Like many people this week, I have been watching the Kyle Rittenhouse trial. Unlike most, I have been obsessed with it. I have watched almost every minute of the proceedings.
I won’t comment on the trial itself. I’ll leave that for people to judge for themselves. What I want to discuss is narrative.
You might be surprised to know just how many people have an outright false idea of the facts of this case. It isn’t their fault. They have repeatedly been fed a narrative. It doesn’t matter whether that narrative includes straight lies, or just a bunch of inferences that lead people to think something that didn’t happen. What matters is that most of us have no idea what happened and everyone has very strong opinions without knowing the facts.
I’m noticing on social media a whole lot of people saying how shocked they are to discover that “the facts” they know just aren’t true. Such as thinking he carried a weapon across state lines (he didn’t), or thinking the people who were shot were black (they were not), or being sure it was a head wound that was fatal to Joseph Rosenbaum (it was not). Or simply not knowing his father lives in Kenosha and it was Kyle's second home. It was HIS community he was protecting.
The country is ready to riot over this trial and most people have no idea what actually happened.
We are furious with each other but rarely are speaking about the same things. We are speaking over each other and past each other. We don’t share the same narrative any more. They can’t believe that you can be so callous in the face of the facts - and vice versa. The trouble is that you are discussing completely different situations.
Be aware. Be aware that your neighbor is hearing false information. Be aware that you are likely hearing false information. Once-trusted news sources don’t even try any more. They have no shame. Outright lies are printed regularly, and they care not at all that their lies will hurt a lot of people. Do not uncritically trust what you read or see.
Be gentle with your neighbor. If you heard the same facts he did, you might feel the same way he does. Remind each other; you are both being fed false narratives. Try to find what is real from each of your stories. Together. Don’t focus on the lies; focus on the ones telling you the lies.
Don’t let anyone tear you apart. Whether the narrative is written by the powerful for political reasons or just some fly-by-night who is laying down click bait; whatever it is, work together with someone on “the other side” and see if you can both find out where the misinformation is coming from. Turn your attention to mass misinformation. Do it together. Big narrative is the problem. Find your way back to one another and fight the enemy together. The enemy is the one telling you the lies. They want you fighting each other. Don’t let them win.
When you pass the potatoes this year, have conversations about how manipulative media is and how bad it is for us all. Remember; we love each other. Don’t let them tear us apart any more. It’s time to find a way back to each other.