First, Nadine Collier, daughter of victim Ethel Lance, through tears, talked about this obligation to forgive because Someone Higher forgave:
You took something very precious away from me. I will never talk to her ever again. I will never hold her again. But I forgive you. Have mercy on your soul. You hurt me. You hurt a lot of people. But God forgives you. And I forgive you.
And the judge, who talks a bit to someone by his side for this short speech, responds, “Thank you ma’am, and I appreciate your being here.”
It just seems so diminished, so accepted.
The next victim representative, Anthony Thompson, representing the family of victim Myra Thompson, said:
I forgive you, and my family forgives you. But we would like to take this opportunity to ask you to repent. Repent. Confess. Give your life to the one who matters the most. Christ. So that he can change it, and change your ways no matter what happens to you, and you’ll be OK. Do that, and you’ll be better off than what you are right now.
While I’m an atheist, I can understand the sentiment. When no one in this world cares about your pain, or seems to understand that it means something, and nothing will change their hearts and to convince them that your pain matters — in desperation, you may plead for a mechanism, for a miracle, that will cause the person to understand who you are and turn them around. I see it, personally, as a kind of giving up, as thinking that there is nothing that is going to force the racist views and actions of white America to turn around, and a resulting plea for a miracle. The problem, of course, is that a plea for a miracle is an admittance that, rationally speaking, there is no way to expect things to get better.
Then another of just…raw pain, and yet a resignation to the pressure to appreciate Dylann Roof, from Felecia Sanders, mother of victim Tywanza Sanders:
We welcomed you Wednesday night in our Bible Study with open arms. You have killed some of the most beautiful people that I know. Every fiber in my body hurts, and I’ll never be the same. Tywanza Sanders was my son, but Tywanza was my hero. Tywanza was my hero. But, as we said in Bible Study, we enjoy you, but may God have mercy on you.
And then another sad resignation — not anger anymore, just pain, from Wanda Simmons, granddaughter of victim Daniel Simmons:
Although my grandfather and the other victims died at the hands of hate, this is proof – everyone’s plea for your soul is proof they lived in love and their legacies will live in love, so hate won’t win, and I just want to thank the courts for making sure that hate doesn’t win.
And then, finally, the last statement, from Bethane Middleton-Brown, representing the family of victim Rev. DePayne Middleton-Doctor:
DePayne Doctor was my sister. And I just thank you on the behalf of my family for not allowing hate to win. For me, I’m a work in progress and I acknowledge that I’m very angry.But one thing DePayne always joined in my family with is that she taught me we are the family that love built.We have no room for hate. We have to forgive. I pray God on your soul. And I also thank God I won’t be around when your judgment day comes with him.
That’s probably the most disturbing thing — she feels forced to move through the stages of grief. You’re angry? Oh, you’re a “work in progress,” don’t worry. We’ll make you give up and accept the reality in no time.
It’s sad. It’s why I distrust words like “love” — I just have a tendency to think that they mean “be quiet and be OK with what we’re doing.”
But what are you gonna do? Try to fight all your life against something that’s not going to change? Or accept it?
I’m about as hopeless as Jon Stewart, when he said:
“I’m confident that by acknowledging it, by staring into that and seeing it for what it is, we still won’t do jackshit. Yeah, that’s us. That’s the part that blows my mind.”
Like him, I’ve got nothing. No pleas. No wagging finger, really. I don’t know what to do next. It’s just…yeah. That’s it.
Thanks for reading, I guess.