“It ain’t what you don’t know that gets you into trouble. It’s what you know for sure that just ain’s so.” — Mark Twain
A friend asked me what my reaction was to the Rittenhouse verdict. It occurred to me that I had voiced my opinion elsewhere but not here. Of course, I knew what the verdict was going to be before it came in. It was obvious to anyone watching that the fix was in. While the verdict upset me, it was the reactions after the fact that concerned me more.
Recent years have popularized the term “doubling down.” The concept comes from Black Jack when you double your bet because you have a good hand. The question then comes when you double down with a horrible hand. You only get one more card in that instance, so your bad play also effects the rest of the table. The analogy actually works pretty well.
Conservatives have taken the verdict and have somehow started doing a victory dance. They want Rittenhouse to sue the media for spreading lies about him. They somehow think he should be glorified as a kind of hero. There are plenty of pictures of Rittenhouse joking around and posing with Proud Boys are grinning like an idiot in the back of the police car that very night.
I have a masters in school counseling. Admittedly, that’s not the same thing as being a licensed professional counselor or those that move on to get a doctorate in psychology. However, what I don’t know and likely never will is whether some people literally have no shame. It kind of depends on your point of view I guess.
Those that study sociopaths and psychopaths will say that they know right from wrong, but just don’t care. Therefore, it is relevant to question whether they have a conscience they have managed to find the off switch on or whether they never had one in the first place. What we are finding now is that we are dealing with a growing group of people that seemingly have no conscience and therefore have no shame.
This isn’t about believing that the shootings were justified or not. This is not what I’m talking about and any effort to argue that misses the whole point. The point is how to deal with people that don’t seem to have a sense of shame when they have been caught doing something wrong. We do this every day. People do shady stuff every day. We sneak a treat here or some of us cheat in other ways. We sneak because we know it’s wrong. We sneak because we actually care what others think. We sneak because of the shame we would feel if we were caught.
So again, this isn’t even about the shooting anymore. Lauren Boebert is a perfect illustration. During the debate over whether Paul Gosar should be stripped of his committee assignments and censured she spoke in his defense. Her defense wasn’t even a defense. She just launched an attack against another member of the House. It was hate speech based on bullshit in the very moment where the body was debating what to do about someone else’s hate speech and threats of violence. The timing was truly ironic and yet it was just evidence of lack of shame.
In this world it can be difficult to choose a path forward. I’ve heard suggestions of progressives arming themselves and taking their own AR-15s to every protest. The Black Panthers did the same thing in the 1960s. Suddenly, the apperarance of black people with guns changed their tune really quickly. So, the tactic has worked and I understand the impulse.
In short, the idea is to shut off the portion of our brain that activates shame. I’m not sure that’s the answer. The answer for me is to continue to highlight our own personal morality and broadcast that to the world. If we do that then we can become the moral authority we need. Some people will never be redeemed. That’s just the way the world works. Most people can be redeemed and if we give them a honest choice then we can win them over. They just have to see a choice between moral authority and nihilism. If a majority truly wants the later it won’t matter how many guns we carry anyway.