Perhaps the most powerful moment at either the Republican or Democrat convention was the 5 minute speech delivered by Ann Dorn, widow of David Dorn, the retired police captain gunned down by rioters in St. Louis. In the short address on the final night of the RNC, Ann described the events of that fateful night in May. To hear it from her perspective is to understand that the term “rioting” is not an abstract concept but an actual human tragedy and injustice that destroys the lives of real people.
We should pay special attention to Ann’s explanation as to how her elderly husband ended up downtown late at night during violent riots. She explained that David was a longtime friend of the owner of a pawnshop and had agreed to oversee security for the store as a favor. As the city descended into chaos, David decided to go to the store to keep the looters away. One of the looters, carrying a stolen television, shot Dorn dead. His dying moments were live streamed on Facebook.
The story is harrowing and infuriating, but it also sheds light on the admirable character of the victim. This one detail alone — that Dorn would leave his home in the middle of the night and brave the violent mobs just to help a friend — tells you everything you need to know about him. He was, it is obvious, a thoroughly decent man, and far more courageous than the average person. His death should provoke deep outrage and sadness in anyone who hears of it.
But here is the startling fact. A great many people in this country do not really feel very outraged by David Dorn’s death at all. They do not consider it an injustice worthy of much attention, let alone mass protest. There are those in this country who seem to be specially enraged by death when it happens to violent criminals who assault police or resist arrest. The murder of the good and the innocent, on the other hand, seems not to trouble them very much. It is difficult for a well adjusted person to understand such a mentality, but it is indeed the mentality of many Americans.
There are consequences to this. As human beings, we emulate our heroes. We follow in the footsteps of those we have appointed as our leaders. We are inspired and motivated by whichever martyrs we choose to raise up and honor.
What happens, then, when we tear down the statues of our historical icons, and choose to ignore modern day heroes like David Dorn, and instead honor men like George Floyd and Jacob Blake? Floyd was a violent criminal and drug abuser who once forced his way into a woman’s home and put a gun to her stomach. He died while high on potentially lethal doses of Fentanyl and resisting arrest. Jacob Blake was apparently intimidating his girlfriend when the cops arrived to arrest him on a warrant for domestic abuse and sexual abuse. Why should they be the names that our whole country cries out in grief while relegating a name like David Dorn to a lesser status?
Of course, just because someone was a bad guy that doesn’t automatically make their death or injury at the hands of police justified. That justification, or lack of justification, arises from their behavior and the choices they make in the moment when police are trying to arrest them.
It should be possible to make the case that a man’s death or injury was wrong without canonizing him in the process. But we do not walk that line in our culture today. The names of men killed by police are spoken with religious reverence, and their murals and likenesses adorn our cities. We make them into role models. We build them into myths. We elevate them. And in elevating the George Floyds of the world, while ignoring the David Dorns, we end up with more George Floyds and fewer David Dorns. That is a tragedy of its own.
More from Matt Walsh: Before You Honor Jacob Blake As A Martyr, Read The Criminal Complaint Against Him