Kyle Rittenhouse Supporters Convict Themselves

Yes, Kyle Rittenhouse has been on trial but so has white America.

And though the former may escape justice, the latter will not be so fortunate. The evidence against it cannot be as easily manipulated or arbitrarily dismissed.

In their breathless advocacy of the heavily-armed vigilante, over and over in comment sections, message boards, cable talk shows, workplace break rooms, and kitchen tables—white Americans have convincingly testified against themselves.

Rittenhouse’s defenders are a case study in how afflicted with privilege and infected with racism this nation still is, and the intellectual gymnastics white people will engage in to justify the violence of people who look and vote like them, and to devalue the lives of those who do not.

The cognitive dissonance on display has been staggering:

They contend that Rittenhouse felt threatened by a man wielding a (supposedly deadly) skateboard, but scoff at the notion anyone would have been terrified enough by a man with an AR-15 to want to disarm him.

They justify that his victims were “looters and rioters” and therefore deserved impulsive termination—while making a martyr of Ashli Babbitt, who died as she and thousands of insurrectionists pillaged the Capitol and assaulted police officers.

They claim self-defense for someone who drove to an incendiary situation with a military grade gun: a defense he would never have required had he simply stayed home.

They argue that Rittenhouse was justified in killing people in order to protect property, underscoring the very disregard for human life that his victims were present in Kenosha protesting to begin with.

Finding logic here is fruitless. There is no consistent, rational thread to their defense of Rittenhouse, because their gunlust and supremacy do not require such unimportant inconveniences and never have. The moment he repeatedly pulled the trigger in a volatile situation he inserted himself and a high-powered weapon into, Rittenhouse became a MAGA folk hero simply because he embodies them: entitled, violent, and believing himself judge, jury, and executioner. He has is an avatar for the white fragility they have been nestled and the power they imagine is their birthright.

While the teenager’s laughable sham of a trial overseen by an unhinged judge (whose behavior has been both morally inverted and/or mentally unstable) has been playing out—in Georgia another is taking place that highlights the glaring inconsistencies racism breeds:

Ahmaud Arbery was unarmed and killed in the street.
Kyle Rittenhouse killed two strangers in the street.
One is having his character assassinated posthumously, his shooters being painted as just good ol’ misguided Good Samaritans—and the other is being beatified by Conservative Americans as a heroic figure who did what was necessary to enforce the law.

The outcome of these legal decisions, as important as they are, will not tell the bigger, more alarming story here.

In their verdicts, yes—but as much in the conversations around them, these trials are exposing the brokenness of this nation, how insidious an addiction discrimination is, and the fictional stories people will tell themselves in order to consent to killing or evade accountability.

Rittenhouse and his acolytes cannot lose. If he is found guilty, he will become the poster boy for the perpetually-oppressed, righteous white freedom fighters they all imagine themselves as and giving the Republican party raw meat to throw to its rage-blind base approaching midterm elections. In the more likely case of his acquittal, he will empower and embolden a vast multitude of armed white people with cowboy delusions who feel accountability will never come.

It’s no surprise that not long after killing two strangers and wounding another, Kyle Rittenhouse brazenly posted for photos in a Wisconsin bar wearing a t-shirt that said “FREE AS F*CK.”

That is the nation he and his supporters want, one where they are free as f*ck to:
take the law into their own hands.
murder people in the name of protecting property.
police grocery stores and neighborhood streets and combustible situations.
assault Capitols and shoot joggers.
terrorize citizens in the name of making us safer.
do whatever they want to do, even if people have to die for them to do it.

Kyle Rittenhouse has been on trial but so has white America.

The verdict isn’t encouraging.

 

 

 

MAGA Republicans Would Have Tried to Cancel Jesus

MAGAs like to tell us there is a “War on Christmas.”

They’re right.

The truth is, Jesus wouldn’t have stood a chance in MAGA America.

They would have cancelled him immediately.

When he told them to love their neighbor as themselves, they would have screamed at him to go back where he came from and spit anti-Muslim, anti-Semitic epithets from behind anonymous message board Nazi avatars, raising defiant middle fingers in his face.

When Jesus pleaded with them to welcome the stranger and embrace the outcast and receive the refugee, Tucker Carlson, Laura Ingraham, and Sean Hannity would have devoted their programming to declaring him a  subversive, radical Leftist national threat and frightening their viewers into a anti-Jesus frenzy.

When he said that people of faith were to show compassion to the least among us, as a tangible measure of their love for God—Ted Cruz would scurry to Fox News to lament his subversive and dangerous plot against American family values and urge his base to shut him down and cut all ties of support with him.

When Jesus healed the sick, fed the hungry, cared for the suffering and implored us to do the same, our former president would have issued a rambling, vile press release assassinating his character, questioning his patriotism, and inciting violence against him.

When he spoke of the last being first, of the sacredness of humility, of the virtues of generosity; when he shunned violence, denounced power, and cautioned against wealth—they’d have proudly worn their #LetsGoBrandon shirts while chanting “F*ck You, Jesus!”

If Jesus were here speaking the words attributed to him in the Gospels, performing the acts of kindness described there, and preaching the same religion of good news for the poor and the marginalized—MAGA Christians would never give him a moment’s peace.

And when all else failed to silence him, some of the most damaged and unstable among them would take to the streets with AR-15s, and in crocodile tear—claims of self-defense, would do what their laws and talk shows and press conferences and ad campaigns could not do: they would permanently cancel Jesus because his empathy and love and generosity simply would not be tolerated in the “great nation” they are building. And no Republican politician would utter a word about it.

That is the sickening truth we need to reckon with as we head toward a holiday devoted to the birth of the healing, helping, caregiving, loving Jesus: those who will most loudly declare their affinity for him and most openly wield their religion and engage in the most performative piety, would be the greatest threat to him.

So, they can talk about a “War on Christmas” all they want, but their actions and words and their relentless rejection of his teachings and of the kind of people he spent his life embracing, remind us that they are Jesus’ fiercest adversaries.

MAGAs reject love.
They ridicule empathy.
They despise diversity.
They’d have cancelled Jesus.

 

 

For White People Tired of Being Called “Racist”

Tonight, I heard an NPR segment about how many white people in America are tired of being called racist for voting Republican.

The assembled pundits expounded eloquently about how “toxic” it is for them to constantly be bombarded with the assertion that their alignment with the GOP is based solely on white supremacy.

Further, they warned “activists on the Left” to be cautious about a corrosive political tactic that would surely drive these people deeper into solidarity with Donald Trump and his surrogates and ensure Republican victories in 2022 and 2024.

The conclusion of the conversation seemed to be that white people who voted for Trump a second time (even after his violent, predatory, disfigured four-year body of work) are tired of being labeled bigots and we should be nicer to them.

Garbage.

I’m a white American.

I am one of the 81 million Americans who voted for Joe Biden and in rejection of MAGA Republicanism and everything it stands for. I am both a person of faith and someone who considers themselves extremely patriotic—and do you know what I’m tired of?

I’m tired of white people supporting a political party incessantly working to keep people of color from voting and feigning outrage at the suggestion they may be racist.

I’m tired of a timeline, comment section, and inbox, littered with the most vile epithets and always knowing what voting block the authors belong to because they always tell me.

I’m tired of seeing people passionately defending a lawless vigilante like Kyle Rittenhouse, who executed people who were themselves protesting the unlawful assassination of an unarmed black man—and noticing they all share a similar pigmentation.

I’m tired of seeing the loudest, most violent opposition to racial equity in this country come from white people professing to love a dark-skinned, foreign Jesus and operating as if God is a white guy who was born in American, raised Christian, and votes Republican.

I’m tired of former church friends, neighbors, and family members hiding behind the flimsy facade of “economic insecurity” and “abortion”—to cover the reality that they are terrified of the shifting demographics of this nation and are willing to make the strangest bedfellows to stave them off.

I’m tired of seeing one political party legislatively assaulting vulnerable communities’ right to vote, healthcare, affordable housing, and comparable education—and of millions of white Americans trying to justify how they have been “driven to this” by activists and bloggers and the media, instead of just admitting they largely agree with the bigots.

White people in America, if you’re really tired of being called racists, maybe you can begin by clearly, unequivocally, and loudly divorcing yourself from the single most racist entity on the planet right now. That would be a great start.

If you’re truly offended at the assertion that you might be a white supremacist—ask yourself whether sharing a voting block with The Proud Boys, the KKK, Marjorie Taylor Greene, Madison Cawthorn, Paul Gosar, Lauren Boebert, Stephen Miller, Steve Bannon, and BlueLivesMatter is a convincing rebuttal or a strong case for the prosecution.

You are known by the company you keep, by the people you vote for, those you contribute to and elevate to public office and the highest courts of this nation. And if your self-righteous outrage at being labeled a racist is real, you’re going to need to explain how you can be someone who honestly treasures diversity—and stands alongside its greatest and fiercest adversaries.

If you really find the idea of racism objectionable and are committed to dismantling it:

Work to ensure voting rights for all Americans—and take note of those resisting them.

Stop attacking Critical Race Theory and begin actually finding out what it is.

Read a book about the realities of systemic racism, white privilege, and the human toll of discrimination written by people of color.

Participate in and publicize a march, rally, vigil, or awareness event that you know will cause turbulence with your circle of influence—and ask yourself why that’s a problem.

Volunteer with a nonprofit, ministry, or community organization in your city working on the front lines where marginalized communities facing the direct effects of the legislation you support.

Openly confront family members, friends, coworkers, classmates, and social media  friends when they perpetuate racist tropes and stereotypes—and see how they respond.

In other words: learn, speak, work, give, and vote in a way that rattles people of privilege, that takes power from those who traffic in inequity, and threatens those most comfortable in systemic supremacy. Be willing to cross the aisle or leave a church or lose a friend to demonstrate just how opposed to this you are.

If you’re not willing to do those things, you’re just going to have to deal with the fallout and the pushback and the implications from the rest of us.

You may be tired of being called racist, white friends. The rest of us are tired of you partnering with racists and expecting us to be OK with it and to be silent about it.

I’m not OK with it and I’m not going to be silent about it.

If that offends you, that’s on you.

I’m Not Saying Conservative Christianity is Anti-Jesus. Jesus is.

The steady stream of vitriol I receive from professed Christians who identify as MAGA or QAnon or Republican is completely understandable.

As they fire-off threatening texts, furiously tap out expletive-laden emails, and break into violent, performative histrionics on social media, I genuinely feel for them. They’re often getting some really bad second-hand news from me that blows up the story they’ve spent a long time telling themselves and depend on to validate and to justify them.

They’re coming face to face with the sobering reality that they are antithetical to Jesus.

Worse than that, they aren’t hearing that news from me—they’re hearing it from Jesus.

There are few things that confound and infuriate Conservative Christians quite like the simple, clear, unadorned words of Jesus as documented in the Bible they so loudly and frequently claim to love, believe in, and live by. It’s almost miraculous:

Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.  Matthew 5:9

When you’re part of an antagonistic movement built almost exclusively on a self-righteous battle posture: on a theology and politics that require an enemy, an adversary, an encroaching danger, a culture war foe to be defeated—the idea of being a peacemaker really pisses you off. MAGAs don’t like peace. They refuse to coexist with it. They cannot abide it. It’s not a compatible idea.

Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.  Matthew 25:45

The poor, the outcast, the hurting, the hungry, the homeless, the lonely. Jesus said he literally inhabits the most vulnerable among us, and that the way we treat them is the way we treat Jesus himself. That’s a really disturbing reality, when you spend so much of your time denying people healthcare and cutting social programs and assault voting rights and legislatively attacking people for their sexuality or their nation of origin or their pigmentation. The news that according to Jesus, you devote a great deal of your life treating Jesus like garbage—tends not to be received too well.

For God so loved the world…  John 3:16

The world. God loves the world. That includes the planet, the climate around it, the resources within it, the disparate humanity and expansive life upon it. No America First. No “Go back where you came from” nationalistic bluster.  No, “Don’t Tread on Me” middle-finger defiance. If you so love the world as God does, you fight for diversity, you welcome immigrants and foreigners, you demand environmental responsibility, you want more people to have voices, not fewer. When America becomes your world—you’re opposing God.

“Put your sword back in its place,” Jesus said to him, “for all who draw the sword will die by the sword.  Matthew 26:52

That’s the part of the oft-quoted story that gun-loving Christians never want to read: the part where Jesus reprimands his disciple who uses a weapon to defend him, reminding him and those listening, that his people will not be a people of retributive violence, that they will be those who shun force and turn the other cheek and resist harming others and de-escalate conflict. That is a really hard truth for the NRA, God and Guns, Come and Take It crowd, who really want Jesus to be cool with their instigating, posturing bloodlust—and who have to hear straight from Jesus that he isn’t.

‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.   Matthew 22:37-39

Loving your neighbor. Jesus says unequivocally that this is the priority and the point, and the way we show our love for God: the way we treat other human beings. When Conservative Christians realize that this includes their Muslim neighbor, their transgender neighbor, their Jewish neighbor, their Liberal neighbor, their uninsured neighbor, their undocumented neighbor, their black neighbor—they usually don’t react very well.  When you aren’t able or willing to practically or tangibly extend love to such a vast portion of your neighbors in any meaningful way, that is a difficult theological pill to swallow.

Honestly, I empathize with people who want to be both Christian and MAGA, who think they can be devoted to Jesus and to Donald Trump simultaneously, who labor under the false assumption that their bastardized, territorial, self-centered white nationalist GOP version of Christianity is remotely of God.

And I know that the actual words of Jesus are the most triggering of any they could be faced with, and so the venom these generate aren’t surprising and neither is their scalding rage toward those of us who regularly share those words with them.

MAGA friends, I’m not saying this white Republican theocracy built on power, exclusion, and subjugation that you’re tethered to is anti-Jesus.

Jesus is saying that.

I know you really want to shoot the messenger.

That’s been going on for two-thousand years.