In a country accustomed to all manner of American horror stories, the events of Sunday night in the Milwaukee suburb of Waukesha still had a shocking capacity.
Even in a normal year, this quiet town’s pre-Thanksgiving holiday parade would have been the kind of event that forms the foundation for safe, calm, family-oriented communities.
People marched through the streets to watch high school groups, dance troupes featuring the city’s youngest inhabitants, even the Dancing Grannies, a troupe dedicated to the idea that you are never too old to. shake a leg and breathe festive life into your community. The drink of choice was hot chocolate, the favorite accessory was pom poms, and viewers gathered in lawn chairs they had carried into town from their homes.
But this year, of course, was not the same as in previous years. The Christmas parade in Waukesha had been canceled in 2020 and the 2021 edition was meant to be restorative, to help people recover from the pandemic and give their children something at least close to a normal holiday season.
Perhaps parade participants would have spent a dollar or two in this newly struggling downtown, helping local businesses, but surely it was more important to everyone that the local kids had a good time. Some of these smaller dancers had watched a pandemic for much of their lives.
People also read …
With all this in mind, the parade organizers had imagined an ideal theme: âComfort and Joyâ.
Throughout this seasonal Americana has come an armed red SUV, allegedly driven by someone who had no history of delivering comfort and joy, but many cases of the opposite. That evening, in an act no one surely could have foreseen, this suspect turned one of the highlights of the year in Waukesha into a battlefield.
Instead of cheerfully calling their children’s names as they made their way down Main Street, panicked parents rushed to see if these kids were alive and well, only to find that in many cases , they weren’t.
It happened a few hours outside of Chicago, in a city chosen by Americans of all stripes as a safe and decent place to raise a family. Somewhere where you could protect your children from harm.
National media crews who had spent weeks covering Kyle Rittenhouse’s trial in Kenosha, just an hour’s drive away, essentially had to turn around for another story of violence and chaos in a place that had never been desired neither. And since these events fuel hungry social media channels and online outlets, shots abounded when surely none of them were needed.
If there is one event that speaks for itself, it is this horror. There was nothing to add.
Often photographers seek images that juxtapose violence and innocence, as if we don’t all now know that anyone’s world can fall apart in the blink of an eye. In Waukesha, these images were everywhere. People had spilled their hot chocolate on the asphalt, running towards their children in panic.
Some will express justified horror at what appears to be another example of the criminal justice system becoming so overwhelmed and dysfunctional that it has failed to protect Americans from a bad actor who repeats his crimes while he’s on bail. But all the facts are not yet known on this particular issue.
And as justified as this criticism may be, it should also be noted that no government official could reasonably expect someone to do something like this, just like no law enforcement officer. might have expected him to protect the parade from such a heinous act. .
Dancing grannies? “Comfort and Joy”? A Milwaukee dorm community? Who, even in this country torn apart with its unspoken but barely victimless civil war, could reasonably have thought that all of this was the target of a roller killer?
For many people, this incident will feel even more like the country has been derailed, that something is very wrong, that our mutual inhumanity is starting to make life almost unbearable.
And who could dispute this point of view?
As of this writing, we only feel sympathy for the destitute and traumatized families of our neighboring state, a place of food and rest for so many Chicagoans. We know that those with losses here must also prepare for a Thanksgiving, and many future Thanksgiving, which will bring so much pain. We wish we could change all of that for them, but we can’t.
At the very least, as we gather around our tables on Thursday, we can have a thought for those who cannot, and for whom the holiday season that follows will bring neither comfort nor joy.
Perhaps we could decide that all of us, as a country, can do much better than the events of the last few days in Wisconsin.
Our leaders should offer this charge.