Monday, November 22, 2021

Avoiding the maw of outrage

Jonathan V. Last (aka JVL) has some good advice conveyed via _The Bulwark_: Don’t get sucked into the maw of outrage.

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It’s easy to get sucked into the maw of outrage. After the verdict came down last week there were a lot of bad people acting badly. But here is my ask of you:

Don’t react to the reactions. Because they are—at most—of tertiary importance.

What is important about the Rittenhouse trial?

First and foremost: America. Everything about this case was designed to pour gasoline on the culture war and put us at each others’ throats even more than we already were.

The absolute worst-case result would be that people aggrieved by the verdict launch into retaliatory violence and people who cheered Rittenhouse feel empowered to do more shooting, thinking that self-defense is now a shield that will protect them from hurting others when they go looking for trouble.

It is possible that the Waukesha car killings from Sunday are downstream from the Rittenhouse case in one way or the other. It’s also possible they’re unrelated.

The point is this: The single most important thing for America is bringing the temperature down on all of this.

Yes, there are bad people acting badly. But this isn’t about them. It’s about the country. It’s about putting a lid on violence before it gets even more out of control and costs even more people their lives.

Second, this trial was about real people: Joseph Rosenbaum, Anthony Huber, and Kyle Rittenhouse. None of these three woke up on August 25, 2020 and thought that their lives were going to change irrevocably. Rosenbaum and Huber didn’t think it was the last time they’d see the sun rise. Rittenhouse didn’t think that everything about his life was about to be swept away, for good.

These three individuals—and their families—suffered terribly because they each made a series of stupid decisions that led them into tragedy. There are no good guys. Just three men with bad judgment. Two of them didn’t get to walk away; the other will carry the burden of that night for the rest of his days. If you think Kyle Rittenhouse “won,” then you’re crazy. I would not trade places with that boy for all the whiskey in Ireland.

Everything else is just noise. The bad people behaving badly, the circus—none of that actually matters.

And yet the way our society functions today, the circus is what gets elevated above everything else.

Some bad actor acts badly in a bid for your attention. What he says is so vile that you react, thinking that it’s important to push back against it. And then you’re pulled into the hurricane.

Don’t do it.

You have a finite amount of energy. Don’t give any of it—not one damn joule—to the circus. Instead, give your energy to people you love. Give it to people who need help this week. Chances are that someone you know lost a loved one this year. Instead of hitting retweet or reply on something awful, text them to see how they’re doing. Or give them a call. Or pop over and knock on their door to check on them.

It may not look like it right now, but we are all in this together.

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