Kyle Rittenhouse, Not Guilty On All Counts!
Though the jury returned a verdict of Not Guilty, questions still remain surrounding the circumstances that resulted in the deadly encounter. So, it makes sense to go back to the beginning to see how we got here.
Where It All Began
One could argue that this trial, and the events leading up to it, have roots going back to Rodney King and OJ Simpson. Both on the side of police brutality and divisive high profile court cases. Though few people involved in current protests are old enough to remember those cases, the ones stoking the unrest almost certainly do.
The more immediate roots can be traced through Trayvon Martin and the Michael Brown case leading to the birth of Black Lives Matter. Obviously the widespread unrest following George Floyd’s death and then the shooting of Jacob Blake being the most proximate contributors.
Months of “mostly peaceful” protests interspersed with egregious acts of violence sparked, in large part, by out of context videos, social media activism and arguably news media malfeasance in their coverage. For some time now, especially since the proliferation of cell phone cameras and social media, public opinion has begun to shift for large segments of the population.
Guilty Until Proven Innocent
Yes, you read that right. Guilty Until Proven Innocent. Not the standard our justice system was built upon, which has roots going back to English Common Law and what is known as Blackstone’s Ratio. Blackstone’s ratio is the idea that: It is better that ten guilty persons should go free rather than one innocent should unjustly suffer.
Public opinion, especially in recent years, has shifted much more towards a “rush to judgement.” Whether that judgement be guilty or innocent, it has led to widespread rejection of jury verdicts. No matter how they turn out, a portion of those with prejudged conclusions will reject it.
Part of the issue behind this shift in public perception can be traced to the politicization of the courts. Whether it be the perception of racial disparates to the courts being used to advance political ideologies that cannot get passed through the legislative process.
Protests Vs Riots
Speaking two years after California’s Watts riots in August 1965 and the race riots in Harlem the previous summer, Martin Luther King, Jr. spent a few minutes trying to explain the cause of rioting to his predominantly white audience.
“riots are socially destructive and self-defeating. … But in the final analysis, a riot is the language of the unheard.”
A lot has changed since 1965. We’ve had a two term Black President, Black Supreme Court Justice, a multitude of high profile and celebrity Black spokespeople, NAACP, Rainbow Coalition, Congressional Black Caucus, Black Entertainment Television and the list goes on.
With the explosion of 24 hour cable news and social media, nobody in America is voiceless or unheard. Do we still have issues that need to be addressed? Of course and we have an abundance of voices calling attention to those things and attempting to address them.
Unfortunately, many use their voice to call for violence, rioting and looting. Some even going so far as to say that looting is a form of reparations. One could argue that the cacophony of voices today has resulted in more misinformation and manipulation than clarity and awareness of the issues that need to be addressed.
Individual Vs Collective
Much of the arguably legitimate criticism of Kyle Rittenhouse revolves around the question, “why was he even there, armed with an AR-15?”
So, why was he there? As was revealed in the trial, Kyle Rittenhouse, despite his age, was a civic minded young man. Police and Fire cadet, life guard, cleaning up graffiti, etc. A summer of protests, fires, riots, looting had come to his community and politicians and police failed to protect the public and private property.
The “Defund The Police” movement, bail reforms, pro-criminal DAs and rising crime has shown America what happens when the Rule Of Law begins to break down. In that environment, with police ordered to stand down or too short-handed to respond, who will protect the community and society?
Did Kyle Rittenhouse have any official authority? No. Did he assume that responsibility in the absence of government protection? Yes, he and numerous others stepped up to try to protect a community that was effectively abandoned by the government entities empowered to ensure public safety.
We elect people and fund institutions like police, fire and other first responders to protect society and public safety. When those fail, it is the duty and responsibility of the citizenry to provide for its own protection and defense. In order to maintain some semblance of civilized society, We The People, have two responsibilities:
- Elect competent representatives and demand competent and accountable institutions charged with our protection.
- When that fails or breaks down, we must be willing and able to step in and provide for our own protection and defense against criminality and chaos.
The violence and intimidation model has been established. Intimidation of the citizenry, police, politicians, courts and juries. The question is, will We The People continue to give in to that intimidation? Will violent intimidation and threats of mob violence continue to steer our politics, economy and other aspects of our daily lives. Will we continue to be silenced by cancel culture, accept unjust government dictates driven by fear or threats of retaliation?
Or will we reject violence and intimidation in favor of real communication, debate and cooperative efforts to address issues? Some might say that we’ve passed the point of no return for reconciliation and cooperation. Personally, I hope that is not the case, because if that’s true, then we have a grim future ahead of us.
Kyle and others have stepped into the breach vacated by those we hired to serve that role. A jury of his peers weighed the evidence and acquitted him, knowing that their verdict could result in more violence. Doing the right thing often comes with risks. Do the American people still have the intestinal fortitude to brave those risks to do what’s right for the greater good?
We shall see.
I’ll close with a word of warning. Those who choose to take responsibility for the safety and civility of their communities have the responsibility to be trained and disciplined themselves before taking on that duty. It is not a path to be taken lightly and the consequences of doing so can be severe. Any misstep may result in a loss of liberty, jail time, if not a loss of life, possibly your own.