Jon Stewart dropped any pretense of humor at the beginning of the “Daily Show” on Thursday night, choosing instead to open his episode by addressing the tragic Charleston shootings with a solemn, critical monologue.
Sighing that he had “no jokes,” the Comedy Central host began by saying “I 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 in the nexus of a just gaping racial wound that will not heal – yet we pretend doesn’t exist.”
Similar in tone to his famous post-9/11 speech and his comments after the choking death of Eric Garner at the hands of New York police officers, Stewart’s remarks expressed both anguish and exasperation.
Contrasting the reaction to the Charleston shootings with reactions to other incidents of terrorism, Stewart argued “If this had been what we thought was Islamic terrorism…it’s ‘we’ve got to do whatever we can – we’ll torture people! – we’ve got to 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 does.’ That’s the part that I cannot for the life of me wrap my head around.”
Stewart slammed the growing regularity of atrocities and the accompanying media coverage, saying “You know it – you know – that it’s going to go down the same path. They’re already using the nuanced language of lack of effort for this. This is a terrorist attack. This is a violent attack on the Emmanuel Church in South Carolina which is a symbol for the black community.”
He continued, “I heard someone on the news say, well ‘tragedy has visited this church.’ This wasn’t a tornado. This was racist. This was a guy with a Rhodesia badge on his sweater.”
Stewart also issued a scathing critique of Confederate imagery, noting “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. That’s insanity. That’s racial wallpaper. That’s – you can’t allow that.”
“The Confederate flag flies over South Carolina. And the roads are named for Confederate generals,” Stewart went on, “and the white guy is the one who feels like his country is being taken away from him.”