Let me try this again, Johnny. When I read this the first person that came to mind was Kyle Rittenhouse. The reason I responded using him as an example was how too many responded to him- the words we choose (criminal or hero) frame the narrative about who someone is long before anyone gets there. I’m doing my level best to support your point. The way it felt to me was that people had already decided that protestors (“rioters, looters, criminals”) were bad, and that anyone who came to rescue, if you will, and shot someone, unarmed or not, was a hero. You can,I hope, hear my sarcasm. That kind of binary thinking doesn’t allow for any grey area wherein someone can legitimately say that something is fundamentally wrong- as in killing people for the crime of having the wrong skin color. I keep remembering how the police treated Dylann Roof after the church massacre.

I know you’re not talking about Rittenhouse specifically. More so what I hear is the way we individually set ourselves up to be jury, judge and executioner long before there is any kind of trial, which seems to increasingly be our habit. We vocalize that someone is a hero or a criminal if that person either supports or challenges our point of view. That point of view, by the way, ended budding dating relationships with two different white guys who used that kind of terminology to describe what was happening in Portland. “They riot and loot and burn all day, then go back home to party all night,” said one. Pass. Run.

I have no clue how we got to a point where if someone peacefully protests a bad Supreme Court nomination that means they are “:criminal and lawless,” but if some kid kills two peaceful protesters he is elevated as a hero and gains cult status, well. That’s what I was addressing. Words matter. Far more than I think anyone can possibly understand, they matter.

It is frankly terrifying, our increasing inability to perceive shades of gray, to withhold any kind of judgement until we understand evidence, and to have the patience to build understanding.

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