My heart breaks as I watch the video of a Kenosha property owner point out his four buildings that rioters and looters destroyed in the night, after the police shooting of Jacob Blake kicked off another wave of violent lawlessness in the southern Wisconsin town.
“When we came on scene, it was just carnage,” the man, Daniel Esposito, says to the camera with a dispirited shrug, his voice sounding like it might break at any moment. “I just don’t understand why something like this would happen. It’s frustrating. I don’t understand why people do these things. Our society is just really disappointing.”
“You know, what about just being kind to people?” he asks the question so many of us want to know.
Esposito sounds like I do. His voice drips with the dairyland quality so prevalent in my home state. I see the pain in his eyes and feel it stinging in my own as I watch the worst impulses of human nature driving people to steal and kill and destroy, ravaging a neighborhood so physically and emotionally close to home. His well-worn Culver’s hat, a Midwest calling card, looks the way so many Americans feel: tattered, used, and tired.
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“I think that’s what maybe somebody should take away from today is do unto others as you’d have them do unto you,” he says. “Why don’t you just show everybody respect? I don’t care who you are, what color, race, creed — everybody deserves that.”
While I am immediately drawn to Esposito over our sameness, that isn’t what unites us. It is his message, which transcends all our differences: that Americans, regardless of racial, religious, and cultural differences, deserve respect and must take up our shared responsibility to love one another. For, of course, this man’s loss is not unique to people who look just like he does. The human depravity manifesting itself in Kenosha’s dark streets has resulted in the torching of the town’s black business district. This evil is effacing institutions, stealing childhood innocence, and dragging our fragile society further from redemption.
Jacob Blake’s life matters, as do the lives of the Kenosha residents sifting through ashes for signs of life and hope. No amount of broken glass, pepper spray, or tribalism can heal our wounds. Only the gospel can do that, worked out through the kindness and respect articulated by one crushed Kenosha man.
“Total carnage, I just don’t understand why something like this would happen” says Daniel Esposito, owner of 4 buildings that were vandalized and looted lastnight in #Kenosha pic.twitter.com/c9EfvN16ku
— Jorge Ventura Media (@VenturaReport) August 25, 2020
Our similarities can’t save us, nor can some conjured-up contrition for our inherent differences over which we have no control. If America is to overcome adversity, move forward from the atrocities of our past, and link arms with our brothers, we must be willing to rise above all the things that make us different to show everybody respect.