One of the principals I used to work for had a motto: it matters. Ultimately, what that meant is that everything matters. Unfortunately, that can’t literally be true. If everything matters then nothing really matters. This governing philosophy impacts so many things. It impacts our political priorities. It impacts our priorities in education. It impacts our priorities individually as we run through life.
Occasionally, the world of sports and the political world collide. Star basketball player Brandon Miller is a perfect example. For those that don’t want to go down the rabbit hole, he was involved in a fatal shooting in January. He did not pull the trigger, but the gun was supplied by him. From here we get into the normal rigmarole of whether he possessed the gun legally, knew how the gun would be used beforehand, or even if he knew the gun was in possession prior to the shooting. What we know is that the shooter asked him to bring the gun via text message before he arrived. He may not have read the text before leaving or didn’t realize he was actually bringing the gun.
This case is interesting for any number of reasons. For one, he is still playing basketball and has since the incident occurred. The university, his coach, and the athletic department presumably knew about the incident after it happened in January. We are in damn near March and he is still leading his team in scoring and driving them to a number two overall ranking. He hasn’t been charged with a crime, so I guess they legally can do that. However, as we have discussed before, there is a huge difference between whether we CAN do something and whether we SHOULD do something.
This is where we ask a few common sense questions. If your best friend calls you up or texts you after midnight and casually says, “oh, and can you bring the gun?” you would think just about everyone would ask some very pointed questions. After all, very little good can come of that situation. His attorneys will obviously argue that he couldn’t foresee what would happen. Maybe he didn’t know that a murder would occur, but he should have known something.
I’d be remiss not to point out the similarities between Miller and Kyle Rittenhouse. No, he didn’t bring an AR-15. He wasn’t protecting property. However, the language surrounding it is similar. Maybe he legally could possess the gun. Maybe he was returning the property to his friend. Maybe Rittenhouse could legally bring an AR-15 over straight lines. Maybe he had a legal right to defend himself. Maybe a lot of things. What we know is that neither of them should have been doing these things.
There is a difference between legal culpability and moral culpability. More importantly, notice the difference between the groups of people that make excuses for each of these young men. I guarantee that the intrinsic circle in the Venn diagram will be very small. As an educator, I can’t help but think that we’ve failed these young men. We’ve made excuses for both of them for different reasons. One can run, jump, and shoot better than most of us. Another fit a narrative of the good guy with a gun. In the not so distance past, both would feel some level of shame that would cause them to withdraw for at least a time so they could rebuild their image. March Madness is just around the corner. Sadly, the time for culpability or personal responsibility will have to wait.