The Case of Dylann Roof, “A Fractured Soul”
By Edward D. Currelley
Dylann Roof is an all-American boy. A home grown terrorist, Roof reflects an America this nation does not want you to know—the same nation that has now elected a president who promoted disrespect for women, hatred innuendo, division, and bigotry. Dylann Roof is the native son, a monster.
Unrepentant, Roof represented himself to prevent a court-appointed attorney from misleading the court about his mental capacity. Under oath he claimed to be sane, fully aware of his actions and their consequences.
Now Roof has been tried, convicted, and sentenced to death. Presently, he is in the process of filing for a motion granting ninety days to prepare for an appeal which, by law, he is entitled to. If anyone does, Roof deserves to die for his heinous crimes. There, I said it!
Let us digress. On June 17th, 2015, Dylann Roof, aged twenty-two, was welcomed into a prayer meeting at Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, South Carolina. While standing in a circle with these unsuspecting souls, grasping each others’ hands with heads bowed in prayer, Dylann Roof pulled a semi-automatic weapon from concealment and shot thirteen people. Four of the victims were critically wounded, and nine died. One of the injured called the police from a hiding place under a table, and Roof was arrested a short time later without incident.
The next morning, my gut hurting and unable to stop the tears, I turned to social media and found the Internet teaming with declarations of hate, revenge, and cries for help. Exactly, I imagined, the reaction Roof and the white supremacists most wanted—to inflict fear, hatred, and emotional devastation.
So, despite my own anger and distress, I wrote an open letter to America—a letter about sympathy, about compassion for the victims and their families, and also about forgiveness. I wrote about the factions in our society that would raise a young man in hatred, warp his young mind, and set him free to prey on the unsuspecting. The reactions ranged from anger to praise, but a version of this post was later published in the 2016 DoveTales, An International Journal of the Arts, “Family & Cultural Identity.”
The young Dylann Roof formulated his opinions regarding race relations without his family’s knowledge or approval. In his twisted mind he believed his killings would lead to a revolution or ignite a war between the races. Throughout the trial, he held fast to his convictions without remorse, despite the overwhelming sorrow expressed by his family for the pain and suffering he had caused. At the sentencing, he stated that he didn’t see the point of asking for leniency because he would do it again given the opportunity.
After just three hours of deliberation, the jury determined that Dylann Roof should be put to death. When I heard the news my first response was a resounding, YES!!! The punishment, I thought, should be as harsh as the heinous crime. But then, as I relished that sense of justice upheld, the families of the murdered and critically injured began to come forward to plead for this young man’s life. Out of heart and through faith, they offered up forgiveness unmatched by anything I’ve seen of recent.
WE THE PEOPLE have a voice and will stand for only so much. This country incarcerates thousands of African American men and women each year for non-violent crimes. There are unwarranted police shootings and brutality of our young men and women, raising cries of Black Lives Matter. Now we’ve accepted a president with unprecedented ethical issues, a farce blatantly perpetrated on the American people that has resulted in increased hate crimes. With all they have suffered, personally and as African Americans citizens of this nation, how is it possible that these champions of faith hold on to such love of humanity? I have no answer.
I’m not vindictive. I don’t desire revenge. But I am tired of watching a tattered nation getting worse every day. Still, for all my pain and discouragement, these people of faith have restored my hope for our nation.
There is absolutely no chance of Dylann Roof ever walking the streets again. Dylann Roof’s future lay within his heart and mind. He will never be a danger to anyone, except (perhaps) himself. Some would ask, why waste tax-payer dollars on his incarceration. Roof may have hate in his heart, but he wasn’t born that way; it’s a learned concept.The incarcerated have time for soul-searching, and sometimes that reflection results in reformed thought, maybe even a better human being. Stranger things have happened. The most evil of hearts has found faith, remorse, and forgiveness within penitentiary walls.
If the people directly affected, the families and congregation, can forgive Dylann Roof, then who are we to deny their wishes beyond prison? With death we gain nothing, least of all satisfaction. With life there is a chance of reform. The families and congregation of Emanuel AME Church have preached with the will of a higher power. My personal opinion doesn’t matter, but I believe this is one of those cases where an eye for an eye will only leave a nation blind.
Maybe, Dylann Roof will save himself.
Edward D. Currelley is an author and artist. He was awarded honorable status by Writer’s Digest for Stage Playwriting in 2008. His children’s book, I’m not lost, I’m with you and young adult novel, That Krasbaum Kid will be published this year. His poems and short stories can be found in numerous anthologies and periodicals, such as Eber & Wein’s Across the Way-Mountain, The Mom Egg Review, Writing for Peace’s 2016 Dove Tales, Sling Magazine, Metaphor Magazine and Split This Rock. He is the president of Pen To Mind Books & Child Development Concepts, Inc. and resides in New York City. (edwardcurrelley.wix.com/the-poet)
A Message from Writing for Peace
We, at Writing for Peace, are horrified and deeply saddened by the tragic and inhumane terrorist attack at a Quebec City mosque. Our hearts and prayers go out to all those affected by this act of hate and incomprehensible violence.
Writing for Peace Adviser Azfar Rizvi and The Institute of Canadian Archives has put together a list of ways to offer help to the Islamic Cultural Center of Quebec during this difficult time of healing. They suggest donating by check or direct deposit according to the instructions provided on the Islamic Cultural Center of Quebec’s (CCIQ) website:
1. Make a cheque out to “Islamic Cultural Center of Quebec” and send it to:
Islamic Cultural Center of Quebec
2877 chemin Sainte-Foy, Québec, Quebec G1V 1W3
2. To donate by direct deposit:
Banking institution: Caisse Populaire Desjardins
Agency: Laval University, Quebec
Account number: 0815 20439 041290 8
Beneficiary: Islamic Cultural Center of Quebec
Address: 2877 chemin Sainte-Foy, Québec, Québec, G1V 1W3
As incidents of hate crimes continue to rise in this political climate, we will strive to counter that hate with acts of empathy, compassion and love. We will write for peace, march for peace, and reach out across divides (real and imagined) for peace. As many of us recently chanted in streets all over the world, we believe in building bridges, not walls.
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