(Though it probably doesn’t deserve it, we have a ton of thoughts on Lt. Col. David Grossman’s “Sheep, Sheepdogs and Wolves” analogy. To read the entire series, please click here.)
On Monday, we addressed two of the criticisms of our Slate piece, (“The Surprising History of American Sniper’s “Wolves, Sheep, and Sheepdogs” Speech”). Today, we want to tackle some more of the rebuttals.
“This doesn’t have anything to do with race!”
Far and away, people--even people who liked the article--objected to us connecting the sheep, sheepdogs and wolves analogy to race more than any other objection. Some felt the connection was not related to the core article, or Chris Kyle.
There’s a number of rebuttals we could issue in response. First, as we wrote in the article, many (most?) Americans use race, consciously or subconsciously. In particular, many police officers use race in their decision making. (By now, most people have seen the Harvard Implicit Bias test. If not, check it out.) The sheepdog analogy, by its very nature, divides people into categories. And most people in America divide their fellow Americans into categories...using race.
Ironically, many of the people objecting to the accusation of racism had an odd response: being racist. For example…
“But black people are wolves!”
I wanted to make this point in the original article, but Michael C made me leave it out. Follow this simple logic train (which we don’t agree with):
- The world is divided into three groups, sheep, sheepdogs and wolves.
- Wolves commit crimes.
- African-Americans commit crimes more than any other group.
- Therefore, African-Americans are more likely to be wolves. (Again we don’t agree with this at all.)
Think that’s crazy? I do too, but I just wanted to follow the crazy logic of the sheepdog analogy to its logical conclusion. If this analogy is true (it’s not), African Americans are more likely to be wolves. Turns out, some commenters are already leapt to that conclusion, citing crime statistics and saying, “See, African Americans are wolves!”
And people say the gun rights debate doesn’t have anything to do with race. But let’s get more specific...
“Michael Brown was a wolf!”
Many commenters on Twitter and in the comments section objected to us using Michael Brown as an example.
From Twitter: “at the same time, the pieces author mourns a violent criminal like Michael Brown (can't speak to Garner), so…”
From the comments section: “BTW, Mike Brown was a wolf, as shown on the security video in which he assaulted and robbed a much smaller man.” and “Mike Brown was a wolf killed by a sheepdog.”
Or in more racially-loaded terms, Michael Brown was a “thug”. (Yes, someone wrote that.) And less sensitively, some commenters wrote that he deserved to get shot.
This is really where I get upset. In essence, they’re arguing that petty larceny is a crime deserving a death sentence. Yes, I mourn the death of any young man who gets shot, because I don’t see the failing as his, but a society that couldn’t help him. Especially when an overzealous law enforcement community and its supporters see shooting him as a justified action for robbing a liquor store.
That’s the gist of this article refuting us. On one hand we can’t refute this. There are definitely horrific, vile acts in the world it is hard to call anything but evil. But, as we wrote in our Slate article and many times since, the number of horrific, vile acts in the world is decreasing. Evil isn’t spreading in the world, it’s receding.
But going from “evil acts” to “evil people” is a different ball game and it begs way more questions than it answers. Does one act forever make someone evil? What about soldiers or police officers who beat their children or cheat on their wives? Are they evil? What about the torturers? What about drone strikes of weddings in Yemen? Does that make the operators in Langley sheepdogs or wolves? What about politicians making bad decisions about wars that kill innocents? Are they sheep or sheepdogs? Evil or justified?
Evil is too simplistic a term to judge people with, unfortunately. And so is the “sheep, wolves and sheepdog” analogy.