What's Tony Thinking

Fast Takes: Waukesha, Courtrooms, and Twitter


What a terrible tragedy in Waukesha, Wisconsin. I reached out to my friend there, Jim Gorman, a retired pastor in Waukesha whose former church is on the route of the holiday parade that was turned into a site of chaos, mayhem and death.

Jim had this to say. “The only thing to be ‘thankful’ for, if we can say that, is that the ‘person of interest’ is a an ill man in trouble with the law not a terrorist, a white racist or someone seeking revenge for the Rittenhouse verdict. Just a run-of-the-mill ill man.” Such strange times that we can be thankful for that, but we are.

We must pray for that entire community, those who have lost loved ones, and especially for the 18 hospitalized children, 10 in ICU in “critical” condition.

We’re all watching courtrooms these days, it seems. Now, Georgia and the closing arguments in the Ahmaud Arbery murder trial. I agree with law professor at the University of San Francisco, Lara Bazelon, writing at Substack that this is the trial that progressives should be focusing on. Here’s Bazelon:

“Progressive America has been obsessing over the wrong case. For weeks, activists and commentators have been laser focused on the trial of Kyle Rittenhouse in Kenosha, insisting that it illustrated systemic racism when all the players were white and the verdict turned on the application of Wisconsin’s permissive self-defense law. In doing so, the public has largely ignored a gut-wrenching trial about this exact malady.”

Racism, both individual and systemic, seems much more squarely at the heart of it in the Ahmaud Arbery case. I could handle the Rittenhouse verdict, given Wisconsin law. But the Georgia case demands a guilty verdict. What the two have in common, however, is vigilanteism by armed civilians.

About vigilantes and the Arbery case, Bazelon says this,

“Whether you believe the defendants in this case are racist or not, it is undisputed that they felt empowered to act under Georgia’s citizen’s arrest statute, enacted in 1863. That law—which was rightly repealed by Georgia’s Republican governor in the wake of Arbery’s death—permitted civilians to detain anyone if they had ‘immediate knowledge’ that the person committed a crime or ‘reasonable and probable grounds of suspicion’ to believe he was a fleeing felon.

“It is this law that stands between the defendants and guilty verdicts for conduct that would otherwise be indefensible vigilante violence. While race-neutral on its face, it is rooted in racism.  As the Cornell historian Ed Baptist explained to me, ‘these laws going all the way back to the 1600s demonstrate a very long pattern of whites, particularly in the South, believing that they have the discretion to use deadly force against African Americans in situations that are outside their homes when they are not authorized in any professional way to do this.’”

The open carry gun laws in 43 states are nuts, imho. Should you wish to read the whole piece from Bazelon, which goes deep in the Arbery case, click here.

I liked this from Nadia Bolz-Weber yesterday re Twitter, which I’ve not ever joined.

“I took Twitter off my phone 6 months ago and It felt…like having a tumor removed…like, sure it hurt for a while but the pain was worth the increased life expectancy. For the last several years it has felt like being a progressive on social media is like playing a poorly designed video game in which you never actually engage the other team, you just earn ranking points by showing how the people on your own team are wrong. If you can call out the ideological impurity of another person’s tweet, you get to level up in the game and call it ‘activism’.”

She does have a way with words, doesn’t she?




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