Tragedy…Not Guilt, Not Innocence

Neither innocence nor guilt will add much to our understanding of the deaths of these two men.

Neither innocence nor guilt will add much to our understanding of the deaths of these two men.


[This is a fourth article from our guest writer who does not wish to make his identity known. I refer to him as G, a retiree who moved to Bellingham over 15 years ago. His previous pieces were, Enough, MintTheCoin - Money for Everyone and A Pandemic and a Depression.]

The word tragedy refers specifically to an ancient Greek dramatic plot in which a hero consciously or unconsciously sacrifices their life in order to or with the effect of curing a city state or other sort of society of a plague or saving it from other disasters that are destroying it. China’s Wuhan based whistle blower Dr. Li Wenliang, 34, who died of COVID-19 on Feb. 7 after having co-discovered the disease is a recent example of a tragic hero, as is his comrade scientist, Dr. Mei Zhongming, 57, whose death from the novel virus was announced on March 3.

Wars and revolutions are events in all of which tragic heroes exist, not only on one side of such conflicts, but on both sides. The word tragedy does not appear in this Guardian article of September 4th, “Suspect in Portland killing of far-right protester ‘shot dead’ by US marshals”, but that is nonetheless its subject. We can be confident that far right member of Patriot Prayer Aaron “Jay” Danielson, 39, believed that what he was doing might cure America of what he perceived are wrongheaded protestors, and we can be equally certain that his killer BLM supporter Michael Forest Reinoehl, 48, killed by U.S. marshals, believed that what he was doing was the right and necessary thing to pursue.

These killings occurred in Washington state, where I live and where ‘open-carry’ is the law for toting guns. The Republican and Democratic legislators who for decades cravenly catered to the godawful National Rifle Association’s propaganda, power and money are responsible for a lot of killings, including at least in part those described below.

It seems probable that what actually happened when Danielson and Reinoehl confronted each other will never be decisively known, nor may what really occurred between the U.S. marshals and Reinoehl ever be fully known. At this time there are no films that clarify anything, and all testimony is likely to be prejudiced by the opinions of witnesses and self-interested politicians. So I’m writing only about tragedy, not who was guilty, nor who was innocent. In cases involving tragedy, innocence and guilt are not what most needs to be understood.

I do hope each of you takes a few minutes to watch the filmed interview (Man Linked to Killing at a Portland Protest Says He Acted in Self-Defense) of a reporter with BLM supporter Michael Forest Reinoehl, who was later killed by the marshals. It will help you decide for yourself what sort of person he was. I don’t know if there is a film of the man he shot dead saying anything, but if there is I’ll watch it, too.

As my readers know, I’m firmly on the side of the BLM protesters, and my bet is that a street revolution is well under way in America, but still in its early phase … and very likely going to get worse and worse. But that does not mean that I am, should or could be unaware of the human cost on both sides, nor unaware of the pity of our species. As is everything in Nature, the human condition is complex and nether bad nor good. It just is. We all imagine we can do something to change things for the better. I’d like that to be true, and I, like you, believe that those with whom I stand possess the ideas most likely to achieve something better for all people, everywhere.

And that’s what is the pity of our species. Either one path or another is the best one, and our nature prevents us from ever agreeing to all take only this one, or that one.

About Guest Writer

Citizen Journalist • Member since Jun 15, 2008

Since 2007, this moniker has been used over 150 times on articles written by guest writers who may write once or very occasionally for Northwest Citizen, but not regularly. Some guest writers [...]

Comments by Readers

Aaron Brand

Sep 10, 2020

I don’t believe that only one path is best. This is tragic, yes. But one of these men is guilty of murder, the other is not. It is my belief that Black lives matter. It’s clear that their dear leader was put into power by, and his supporters in the Senate are now courting, white supremacists and other extremists fighting against the steady progress that this great nation has made over the last 50+ years to end white privelege. That doesn’t mean that we should start killing white supremacists. Or even punching them in the face (as good as that might feel).

BTW, my carrying a firearm openly has no impact on whether or not I commit violence against other people. It does, however, make it more likely that no one will perpetrate violence against me or my loved ones.


Steve M. James

Sep 10, 2020

Aaron, BTW, I have lived and spent extended time in several developed countries throughout the world. None of them allow open carry by it’s ciitizenry. I never felt unsafe or threatened while in any of them. Unfortunately I cannot say that about my time in the USA of late. Perhaps we should devote some of the energy being used in the armed society debate to work on buidling a society where carrying weapons is not necessary.  


Nicholas Sotak

Sep 10, 2020


I’m sure you’ve heard all this before, but I thought I would bring up a few things for the sake of the larger discussion on guns in society, and a large factor in why the two men mentioned above are now dead.

When you say, “my carrying a firearm openly has no impact on whether or not I commit violence against other people”, I think it’s important to point out that when you open carry (or conceal carry), *if you do* commit violence against other people it’s likely going to be deadly.  There’s not much (no?) room for error when guns are involved.  Uninvolved bystanders are also put at risk.  Further, there are plenty of scenarios when more than one party has a gun which makes the chances of further escalation very high.

You may feel having a weapon on display keeps you safer from agression, but by carrying one at all the potential for unintended harm goes through the roof.  There are too many examples of (trained and untrained) people mishandling or improperly storing firearms, with extremely sad results. 

For all those reading this who make the choice to carry a firearm or keep one in their home: Please take the responsibility that comes with it seriously. Get plenty of sleep. When you feel fired up (by whatever) - leave your firearm unloaded, disassembled, and locked away. Also understand that, from a purely statistical point of view, you and everyone around you is more likely to be shot when you carry.


Ralph Schwartz

Sep 11, 2020

A couple points of clarification/correction: I’ve read reports on Reinoehl/Danielson in multiple media, including The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal and the Los Angeles Times. None of the reports I’ve read align Reinoehl with Black Lives Matter. In fact, Reinoehl was a self-described affiliate of Antifa. I think it’s important, since this man was sought by law enforcement as a murder suspect, that his name not become synonymous with Black Lives Matter.

Second, more of a clarification: To say Reinoehl was shot dead by U.S. marshals is not accurate, strictly speaking. The law enforcement team that went after him in Lacey was the Pacific Northwest Violent Offender Task Force, a team led by U.S. marshals that included state and local agents. The Associated Press reported in the LA Times that four officers fired shots at Reinoehl: two Pierce County sheriff’s deputies, a Lakewood police officer, and a Washington state Department of Corrections officer. Federal agents were present but apparently did not discharge their weapons.



Sep 11, 2020

[We received the following comment from G in response to the comments above.]

Hello, Aaron Brand, et al - thanks for responding. My first concern was & is for the human condition, of which emotions & beliefs are significant parts. If one’s born in Saudi Arabia one speaks Arabic. In America it’s English. Beliefs of which one is unconscious & conscious are similarly acquired. How, you might ask, can a belief be held unconsciously? Well, in the same way that all the rules of grammar & intonation are known only unconsciously to most of us. Knowledge of rules & our physical structure is a luxury provided by thought, study & education after the fact of being what & who we are. 

Most of us become angry when both conscious & unconscious beliefs are challenged. Which leads to great social problems at interpersonal, familial, community & national levels. The ancients in all civilizations recognized those problems & tried to find ways to reduce the harmful & too often dire effects. In the West the first philosopher we know of who described a resolution was Zeno of Citium, c. 300bc., the father of Stoicism about whom very little is known. Peacefulness & happiness, philosophical Stoicism proposed, could be achieved by learning to manage one’s emotions well enough to prevent them from being primary causes of one’s behaviors & actions in the world. This meant that to achieve those good ends we must respect the absolute right of other persons to have beliefs & behaviors different from our own, & insofar as those beliefs & behaviors do not endanger or take from us our lives we must enact this respect in our daily lives by not allowing or what is worse, valorizing, anger. It also meant we must not be ruled by any passion other than the one for Stoic virtue. 

Stoicism has persisted as central to Western notions of ethics & living ethically, from Aristotle, Marcus Aurelius, Baruch Spinoza, Immanuel Kant, Jean-Paul Sartre, John Rawls & many others throughout history.

Philosophical Stoicism is utterly distinct from indifference to pleasure or pain. It has nothing to do with impassiveness. Here’s the Stoic Marcus Aurelius on how he wants to live & be:

When you wake up in the morning, tell yourself: the people I deal with today will be meddling, ungrateful, arrogant, dishonest, jealous and surly. They are like this because they can’t tell good from evil. But I have seen the beauty of good, and the ugliness of evil, and have recognized that the wrongdoer has a nature related to my own - not of the same blood and birth, but the same mind, and possessing a share of the divine. And so none of them can hurt me. No one can implicate me in ugliness. Nor can I feel angry at my relative, or hate him. We were born to work together like feet, hands and eyes, like the two rows of teeth, upper and lower. To obstruct each other is unnatural. To feel anger at someone, to turn your back on him: these are unnatural. 
• Marcus Aurelius was an Emperor of Rome who died in 180AD. The Meditations were  written by him as instructions for his own behavior in private journals seen by no one but himself, made into a book & first published about 700 years after he died. The book has remained in continuous republication in all written languages, & will probably remain available to read in new publications until our species is extinct.

‘Antifa’ as you may know is an abbreviation of Anti-Fascist. Who among us here is not antifa? Antifa consist of many local groups of people who are fed up with their loss of power & even influence in the U.S., perhaps especially the nation’s abused young of all skin colors, who, as blacks & latins have long been, are facing lives in which their financial debts & future are dismally burdensome & bleak. Antifa is not a national organization with a leadership - that notion exists only in the minds of uninformed persons or conman Thump’s &, say, Fox nooze’s misled audience. ‘Fascism’ refers to tyranny, a police state & much more, but police state & being ruled by oligarchical, corporate & political tyrants is the operative popular definition in America, & is the larger part of what is now a street revolution in its early phase.

I’m aware that no one here may be persuaded to try to discover & describe their unconscious beliefs, nor examine or alter any beliefs, but you, as am I, are free to try. I’m not free to foresee the outcomes of what I do or what anyone does, nor are you. We are in & of Nature, & Nature is made of probabilities, (contingencies), not certainties.

I do believe that we can learn to not live in accord with what existential phenomenologists call Bad Faith, which is roughly a state of self-righteousness that valorizes ignorance & hate. Acceptance of uncertainty accords with Stoic virtue, & is an indicator that one’s not in bad faith. 

These are things on my mind that relate only tangentially to your welcome comments. But perhaps they nonetheless do relate. I, too, have lived in countries where interpersonal violence & theft were rare, including in Britain when police did not carry guns & I could stack goods that I was buying for my business with no one guarding them for hours in London without concern that passersby would steal them.  Such peacefulness seems now to be absent everywhere. I did read the L.A. Times article that you, Mr Schwartz, thoughtfully linked - but who any longer feels confident about the reliability of anything said by authorities? Or, for that matter, written by us on social media such as NW Citizen? Don’t we all get tired of people who are incessantly sure of themselves? 


Ralph Schwartz

Sep 11, 2020

To “G:” These days, it’s a rare person indeed who is not incessantly sure of himself. Trump is a prime example of the mass of people so afflicted. Especially rare is a person so unsure of himself that he doesn’t even put his name to his ideas! For all we as readers of NWCitizen know, you might be Dick Conoboy’s alter ego. 😉


Dick Conoboy

Sep 11, 2020


I can assure you categorically that G is not me.


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