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

Now two people protesting a police shooting in Kenosha are dead and a third is wounded. Is anybody surprised?

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

Pat Nabong/Sun-Times

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 non-lethal.”

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 seen this video before.

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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 counter-protesters 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 awhile, as in Albuquerque and Kenosha, they do.

It’s a thing. A meme. Make-believe soldiers strap on their military-grade guns and head out to some supposedly 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 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. 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.

Send letters to letters@suntimes.com.

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