In 1770, on the heels of the Boston Massacre that saw occupying British troops shoot and kill five colonials, eight soldiers were indicted on murder charges.
Last weekend, on the heels of a protest at a Robert E. Lee monument in Charlottesville, an innocent woman was killed and a white supremacist suspect arrested.
And parallels between the collective responses to the separate incidences of violence can be drawn. Lessons learned ought to be similarly drawn.
In Colonial times, John Adams, along with Josiah Quincy, stepped forward to defend the Brits.
For that, they were vilified. Why? Angry Colonists saw their defense of the Brits as a betrayal of local interests — as a slap in the face of common sense — as an outright support of murder.
Adams’ and Quincy’s critics believed the Brits had acted so egregiously, they didn’t deserve defense — they deserved death sentences and quick and speedy deaths.
Law and order prevailed. The Brits received their legal defense, and six of them were ultimately acquitted of murder.
Now fast-forward to today, to Charlottesville and the media-driven hype about white supremacists carrying torches to carry out an aggressive defense of the Robert E. Lee statue.
And the popular response — the accepted response — seems to be this: Denounce the white supremacists, or you’re a white supremacist sympathizer.
That’s a pretty narrow box, though. As with the Boston Massacre and the defense of the Brits — it’s quite possible to defend the rights of someone, or a group of someones, without tossing in totally with their wickedness.
It’s quite possible to acknowledge the rights of white supremacist groups to assemble, to speak, to protest while still denouncing their bigoted views and horrific beliefs.
Adams did it with the Brits, and in so doing, made clear this country is one of law and order, not mob rule and thuggery.
America, particularly America’s media, should recognize the similarities between the two events — the common theme — and allow for more measured rhetoric, and investigations into the roots of the violence, to go forth.