Recently, at a protest in Kenosha, Wisconsin for justice for Jacob Blake, a Black man who was shot eight times in the back by a police officer, another shooting occurred.
And what an American sentence that was.
The shooting was carried out by a 17-year-old boy named Kyle Rittenhouse. Kyle had apparently taken it upon himself to defend the private property of those living in the area, drove across state lines with a long rifle and got into several altercations in which he shot three people, killing two.
This is not normal. This is an absolute atrocity. What’s even more upsetting is the amount of people who immediately heralded Kyle as a hero, a defender of American freedom.
To be clear, I do not see the historic Black Lives Matter protests as the cause of this event. That blame falls on a combination of factors, of which the most notable is the narrative that is being spun by certain reactionary media figures, including the president.
Since the start of the BLM protests, right-wing demagogues have been painting the demonstrators not as Americans petitioning the government for a redress of grievances, but as far-left terrorists attempting to destroy America from within.
Further obfuscating the point of the protests —and providing fodder for this narrative— have been violent incidents that have occurred in response to the peaceful demonstrations.
The cell phone and television screen of most Americans have not been displaying images of Black and white protesters marching in peaceful solidarity against a system that is designed to incarcerate Black Americans, but instead have been plastered with images of broken windows and overturned police cruisers.
Images of violence presented without context or qualification, in what seems to be a deliberate effort to undermine the central conceit of the protests.
Reasonable people are usually able to separate the protests from the violence, and realize that the occurrence of it does not negate the fact that the criminal justice system in this country is racist.
But we have to keep in mind that not everyone is reasonable. And in such a volatile, uncertain, and bleak time for so many Americans, it can be easy to fall into certain traps.
Like the trap of being told that ‘evil rioters’ are coming to your city any day now to burn your favorite used car lot to the ground.
It won’t matter that you may live in a small town hours away from the nearest city. Stock up on ammunition and wait for the coming onslaught of ANTIFA terrorists who just tweeted out your address.
There are also people who have been told that it is up to the citizens to protect and defend police officers, who they see as being under attack.
Of course we can’t forget about the “great American tradition” of killing communists, and that BLM is made up of “trained Marxists” who are seeking to “attack and dethrone God”, according to Fox News.
And so, we come to Kyle. Kyle, who always expressed interest in going into law enforcement, who avidly supports the reactionary “Blue Lives Matter” movement, and who has access to guns that he is not able to purchase legally.
Kyle decides that it’s time to defend his country. He decides to do this by traveling to another state where he knows a protest is taking place, bringing his illegal firearm and “guarding” a used car lot.
In a series of altercations, first with a man who threw a plastic bag containing a bottle at him (or, if you watch Fox News, a molotov cocktail), and next with two others who attempted to disarm him. Kyle killed the man who threw the bag at him, the other who tried to disarm him, and injured the third.
There are people on my side calling Kyle a terrorist. And there are people on the other side calling Kyle a hero.
After much reflection, I’ve come to the conclusion that more than anything else, he is grotesquely stupid.
The idea of risking your life to defend another man’s private property, and killing two people in the process, just to live out your cop fantasy is absolutely deranged and he should be held accountable to the fullest extent possible.
But it would be wildly irresponsible to not also hold accountable those pushing the narrative that enabled someone like Kyle to do what he did. And until we align people once more with reality, we should get ready for more people like Kyle in the near future.