This is the boy who drove to a town he didn’t live in, joining many other armed extremists from outside, with the specific intent of confronting American citizens protesting the shooting of an unarmed man seven times in the back, leaving him paralyzed. This boy and his fellow armed extremists — who were “violating curfew” just as the protestors were — mingled with the police before the protest began. The police gave water to this boy and his fellow extremists, praised them, thanked them for coming (and breaking the curfew, which was the excuse for the police to move against the protestors). The police told this boy and the armed extremists that they would force the protestors toward the extremists, “because you guys know how to handle them.” (This is the testimony of the extremists themselves.)
The police, having declared the protest for equal justice to be unlawful because the participants were violating the curfew, then used violence to drive the protestors toward the armed extremists – who didn’t live in the town, who came armed to the town with the intention of committing violence (as their social media posts showed), and who, again, were just as much in violation of curfew as the protestors.
In the chaos that followed this police riot — the beatings, tear gas, flash grenades, etc. — this boy took his weapon and murdered an unarmed protestor. He then walked to the police lines with his hands up, apparently expecting to be arrested for the murder he had committed in plain sight. They let him walk on. A few minutes later, this boy murdered another protestor with the gun he brought, from another state, to take part in a planned action of violence. This boy, who had murdered two people in plain sight on a street crammed full of police, then left the town where outside extremists came to foment violence. He was later arrested at his home, in another state, far from the town where he murdered two people.
Look at this boy. Imagine what kind of vile poison has been poured into his young mind for years by some of the wealthiest, most powerful people in the land — indeed, the world. Rupert Murdoch, first and foremost. Donald Trump. The Mercers. The Sinclairs. The DeVos clan. The Kochs. The whole network of extremist billionaires funding hate groups and “think tanks” churning out justification for the domination of society by rapacious, unaccountable elites. The Falwells and Robertsons and other con artists growing rich on the utter perversion of the religion they falsely profess. The social media networks that have gleefully and profitably let floods of hatred and lies stream across the globe, day in, day out. The Republican Party – all of them, even the “moderates” like Lamar Alexander or Susan Collins, who have sat by silently as a gangster and his goons took over the US government, who have supported the gangster and Murdoch and the Kochs and the Mercers and all the rest.
This boy – living, like so many, in a violent, hate-soaked, hallucinated reality created, for profit, by the rich and powerful – is fully responsible for the evil he has committed. But I tell you this. Rupert Murdoch is also responsible for these murders. Donald Trump is also responsible for these murders. Lamar Alexander is also responsible for these murders. All those who have weaponized and/or monetized hatred and ignorance; all those who have profited from the denigration and destruction of the very notion of the common good, of human commonality, of the inherent worth of every single human being; all those, throughout “respectable” society, who looked away while these tides of hatred were rising, fuelled by the rich and powerful — oligarchs and corporations who bribe and fund and call the tune for both parties – all of them are also responsible for these murders.
The murderous rot in this country starts at the top, and it has spread all the way down, into the very minds of our children. We are in a much darker and more dangerous place than most of us can bear to contemplate (myself included). But we must brace ourselves, for we have not yet, even now, seen the worst of what’s to come. We must be ready, with eyes open; we must be steadfast, even with despair battering our hearts. And, heeding the words Bob Dylan sang 40 years ago, we must fight, always, to strengthen the things that remain.
*Edited to remove reference to the boy living “hundreds of miles” from Kenosha; his home town was closer than that. Apologies.