You have heard of the banality of evil, but rarely does it come complete with a bowl haircut.
The perp (or twerp, to look at him) behind America’s latest gun rampage is living proof that larger-than-life atrocities can come from small packages, or small minds. Dylann Storm Roof was a nobody with the grandiose dream of starting a new civil war. In his disjointed manifesto online, largely lifted from other white supremacist web sites, he spoke of the “bravery” his act would require – bravery to shoot women in a church! His dullard persona included blank-faced posing for photos with every cliché of white supremacism he could put together.
Roof is beneath contempt even more than our other rampage murderers because he claimed a political cause for his bloodbath. It appears this massacre was not simply a psychiatric crack-up like the others. Though at another time I want to explore whether any sufficiently monstrous crime should be considered mental illness by default. When it goes beyond meanness, what else is there but a warped mind?
Roof is the embodiment of the domestic terrorist. What little intellect he possessed was truly fanatical. But apparently his mind was too dense or dark to appreciate the psychological impact of attacking solid citizens who had welcomed him into their church. If he was a failure to begin with, his failing now is the stuff of legend. Charleston, and the state around it, and much of the rest of the world, has been so repulsed by what happened they have come together in a demonstration of peace. There may be other egregious acts of racial violence someday, but Dylann Roof didn’t get his civil war.
The Charleston massacre was not the biggest one we have seen in America. Thirty-two people were slaughtered on April 16, 2007, by a deranged student at Virginia Tech, despite the presence of armed security, or good guys with guns. But the attack inside of Emanuel AME Church in Charleston this past Wednesday may be the most consequential of the long succession of such incidents we have endured. A psychological turn has been made here.
Today the governor of South Carolina called for removing the Confederate flag from state property. You can fly it on private property, but it will be gone from the state capitol if the governor has her way. Maybe even more significantly, in some respects, Walmart also announced the removal of all Confederate flag products from their shelves today.