When Tina Turner wrote the lyrics to her 1985 hit “We Don’t Need Another Hero,” she simply intended to create an anthem for Beyond the Thunderdome, a sequel to the dystopian Mad Max film — not a playbook for subsequent generations. But in recent years, America has become so focused on deconstructing heroes, she might as well have.

Little would she have expected at the time that the lost children of that film might come to roam the streets of Midwestern cities with AR-15s.

Kyle Rittenhouse is not a hero. But he is a product of a country that has turned de-hero-ification into an art form that would wow the agitators of China’s cultural revolution. His acquittal of double-homicide charges last month is not a hat tip to systemic racism in America. It is, however, a rejection of overzealous prosecutors and perhaps too this habit we’ve formed of saddling tragedy with loads of unrelated political baggage.

“Sometimes everyone has to take a beating,” the better padded of the prosecutors pontificated in court. An odd message, really, unless flagellation is the rent we pay for living in a country that originated in sin. That remains a theory, though, and has not yet achieved the status of doctrine.

There was no good reason for the 18-year-old kid from somewhere other than Kenosha, Wisconsin, to be patrolling the riot-torn streets of that city with a semi-automatic weapon. Truth be told, his mother — who drove him there — is probably the one who should have been in the defendant’s chair. But juries are convened to consider facts specific to a crime, not to opine on social justice.

You wouldn’t know it from MSNBC’s coverage, but the two grown men whom Rittenhouse shot to death were a child molester and a serial abuser of women. No, Rittenhouse wasn’t adjudicating his attackers’ past transgressions. But, given the facts that a jury was presented, he was defending himself from potentially getting killed (vice taking a good ole beating).

When we try to apply commonsense norms to a world gone mad, we inevitably tie ourselves up in knots. Yet when children get sucked into the vortex of all this insanity and upside-down thinking that have become a default normal, we’d be well-served to take a deep breath, a step back, and a contemplative pause.

Not long after “We Don’t Need Another Hero” came out, an elder statesman asked me — then Rittenhouse’s age — who my heroes were. Even back then, I was momentarily stumped. I think after some struggling I told him the lawyer who fought Sen. Joseph McCarthy’s red scare was one. But it took some panicked thinking to get there. If asked the same question today, I’d be totally out of luck.

The apex predators of American society today are those who have taken down a hero or two. They don’t all wear capes and we frequently don’t know their names, but these are — sadly — the “winners” of the present moment. If Atticus Finch was an irredeemable racist and Thomas Jefferson an avatar of white supremacy, we might be forgiven for thinking nihilism reigns supreme. In such a construct, gun-toting teens are nothing more than lost children trying to do the best they can in a dystopian universe.

This Thanksgiving, we can be grateful for the fact it doesn’t have to be this way. Just because our current horizons are not lit by the glow of heroic doings doesn’t mean we are doomed. And maybe, just maybe, if we can take a break from tearing things down, we might just find there are better intentions out there than we once darkly imagined. It’s a loopy idea, I know, and it might require switching off the TV and the social media streams, but it’s worth a moment’s consideration.

Find someone you disagree with and invite them to Thursday’s feast. That was, after all, the original idea.

Sam Patten is a recovering political consultant who was raised in Knox County and worked for Maine’s last three Republican senators.