Death in Charlottesville

A vehicular homicide case near the intersection of Fourth and Water streets in Charlottesville, Virginia, is international news.

I regret the loss of life, particularly since the driver apparently intended to harm or kill the victims. I’ll get back to that.

Heather Heyer had been with several other folks there, protesting something — or maybe someone — which or who she felt should be inspiring more outrage.

During the protest, someone drove a car into another vehicle, and into the protesters. 19 were injured, five critically. Heather Heyer died.

“…Heather D. Heyer, 32, a Charlottesville resident who police say was crossing the road at the time, died of her injuries after being rushed to the hospital….”
(CBS News (August 13, 2017))

A young man who apparently was driving the car has been arrested. He’s been charged with second degree murder. That seems reasonable.

Two Virginia State Troopers, Lieutenant H. Jay Cullen and trooper Berke M.M. Bates, had been on their way to Carlottesville. They died when their helicopter crashed.

Oddly enough, almost none of the news has been about Heather Heyer, and not much about the young man who apparently killed her.

Much of it seems to be about why we should blame some politico or another. Where we’re supposed to focus our anger depends on which news outlet I look at.

Trusting Emotions: Within Reason

It would be nice if news services would focus more on facts and less on emotion.

But that’s not going to happen. Not any time soon, judging from what I’ve seen over the last half-century.

There’s nothing wrong with emotions. Experiencing them is part of being human. But so is using logic. I should think before I act or speak. (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1951, 1730, 17631767)

I’ve learned that my emotions don’t give good advice. (January 11, 2017; October 5, 2016)

However, emotions may show that something requires attention. After that, my job is thinking about how I should respond. Or not respond. (Catechism, 1763, 1765, 1767)

This isn’t 1967

Quite a few events happened 50 years ago this summer. Some remember it as the Summer of Love, others as the long hot summer of 1967.

I remember it as a year when some of us were working or hoping for long-overdue reforms. Others were increasingly frustrated in their efforts to preserve crumbling social conventions.

I wasn’t the craziest of ‘those crazy kids.’ But I thought we could do better.1

I still do. (May 21, 2017; August 11, 2017)

Heather Heyers and others had been protesting a protest held by another outfit.

She lived in Charlottesville. The fellow who apparently killed her is from Ohio. But nobody, as far as I know, has said that the focus of Heyer’s protest were “outside agitators” whose goal was to “rile up” folks in Charlottesville.

Maybe we’ve learned a little wisdom since 1967.2

The folks at the protest which Heather Hayers and others were counter-protesting apparently don’t like what’s been happening in America.

I’m not overly thrilled, myself, with the status quo. Many of our new social conventions are, I think, very unsatisfactory.

But I am convinced that the answer is not reviving injustices that we were correcting in the 1960s. My memory is too good to want the ‘good old days’ to return. Ever.

Love: It’s Simple, Not Easy

The basics are simple. I should love God, love my neighbors, and see everybody as my neighbor. Everybody. (Matthew 5:4344, 22:3640; Mark 12:2831; Luke 6:31 10:2527, 2937; Catechism, 1789)

Valuing human life is also a good idea. All human life, including folks who aren’t considered fit to live, or insufficiently human, by my culture’s standards. (Catechism, 2258, 2267, 2270, 2277)

Like I said, experiencing emotions is part of being human.

They’re not good or bad by themselves. I’d be concerned if I didn’t feel anger or at least aversion in response to the weekend murder in Charlottesville. (Catechism, 1765, 1767)

Murder, deliberately killing another person, is a bad idea. I shouldn’t even cherish anger, hatred, or a desire for vengeance. (Catechism, 2261, 2262, 23022303)

Deciding whether an action is good or bad can be important. I’m expected to think about what I do, and the actions of others. But judging persons as “good” or “evil?” I must leave that to God. (Catechism, 1778, 1861, 24012449)

Deciding what I should do about emotions, instead of letting them direct me, isn’t easy. Sometimes it’s very hard. But it’s a good idea.

Reasons for Hope

I think we are nearly 22 years closer to building “the civilization of love” St. John Paul II talked about. (August 11, 2017; May 28, 2017; May 7, 2017)

Since I also think it will take centuries, maybe millennia, to cobble together a close approximation of his dream — we are not much closer.

But we are closer.

I see reasons for hope in how many folks respond to irresponsible acts of violence. This sort of thing isn’t, apparently, international news:

‘Come see who we are’: Community members urge hope after Islamic center blast
Doualy Xaykaothao, MPR News (August 7, 2017)

“…’In Minnesota, we accept one another, we support one another, we respect one another,’ said [Minnesota Governor] Dayton. ‘We live together, we work together, we succeed together. And we’re not going to let one bad person get in the way of all that.’…

“‘They come Sundays, they come to play soccer in our fields,’ said Omar. ‘Every time you come, day, or night, there is activity going on.’…”

Community support builds for Bloomington Islamic center
KARE (August 6, 2017)

“On Sunday evening, members of Pax Christi Catholic Church in Eden Prairie delivered in a basket more than 200 handwritten notes of support to the Dar Al-Farooq Center….”

I’ve talked about love, hope, and why I think cautious optimism makes sense, before:


1 Remembering 1967:

2 More about what happened in Charlottesville, and in 1967:

About Brian H. Gill

I'm a sixty-something married guy with six kids, four surviving, in a small central Minnesota town. I mostly write and make digital art. I'm only interested in three things: that which exists within the universe; that which exists beyond; and that which might exist.
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7 Responses to Death in Charlottesville

  1. Manny says:

    Good post Brian. Emotions everywhere. Sometimes it’s best to let the idiots have their march and not make a fuss over it. No one would have heard their message. The counter protesting just elevated their voice, and the tragedy spread the message across the country, if not the world. I’m not blaming the victim. Her heart was certainly in the right place. Peace.

  2. “Deciding what I should do about emotions, instead of letting them direct me, isn’t easy. Sometimes it’s very hard” which makes me think about the virtue of prudence. I think a lot of behaviors and all around incivility would decrease if prudence was embraced.

    Moreover, the pathos mode of persuasion is running rampant in mainstream news. You’re right. Society would be better if we strayed away from emotions. I hate to see attempted dialogues drift into an emotional outburst.

    The Charlottesville incident was a tragic event that shocked the nation. On a side note, what currently constitutes as a “hate crime” is something I’ve wondered about.

    Sad that lives were lost!

    May God grant eternal rest to the victims!

    • Amen.

      And agreed. Learning to practice prudence is – prudent.

      I like your “pathos mode of persuasion” turn of phrase. There’s a fair amount of that mode flying around. Too much, arguably.

      It may be on its way out.

      “Victim of society,” for example, seems to be behind us. It changed from an effective slogan to a cliche and finally to what I think was intended as a comic relief line in a movie.

      One of the more-or-less recent Batman films, I think. Penguin tried appealing to the Batman’s sympathy: by asking ‘aren’t we all victims of society?’ He really should have known better. And that’s another topic.

      I don’t mind seeing “victim of society” and it’s attendant well-meaning but – my opinion – daft ersatz compassion fade from general use.

      America wouldn’t, ideally, go too far in another direction. But we’re as human as any other country’s citizens. I figure we’ll see someone dust off ideas like “zero tolerance,” re-learn why they don’t work, and try something else. We *do* learn: slowly.

      And again, amen. May God grant eternal rest to the dead, healing to the survivors, and healing of a different sort to those who commit these acts.

      They’re my neighbors, too: and need prayer as much as I do. And that’s yet another topic. Topics.

    • I’ve wondered about “hate crime” laws, too. Motives for passing them may have been reasonable, or at least seemingly-reasonable.

      Taking intent into account when deciding guilt or innocence during a trial, and when considering a sentence when the verdict is “guilty,” makes sense to me.

      But since we already have laws criminalizing murder, libel, slander, vandalism and other “hate crimes:” I’m not sure we need another law to cover them again. Or, if we do, maybe we should ask legislators to broaden their scope: and make crime illegal.

      Definitions are, I think, a serious issue. Deciding what is and is not “hate” might seem easy in a small and homogeneous group. America isn’t either, which could make one person’s obvious truth another person’s equally-obvious “hate speech.”

      As you said, it’s something to wonder about.

  3. For me, murder is murder. Period. regardless of someone’s motivation for committing murder, someone infringed on someone’s liberty. No added element of “race” makes a murder more heinous than it already is.

    I think taking into account protected classes (minorities, religions, etc) the gov is playing favoritism on who to support.
    My main objection is that hate-crimes are a gross violation of the gov. because it becomes some kind of tool to analyze a person’s mind and expression. I think that’s very troubling that govs. could use that kind of scrutiny on someone’s opinion that runs contrary to popular culture. If that’s true, there are tons of cases that could be hate crimes that go unreported or aren’t federally defined as such. Heck, in 5th grade, I was a victim of a racially charged incident by a non-black student for repeatedly using a racial slur. I didn’t get any justice but an in-school detention for 2 days lol.

    Similar to hate-speech laws. Hate is hate. No added element of someone adding a racial or ethnic slur intensifies their hate.

    I recently have seen that 3 Black U.S. senators wanted to create a lynching law. You can find it here https://www.google.com/amp/s/www.theroot.com/three-black-senators-introduce-bill-to-make-lynching-a-1I'm725991I'mamp.

    Again, redundant. Lynching is murder regardless of the mechanism used. Granted, the South should’ve been more strict during Jim Crow era and applied the law equally, but they didn’t. Those injustices committed by ‘law-abiding citizens” and the court systems that allowed it to happen are a wicked stain on America’s past. Those horrible George Wallace “Segregation now, segregation tomorrow, and segregation forever” anti-civil rights Dixiecrats irk my blood, but even they deserve forgiveness.

    If anything, the newer law and the general federal prohibition is the classic case of “good intentions, bad results.” They’ve helped people receive justice, but it’s a slippery slope to go down on the role of government.

    • Agreed. About wannabe ‘thought police,’ and enforcing existing laws.

      *Some* existing laws. “Legal” and “right” should line up, ideally. This isn’t an ideal world.

      The last I heard, penalties for possession or use of marijuana were still far harsher than the actual consequences of possession and use seem to warrant.

      I strongly suspect that at least some legislators haven’t gotten the memo that “Reefer Madness” isn’t a documentary. Or think their constituents take that attitude seriously.

      My guess is that outside the Beltway, many Americans are a bit like me: non-hippie, non-criminal, non-junkie folks who think prohibition was a bad idea: and are no more impressed with today’s official attitude toward ‘soft’ drugs.

      I think substance abuse of any sort is a bad idea. So is overreacting. That’s a hobby horse I haven’t ridden for a while. ( http://brendans-island.com/catholic-citizen/temperance-catholic-style/#getting )

Thanks for taking time to comment!