When we worry about our persecutors

A few weeks ago, the image of Charleston shooter Dylann Roof standing in his cell with two armed guards behind him was live-streamed to the courtroom occupied by the family, which was in turn broadcasted to news networks. Something kind of amazing happened. The teary-faced family members forgave him, and in fact said that they were worried about him. Why should they be worried about the rotten-to-the-core white supremacist that just murdered their loved ones?

“I pray God on your soul,” said the sister of one of the victims.

There’s actually some kind of symmetry in this scenario, even if it doesn’t initially look like it makes any sense. If the trick to being being a good person is to do more good things than bad things, Roof has an astronomically negative balance, approximating the national debt of the United States. So if anyone’s soul is in need of prayers, it’s Dylann Roof’s.

Before he committed the massacre, Dylann Roof took pictures of himself posing with the Confederate flag (actually the second Confederate Navy Jack, but whatever) which led to a wave of vandalism with text reading “black lives matter” over memorials honoring the Confederate dead. A more polite kind of iconoclasm came in the form of calls to remove Confederate monuments and rename landmarks.

Gloria Victis

The monument in the header image of this post, Spirit of the Confederacy, was one of the targets. It depicts an angel carrying away a defeated and dying Confederate soldier, who appears to need help standing. the base inscribed with the words “Gloria Victis,” which means “Glory to the vanquished.” It’s an uplifting reassurance that even the dead who fought on the wrong side were cared for and granted immortality.