I'd say I'm surprised by the judgement being passed by perfect strangers on the internet about Amber Roof's Go Fund Me account, but let's be honest -- I'm not.
Instead, I am disappointed.
Here we have a woman who had plans to marry her US Army Soldier, no doubt something she has dreamed about since childhood. She likely spent hours and hours over months and months planning out ever detail, visualizing with eagerness her Perfect Day. Then her own brother, just days before her Happily Ever After was set to begin, did the unthinkable and committed a most heinous crime. Four days before a wedding is too late to get refunds. Not only were her happy dreams vanquished, her family torn apart by betrayal and confusion and sorrow, but she was now out whatever money she and her fiancé had put into it. And let's be real -- even a modest wedding is no pocket change.
This is where we all become fuzzy on her personal motives, but what happened next is this: she set up a Go Fund Me account to accept donations and gifts to recoup the lost money and fund a fresh start. Who knew this was such a "tasteless," "tacky," and "greedy" action? If you read her words on the account (before it was taken down), she was addressing "Family and Friends," and was intending to use the money to "cover lost wedding costs, to pay bills, and to send us on our dream honeymoon. 10% of all funds raised will be donated to Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church."
No mention of re-planning a new "dream wedding" -- just recouping the money they lost, perhaps so that they don't begin a marriage in debt for a wedding they never got to enjoy. She does mention a honeymoon, but also that a portion of the money raised will be donated to the church her brother attacked. Honestly, she sounds like a decent person.
Yet, social media -- including other military spouses-- is full of criticism for her decision to crowd fund.
Here is where we get to the part I don't quite understand: she is the one who identified her brother. She is an innocent victim of her bother's actions, too, living a nightmare she will no doubt experience year after year as she remembers the wedding that didn't happen. Is it really that awful for her wanting to have a romantic getaway with her new husband -- something positive to start their new life together, rather than tragedy and shame? Is it that unreasonable for her to want to escape the nightmare for a few days? Are her brother's crimes her own? Should she sacrifice the opportunity to salvage any shred of normalcy for her marriage because others are suffering worse?
I certainly don't think so. There is always someone suffering more than we are -- it doesn't mean we aren't entitled to living our lives to the fullest and seeking happiness in times of darkness. Some of the outrage seems to be at the fact she tried to use "crowd funding" to raise the money, that she's using her ties to the tragedy to make a quick buck.
But read what she wrote on her GoFundMe page (which has been since removed):
Dear Family & Friends,Addressed to Family and Friends. A perfectly reasonable explanation of what they plan to do with the funds.
As many of you know Michael and I had to abruptly cancel our wedding day, due to the tragedy that occurred in Charleston. June 21st was suppose to be the happiest day of our lives. It is the day every girl dreams of, it was the day we dreamed of. We had each other, we have the perfect venue, and we had our vows ready to be read. We were ready! We had planned out every detail for months and months. It was going to be the PERFECT day!
Our wedding day was suppose [sic] to be the most important and special day of our lives. It was suppose [sic] to start our lives together with our new family. Our day was the exact opposite. Our wedding day was full of sorrow, pain, and shame, tainted by the actions of one man.
The Charleston Massacre took place and our lives were forever changed. The media abused our privacy and published all of our wedding information and destroyed our dream day. Destroying the first day of Michael and my life together.
We cancelled our wedding to protect our family and mourn the lives of those lost. Many friends and family members came into town and took time off of work to be there for us. We could not ask you to do that again.
We would like the chance to start our lives on a postive [sic] note. Therefore, we have decided to start a Go Fund Me account. We know money cannot replace the wedding we lost and our perfect day, however it will help us to create new memories and a new start with our new family.
Money raised will be used to cover lost wedding costs, to pay bills, and to send us on our dream honeymoon. 10% of all funds raised will be donated to Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church. We thank you for any contrabution [sic] you can make.
Our lives have been forever changed and touched by all the love and support you have shown us through this difficult time. THANK YOU FROM THE BOTTOM OF OUR HEARTS! GOD BLESS!
And then there's the part about the "media's" role in spoiling her wedding plans. It seems social media is just as guilty of spoiling her attempts to salvage her happy new beginnings. The account was perhaps shut down as a result of the social media backlash.
I know the public nature of crowd funding might make it seem like she was appealing to the masses, but I have known several people who have used crowd funding for a variety of purposes, and without exception they used it as a convenient way to reach out to family and friends. Of course any external support is an added bonus.
Is it really so impossible that she was using the site in a similar manner, intending the primary audience/reach to be those who know her personally? That her friends and family had mentioned their desire to help her and her fiancé start over, so she set this up as a simple way to do so? Why are people so quick to assume she had intentions to "beg" money off perfect strangers? Is asking others, even strangers, for help in a time of personal need truly a crime, or "tacky?" When would it not be considered "too soon?" Isn't it possible (indeed, likely) that no matter when she set this up, someone would throw a fit about the timing? If you question her intentions or have an issue with crowd funding in general, why not just scroll on? Why is it necessary to cast judgement on her?
I've also seen many comments by other military spouses about how she could just have a quick, quiet courtroom marriage and plan a ceremony at a later date. That it's "too soon" to start planning another big wedding (although, again, this accusation seems completely baseless as her own wording implies nothing about funding another wedding). They say a lot of military couples have two anniversaries -- one for their legal marriage and one for their fancy celebration.
If that's what has worked for other couples, great! I personally know several for whom that is the case. But even if she was trying to raise funds for a new formal wedding, so what? Just because "lots of couples" have two anniversaries and there may be some perks in doing so, why should she have to settle for that if it's not what she wants?
I suspect it's jealousy, at the bottom of it all. "If a courtroom was good enough for me without tragic circumstances, it should be good enough for her!" Newsflash: people are entitled to different preferences and choices without it being a judgement on the worth of your own. If people aren't criticizing her for supposedly planning a new wedding, they're criticizing her desire for a honeymoon. "I didn't have a honeymoon... Why should she get one?" Seems to be the argument. "After all, it's the marriage that matters, not the wedding or vacation, right?" (And by the way, my husband and I never took a honeymoon, either).
I don't think it's a heinous crime to want to get away from the horror that their lives have become, to make some happy memories among all the tragic ones. If you don't want to fund it for her, fine. Don't contribute. No big deal. But how can you justify such accusations and judgements against someone you don't even know? Imply that because her brother is a monster, she should just quietly move past her own hopes and dreams for her new family? Imply, basically, that she, too, is a monster for having the audacity to accept financial help from those who care about her to help her start anew?
How might social media and public opinion of this crowd funding debacle differ if the headlines were worded differently? For example:
"Woman who Identified Charleston Shooter Cancels Wedding to Army Soldier to Mourn With Community, Sets Up Go Fund Me to Recoup Costs"
It comes down to this: why do so many people -- strangers -- feel the need to judge Amber Roof's actions or intentions? When did her private life become any of our business? Just because she turned to crowd funding? Why are we so filled with hate and scorn toward people who do things differently than we would?
I wish we would all just stop. If it doesn't involve someone we personally know, and it doesn't directly affect us, just stop. Let people live their lives, and you live yours. If anything, this woman needs support and love especially from the milspouse community she is about to join. If extending grace, support, and love is too much for you, then move along.
If you don't have something nice to say, don't say anything at all. Dragging her through the dirt may be the real tacky behavior here.
Kristin Dennison is an Army Wife and stay at home mom to two sweet girls. While her passion for horses is on hold until she has more time for them, becoming a mother has ignited a new passion and perspective in aspects of her life she never thought much of before or realized were so intertwined -- birth, parenting, human rights and politics.