Picture a man.
His skin is pale, sallow white with ruddy patches. He would call us racist if he knew we mentioned that he is white, even while he wishes it to be made clear that there is nothing wrong with being proud of white skin and what he calls white culture.
This man further wishes us to know that all lives matter, in the specific context of making sure that everyone involved agrees that his life matters regardless of whose lives are actually in question at the moment.
You have probably known a man such as this, a man who professes to hold no hate in his heart and no discriminatory values in his head, but also wishes to know what exactly is wrong with such things, as they are, after all, merely opinions which a person is entitled to hold and which cannot hurt anybody.
A man such as this professes loudly to hold no hate in his heart and no discriminatory ideas in his head, then insists he be judged and debated only on the basis of what he professes to believe, not what actions he takes. A man such as this could perhaps kill another human being and insist that we cannot possibly judge him evil if we cannot see his soul.
You have probably known a man such as this. You can probably picture such a man with only a little effort.
The specific details of what you picture do not matter much, but we will say that this man is wearing an olive drab shirt that buttons up the front, with a crisp collar. We will say he is wearing precisely creased tan slacks, that his light brown hair is cropped very short and his moustache is precisely groomed. We will say his hairline is high and pointed, his forehead indented with the ghosts of a thousand furrows, though there are few crinkles around his eyes or mouth.
We will say that the pores on his nose are large and visible, dotted and specked and in some cases scarred. We will say that he has another, larger scar just above the right corner of his mouth, a thin, slightly curved streak of puckered whiteness that slightly distorts the end of his upper lip, unevenly dotted on top with a star.
When you look at this man, you immediately know that he keeps a very tidy, very ordered desk. You do not know whether he drives a car or truck, but you are sure he keeps it spotless and gives it regular maintenance. If he has a lawn, it is trimmed as neatly as his moustache.
You know, too, that when this man must walk past you, whether he waits for you to stand aside, barrels into you, or kicks you to death without a second thought depends only and entirely on what he believes he can get away with doing at the moment, based on your appearance relative to his.
Or perhaps you look at him and think only, “I’ll bet this man knows how to run a tight ship.”
It’s what he would think, if he saw a man who looked like himself.
At the time the man joins our story, it has been six months since his wife left him, and a week and two days since the presidential election emboldened him.
A man like this will do whatever he can get away with doing, mitigated only by the extent to which doing so would seem to legitimize others doing the same to him.
He is not a woman, so he does not worry about the precedent set when men behave in any fashion that pleases them towards women, save to the extent it might affect his women, and then only just to the extent that would reflect upon him. He is white and he will always be white, so he does not worry about the shoe being on the other foot when it comes to matters of race.
He is in every regard that he can be convinced matters exactly what he would think of as a normal, everyday American, and he has no reason to care what happens to anyone who isn’t, because he can see no reason to believe it will happen to him.
He has just watched a man he sees as quite like himself seize power by doing everything he could get away with doing, knowing that power would allow him to get away with so much more. This event, as we said, emboldened him, convinced him to do the same.
This man believes that to let power lie fallow is a waste and a crime. A page he followed on social media had once posted an Ayn Rand quote about the original human inhabitants of the land he occupied, and how since they did not use the land, it was better that someone had come along and put it to use.
It had struck him as a profound idea at the time, which is to say that he saw it was profoundly useful, and it was this principle that brought him to Calvary Crossing and more particularly to its museum of art and heritage, where an artifact he had been studying from afar was now on display along with a collection of other artifacts from the Mediterranean, as part of a traveling exhibition set to run through Thanksgiving weekend…