Friday, July 29, 2011

Third Anniversary of the Knoxville Church Shootings

: This was supposed to be posted on July 27, on my original blog home Heretic, Rebel a Thing to Flout but the Denial of Service Attack on LiveJournal prevented it. That failure has encouraged me to migrate to Blogger.

It was a quiet Sunday morning just three years ago when a man walked into the Tennessee Valley Unitarian Universalist Church in Knoxville, Tennessee and opened fire as children were presenting a special version of the musical Annie. Two people, 60 year old Greg McKendry, an usher and church board member, and 61 Year old Linda Kraeger, visiting from the Westside Unitarian Universalist Church in Knox County, were killed and several others wounded as panicked children scattered. The toll would have been higher but McHendry placed himself in front of the shooter to protect the children and church members tackled and disarmed the shooter.

Jim David Adkisson, the assailant, was far less sophisticated in many ways than Norwegian mass murder Anders Behring Breivik but writings of both display a deep kinship. Both felt disenfranchised from societies they believed was dominated by “elites” and who were favoring despised minorities over deserving people like themselves. Adkisson probably never heard Breivik’s phrase cultural Marxists, but that was exactly who he thought he was attacking at that church. Aside from sophistication, the only difference between the two killers was the scope of the second attacker’s “success.”

Breivik’s 1500 page manifesto is already circulating on the internet, just as he hoped. And as he hoped, it is being read and appreciated by others in this country as well as in Europe who may respond to his call for more violence. A sliver of racist, crypto-fascist, neo-Nazi, and skin head gangs have been preaching—and practicing—similar violence in this country for years. Breivik may well move them to attempting bigger, bolder attacks. They may well choose not the protected halls of government, but “soft” targets like a Unitarian Universalist Church or a political summer camp to wreck their carnage. And they will be cheered on more or less overtly by a wider camp of insurrectionist right wing ideologues like Glenn Beck.

After the attack in Norway, young survivors of the brutal shooting attack vowed to meet the threat of racist violence with “more democracy, more diversity.” In Knoxville at a memorial service two days after the shooting the children of the church, at their own insistence, came to sing the song that they could not on that awful morning. As the large crowd of mourners from all faiths and all communities of the city listened in tears they began to sing, “The sun will come out tomorrow…”

A year later I read this poem in commemoration at my church in Woodstock, Illinois.

KNOXVILLE: 7/27/2008 10:26 A.M

They are about to sing about Tomorrow,

as fresh and delicate as impatiens in the dew,

when Yesterday, desperate and degraded

bursts through the doors

barking despair and death

from the business end of a sawed of shotgun.

Tomorrow will have to wait,

Yesterday—grievances and resentments,

a life full of missed what-ifs

and could-have-beens,

of blame firmly fixed on Them,

the very Them despised by

all the herald angels of perfect virtue—

has something to say.

Yesterday gives way to Now,

the eternal, inescapable Now,

flowing from muzzle flash

to shattered flesh,

the Now when things happen,

not the reflections of Yesterday

or the shadows of Tomorrow,

the Now that always Is.

Now unites them,

victims and perpetrator,

the innocent and the guilty,

the crimson Now.

Tomorrow there will be villain and martyrs,

Tomorrow always knows about Yesterday,

will tell you all about it in certain detail.

And yet Tomorrow those dewy impatiens

will sing at last—

The sun will come out Tomorrow,

bet your bottom dollar on tomorrow

come what may…

How wise those little Flowers

To reunite us all in Sunshine.

--Patrick Murfin

1 comment:

  1. Very good poem there Patrick.

    One of the best I have seen from you.