A week filled with terror and trauma carried out by a sociopath, a 21-year-old racist named Dylann Roof seemed to conclude with a prayer in the form of the simple, eloquent words of Nadine Collier, whose 70-year-old mother, Ethel Lance, was one of nine dead among the pews of the Emmanuel African Methodist Church Wednesday night in Charleston, S.C.: “You took something very precious away from me,” Ms. Collier said to the killer in a courtroom where a bond hearing was held for Roof. “I will never talk to her ever again. I will never be able to hold her again. But I forgive you. And have mercy on your soul.”
What is forgiveness? An emotion? A coping mechanism? An element of deepest faith? A way for the heart and soul to combat the type of hate, anger, rage and a thirst for revenge that could ultimately consume a person? All of those and more?
As news of this latest atrocity spread, as the details became clear—the mentally ill gunman, the easy access to the weapon, the lingering scar of racism—you could hear and see a few more cracks in the fabric of this splendid free land we all share. And the nine dead became add-ons to the lengthy indictment of those who govern us with a blind eye toward reality.