Jon Stewart can find humor in most things, most nights, but he was at a loss for anything but anguish on Thursday, June 18, the day after the tragic shootings at Emanuel Church in Charleston, S.C. Addressing the Daily Show audience in a somber, scathing monologue, he spoke out poignantly about the problems facing our country, and the inexplicable lack of action in response.
"I have one job, and it's a pretty simple job. I come in in the morning, and we look at the news, and I write jokes about it," Stewart began his show. "And then it's just cha-ching and I'm out the door. But I didn't do my job today. So I apologize. I've got nothing for you in terms of jokes...because of what happened in South Carolina."
He continued, solemnly: "Maybe if I wasn't near the end of the run [on the Daily Show], or if this wasn't such a common occurrence, maybe I could have pulled out of the spiral. But I didn't. So I honestly have nothing other than just sadness once again that we have to peer into the abyss of the depraved violence that we do to each other and the nexus of a just gaping racial wound that will not heal — yet we pretend doesn't exist."
The comedian went on to lament the country's unwillingness to acknowledge a problem, saying he was confident that "we still won't do jack s--t" to enact change, even as we mourn the nine victims killed in Charleston.
"And that's the part that blows my mind," he continued. "What blows my mind is the disparity of response between when we think people that are foreign are going to kill us and us killing ourselves."
Comparing the Charleston massacre with acts of terrorism from abroad, he said, "We've invaded two countries and spent trillions of dollars and thousands of American lives and now fly unmanned death machines over like five or six different countries, all to keep Americans safe...We'll torture people! We gotta do whatever we can to keep Americans safe. Nine people, shot in a church. What about that? 'Hey, what are you gonna do? Crazy is as crazy is.' That's the part that I cannot, for the life of me, wrap my head around."
Stewart further slammed coverage of the attacks, saying people were using "nuanced language" to avoid calling this what it really was.
"This is a terrorist attack," he argued. "This is a violent attack on the Emanuel Church of South Carolina, which is a symbol for the black community...I heard someone on the news say, 'Tragedy has visited this church.' This wasn't a tornado. This was a racist. This was a guy with a Rhodesia badge on his sweater. So I hate to even use this pun, but this one is black and white. There's no nuance here...We are steeped in that culture in this country and we refuse to recognize it. And I cannot believe how hard people are working to discount it."
He then took aim at the pervasiveness of Confederate imagery. "In South Carolina, the roads that black people drive on are named for Confederate generals who fought to keep black people from being able to drive freely on that road," he noted. "That's insanity. That's racial wallpaper. You can't allow that."
"Nine people were shot in a black church by a white guy who hated them, who wanted to start some kind of civil war," he continued. "The Confederate flag flies over South Carolina, and the roads are named for Confederate generals — and the white guy's the one who feels like his country is being taken away from him. We're bringing it on ourselves."