church in Charleston SC. When the caisson bearing his remains passes under the Confederate flag, it will be the last time this good man will be troubled by the sight of it.
There is a simple reason for the absence of riots, vandalism and other violent disturbances that flared up after other recent deaths. One would have expected such, because these present nine victims were older, placid, so innocent, non-violent.
The reason is because they -- even in their suffering -- showed Christ, the Prince of Peace, so well.
I continue to be surprised when I hear the people and clergy of this AME community speak so confidently of Christ and the Cross, and the seamless link between their individual holiness and the needs and issues of the community.
They are examples to us all.
These days, we worry about events like this "getting politicized," and there is no small frustration at the removal of the Confederate flag.
We need to remember that all politics belong to the larger class of morality. There will always be a political side to a community event. One might get miffed at "people taking political opportunity from a tragedy" -- and this is a very old complaint. But that is like complaining about something that happens as predictably as daylight.
There is always a political moment after every tragedy.
I admire, especially, the southern Republicans who are working hard to remove the Confederate flag from all positions of governmental symbolism. Yes, it is part of the heritage and history. Yes, it should continue on at battlefields and museums.
But these Republicans are responding to this horrific tragedy by empathizing with a population that looks upon the Confederate flag in a much different way. When African Americans look at this symbol, they do not see the romantic nobility of Lee and Jackson and the "Lost Cause." Nor do they see the down-homeness of Daisy and the Dukes of Hazzard.
No. African Americans see -- and they must see -- the Confederate flag just as Jews see the flag of the Third Reich, emblazoned with the swastika. You can point out to me the long history of the swastika that has nothing to do with the Nazis -- and you would be right.
But now that symbol has been permanently stained by the satanic madness of Hitler and his movement.
The Confederate flag, for African Americans, must and can only stand for the Middle Passage of the horrible slave trade. It stands for an entire racial community suffering in bondage for three centuries in this country. It stands for the forced separation of husbands and wives, parents and children. It stands for the bodily mutilation and torture of thousands of escaped or "misbehaved" slaves. It stands for the Nazi-like money-addicted plantation owners and cotton magnates who profited from human suffering.
So since this symbol carries this horrific meaning to my brothers and sisters, would I insist on waving it from a position of authority, or anywhere in my community? Would I be so callous as to wave the swastika in front of those whose last names are written hundreds of times at Yad Vashem?
There is no boundary between morality and politics. All politics is an expression of morality, an interaction between good and evil. Every expression of goodness comes with a price tag in the exchange: at every act of peacemaking (because that is what the Prince of Peace calls us to do with the Cross), the price is the giving up of "personal right," of convenience, of personal taste and maybe, even, political opinion.