The last couple of days have been like déjà vu: an unhinged white guy, middle-aged, filled with hate and rage. Only this time he walked into a synagogue, not a church, and pulled out a gun and started shooting. He killed people simply because they were there and they were Jewish. It’s the same as what happened in Charleston, S.C., the same senseless reason my sister, Cynthia Hurd, and eight other parishioners died at Mother Emanuel church: they were there and they were black.
In both cases, a gun was the tool that the perpetrator used. But the motivations were hate and racism and discrimination, part of an emerging white-nationalist movement that for years was bubbling under the surface. It has now reared its ugly head in a very public way, and we all must confront what it means.
The issue for our country is twofold: Yes, we need to have a national conversation about commonsense gun laws. But more important, we need to have a conversation about hate and racism. It’s uncomfortable, but we need to address it.
Unfortunately, the President of the United States doesn’t have the moral leadership to lead on this issue. So we’re going to approach the problem from the bottom up, in local communities and houses of worship, through city councils and county commissions, in our middle and high schools. I’m convinced that if the people will lead, the leaders will follow.
But it will take more than hope. Hope is not a strategy. We need to hold ourselves accountable as citizens of this country. We need to hold our elected officials accountable for what they say and what they do–and what they don’t do. And we need to prosecute people to the fullest extent of the law when they break it.
Our tomorrow needs to be better than today. And it can be. It will be challenging to get there. Some people will be offended. Some people will lose friends. But we can’t back down.
In times like these, we run toward our faith and we cling to it. But as we move forward, we’ve got to get up off our knees after praying, wipe our eyes and get to work.
Graham is a former North Carolina state senator