The blood had not yet dried on the church floor when my inbox began filling with petitions and appeals related to the horrific tragedy in Charleston. Bernie Sanders, the independent senator from Vermont and Democratic presidential candidate reached out to his followers with an email the morning following the shooting. Sanders said, in part:
"What transpired in Charleston, South Carolina last night was not just a tragedy, it was an act of terror.
"Nine of our fellow Americans were murdered while praying in a historic church because of the color of their skin. This senseless violence fills me with outrage, disgust, and a deep, deep sadness.
"This hateful killing is a horrific reminder that, while we have made important progress in civil rights for all our people, we are far from eradicating racism."
Bernie is right. It was an act of terrorism, and it was the result of racism. Republicans in general had trouble admitting either of those truths.
Bernie Sanders, always a classy guy, ended his email like so many politicians do - with an appeal for money. But Bernie asked his followers to send money not to him, but to the historic church in South Carolina that had been the scene of the carnage. His communication contained a link to assist in making that donation.
Hillary Clinton wrote a few days later, and her email, though not as timely as Bernie's and minus any request for donations, was a bit more eloquent. She said, in part:
"Once again, bodies are being carried out of a black church. Once again, racist rhetoric has metastasized into racist violence.
"This is a history we wanted so desperately to leave behind, but we can't hide from the hard truths about race and justice in America. We have to name them, own them, and ultimately change them."
Challenge noted and accepted.
Republicans predictably struggled with how to respond. No politician in his right mind would openly support an act of violence like that which unfurled itself on Charleston, yet a big part of the base of the Republican party are white conservatives - and a goodly number of those have racist leanings. That reality left GOP politicians scrambling to find a way to register their indignation as human beings without pissing off those what brung them to the dance. It was a line that was much too fine for the average elephant to navigate.
And there were other types of comments as well. Charles Cotton, a Texan who sits on the governing board of the National Rifle Association, decided to blame the victim. He noted that the minister who was killed, Reverend Clementa Pinckney, was also a state senator in South Carolina. Pinckney had voted against a "concealed carry" bill in his capacity as a state senator, and that legislation ultimately failed. Cotton reasoned that if not for the political opposition of Senator Pinckney, the other eight victims might have been carrying guns that night and survived the shooting.
That logic is, of course, so flawed as to defy a logical response. The reason the United States has the highest murder rate of any major industrialized nation is that too many people are armed - not too few. If Mr. Cotton had been educated in any state other than Texas, he might know that.
Dylann Roof, the young thug who murdered nine people as they were praying, was a racist and proud of it. Several photos of Roof holding a Confederate flag have surfaced, along with at least one of him burning an American flag. The shooter's avowed intent with his bloody crime was to start a revolution - or a race war.
Some of the enraged voices emanating from Charleston seem to be focused on the Confederate flag which defiantly flies above the South Carolina state capitol. Up until yesterday only one Republican of note, non-candidate Mitt Romney, had the cajones to openly and clearly call for its removal. But now the state's tea-bagger Republican governor, Nikki Haley, has also come on board saying it should be taken down. That puts the GOP presidential contenders into an uncomfortable box - should they do the right thing and call for the flag's removal - or keep their mouths shut out of fear of alienating conservative white voters in next year's South Carolina presidential primary - the first in the south? What's a political panderer to do?
Today I saw on the internet that both Walmart and Sears have said they will remove all merchandise bearing the Confederate flag from their on-line and store sites. Public pressure is being applied to Amazon and eBay to do the same.
It looks like instead of inciting a race war and proliferating the waving of the Confederate flag, young Mr. Roof may have triggered a chain reaction that will ultimately lead to the flag's complete removal from public view.
The tragedy in Charleston has whipped up a maelstrom of emotion - a wrath which seems to be growing more powerful as it spreads across the land. Let us all hope - and pray - that the deaths of those nine people in the old church in Charleston will ultimately have significant meaning and help lead America into a more tolerant and peaceful future.
And I, for one, hope - and pray - that Dylann Roof lives long enough to witness that change.