For the record, I do have an uncle named James Spears. He died a few years ago. So as far as I know I am of no relation to the James Spears, the Great Titan of the Loyal White Knights of the Klu Klux Klan, the group who is sponsoring an upcoming rally in support of the Confederate Flag flying over South Carolina.
Spears is all over the headlines for announcing the plans for the rally to be held next month at the South Carolina Statehouse. According to the Washington Post, the request for the rally was made one day after S.C. Gov. Nikki Haley announced that she would call on state lawmakers to remove the flag following the racists act that led to the slaying of nine people at a historic church in Charleston.
I don’t have any delusions about what motivated Dylann Roof to shoot those God-fearing people dead in the aisles of the church they called home. It was hate, pure and simple.
He hated those people because they were black and he is an angry white young man, who, despite his years in church, simply has not known the love and grace of God. Perhaps he knows it now after hearing the family members of the fallen speak words of forgiveness to him in their first court encounter. Or perhaps he will come to know it in the years he will, undoubtedly, spend sitting on Death Row.
Meanwhile, I am praying that South Carolina legislators see the error of their own misguided ways and take down that flag.
Even so, while I don’t like the hate the Klan claims to stand for, I am perfectly okay with the Klan holding their rally outside the South Carolina statehouse, as long as it is a peaceful protest as Spears assures and is conducted in accordance with the laws of the land.
I am okay with the Klan’s rally for the same reasons I am okay with those protests held at the funerals of dead soldiers by those hatemongers known as Westboro Baptist.
This is what it means to put into practice the First Amendment. This right to peacefully assembly and protest. This right to speak our minds, even when we are spreading hate.
Do I wish everyone displayed the grace and love that has been the hallmark of Charleston’s Mother Emanuel?
Do I wish there was a way to eradicate all hate from this world forever?
Amen. I do.
But it seems there is absolutely no chance of that happening until the God of grace and mercy breaks open the heavens. So, until this battle between good and evil, between God and Satan, between the enlightened and the ignorant, between those who love and those who hate, comes to an end, I’m okay with living in the country that errs on the side of goodness.
It takes some kind of courage to form a nation that grants people the right to protest against it.
It takes a belief in humanity to entrust people with the right to speak their mind, to give them the right to criticize the very government who ensures those rights.
It takes some kind of mercy and grace to know that by extending those rights, some people are going to abuse those rights and extend them anyway.
It takes some kind of good-heartedness to believe that when it is all said and done more people will choose to do good rather than evil.
I’m okay with the Klan holding their rally because I am the daughter of a soldier fallen.
I understand the blood sacrifices that have ensured over the decades that such rights remain intact.
Freedoms are a costly thing, on and off the battlefield.
I’m okay with the Klan holding their rally because I never want to live in the country that punishes, even murders their own people for assembling, for protesting, for living out their beliefs, no matter how wrongheaded those beliefs may be.
Karen Spears Zacharias is author of After the Flag has been Folded, William Morrow.