It’s a thing. A meme. Make-be­lieve sol­diers strap on their big guns to show who’s boss

Chicago Sun-Times - - OPINION -

We look at the video and see a baby-faced teen with an as­sault rifle.

Kyle Rit­ten­house. Sev­en­teen years old.

A reporter asks what he’s up to. He says he’s “pro­tect­ing” peo­ple. The reporter asks if his weapons are “non-lethal.”

He says, “We don’t have non­lethal.”

Now two peo­ple protest­ing the po­lice-shoot­ing of Ja­cob Blake in Kenosha are dead, a third is wounded, and Rit­ten­house is charged with first-de­gree in­ten­tional homi­cide.

Is any­body sur­prised?

It’s not like we haven’t see this video be­fore.

We saw it on June 17 in Al­bu­querque, New Mex­ico, when an armed man shot a pro­tester who was try­ing to take down a statue of the Span­ish con­quis­ta­dor Juan de Oñate, seen by many as a sym­bol of op­pres­sion.

We saw it on July 10 in Mil­wau­kee when a group of armed white men sur­rounded a group of Black Lives Mat­ter pro­test­ers.

We saw it on July 4 in Phoenix when a group of armed coun­ter­protesters aimed their loaded ri­fles at an un­armed group demon­strat­ing against po­lice bru­tal­ity.

We saw it on May 15 in Har­ris­burg, Penn­syl­va­nia — when hun­dreds of armed pro­test­ers, some car­ry­ing signs com­par­ing Dr. An­thony Fauci to a Nazi — called for an end to the state’s pan­demic lock­down. Pres­i­dent Trump later tweeted ap­prov­ingly, say­ing Penn­syl­va­ni­ans “want their free­dom now.”

The cir­cum­stances that led to Rit­ten­house allegedly fir­ing his rifle are still murky. Au­thor­i­ties aren’t say­ing much about what hap­pened be­fore the teen ended up on the ground, re­peat­edly fir­ing his weapon.

But what we do know is this: There’s noth­ing strange in Amer­ica, noth­ing at all, about right-wing white men of lim­ited good sense parad­ing around with big guns, con­vinced they are sav­iors of the Amer­i­can way of life, when in fact they are ob­vi­ous fools.

In the ear­lier months of the COVID-19 pan­demic, a leg­is­la­tor in a red state could hardly en­ter a state­house door with­out first run­ning a gauntlet of armed and an­gry men who were con­vinced this coro­n­avirus thing was a lefty plot to steal their free­doms.

We watch the videos, one af­ter an­other, and hope no­body shoots any­body.

But once in a while, as in Al­bu­querque and Kenosha, they do.

It’s a thing. A meme. Make­be­lieve sol­diers strap on their mil­i­tary-grade guns and head out to some cocka­mamie lefty demon­stra­tion to show who’s boss — who’s the real Amer­ica — and some­body else of great im­pres­sion­abil­ity fol­lows their lead, and some­body else fol­lows, and still some­body else, and one day you’ve got a 17-year-old kid from An­ti­och, Illi­nois, Kyle Rit­ten­house, driv­ing up to Kenosha, Wis­con­sin, with his own big bad gun, ready to fire.

We have a ques­tion for the cops in all this: What do you make of these peo­ple?

We have to ask be­cause, to be hon­est, we’re not sure.

There’s video from Tues­day night of Rit­ten­house walk­ing around with his big bad gun, car­ry­ing it openly, past Kenosha cops and no­body’s ask­ing him any­thing. Wis­con­sin is an open-carry state. You can carry an AR-15 down Sheri­dan Road in Kenosha the way you can carry a beer down Bour­bon Street in New Or­leans.

But in the mid­dle of a riot? No­body checks him out?

What if Rit­ten­house — and we know some peo­ple hate this ques­tion — had been black?

An­other video cir­cu­lat­ing on so­cial me­dia ap­pears to show Rit­ten­house talk­ing with the cops in a mil­i­ta­rized po­lice ve­hi­cle, which is a kind of tank. He’s look­ing for a bot­tle of wa­ter. Some­body ap­pears to throw him one, and a voice over a mega­phone says, “We ap­pre­ci­ate you guys. We re­ally do.”

And then there’s the hor­ror show. When three peo­ple are shot, ap­par­ently by Rit­ten­house, two of them fa­tally. One body goes still al­most in­stantly.

Af­ter the shoot­ing, Rit­ten­house is walk­ing down the street as po­lice ve­hi­cles turn a cor­ner and head his way. He raises his arms. Is he sur­ren­der­ing? Is he say­ing hello?

We don’t know.

But nei­ther do the cops, who roll right by him.

Though his big bad gun is in plain sight.

Maybe he didn’t look like what they were look­ing for.

PAT NABONG/SUN-TIMES

The scene Wed­nes­day morn­ing in Kenosha on the block where a 17-year-old allegedly opened fire on a crowd the night be­fore. Two peo­ple were fa­tally shot and an­other was in­jured.

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