“Don’t Shoot!”

The new howdy.

My least favorite neighbor knocked on the door and said “Don’t Shoot!” A hello would have been a nicer way to start the asking of a favor. The favor was given as neighbors are to be helped out, but it was another reminder of associations that go beyond our shared rural road, another reminder we’re known first for murder.

My brother was the murderer. He wanted to be a soldier, like his father. Life went otherwise when his mental illness took that away. But the way he carried his burden was full of hate and anger. Not all of that came because of the person who did him country song wrong, but I’ll give that dude a lot of credit. My brother could have been great. He shamed us.

The real hero of heroes of his last day was the man who said, “We’re all Christian!” Whether true or not it was enough, my brother would kill no more there. Suicide by cop was his end game. After finding god because life wasn’t going his way he left this life. He carried on him a bible with a single phrase underlined, “Greater love hath no man than this. That a man lay down his life for his friends.”

I never had to consider killing a man until a person I love did such a thing and I didn’t understand. I tried to understand. If it was cold revenge on the man who hurt his dog, I’d understand. But he took it out on someone else, heinously and senselessly. That he did it for us means not only that he was wrong, but that he can never be completely forgiven even accounting for his disorders.

He’s not the first person to selfishly interpret the bible towards his own ends. His doom and gloom take was more a reflection of his internal feelings. His take was terrifying and immutable. His religiosity brought a climate of fear to our family. Since he couldn’t wear the uniform he would be a Christian soldier. And we tried to help him, not to that end but towards any other, because he was loved.

It’s eight years later and still it is the neighbor’s first thought that we are guilty by association. We still get reminders of his dishonor. We console ourselves with memories of more innocent times both before and after he fell ill. But we can’t get away from what he did, anywhere. The opportunity cost of his actions is incalculable but we’ve tried, as a family, to cultivate a good life beyond our grief.

There is no getting away from the reminder that my brother was a coward who called himself an American Christian and a killer for the worst of reasons. He became what he professed to hate while invoking ideas and people he intended to honor. He, the young, white, male, upper-middle class, skilled, educated, loyal, devout, patriotic, and loved, became a terrorist. And he fucked it up for all of us.

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