Rittenhouse Acquittal: A Brief, Calm Interlude?
Friday, November 19th, 2021.
Another controversial verdict. The country braced itself.
Thankfully, it mostly came to pass.
Two days after Kyle Rittenhouse was acquitted of all charges for his actions on August 25, 2020, protests have been sporadic and peaceful across the U.S.A. As CNN reported Saturday, they were “nowhere close to the scope of those in the aftermath of George Floyd’s death”, mostly concentrated in Portland, Oregon. More followed in Kenosha Chicago on Sunday, again without major incident.
Those frustrated with the result should continue to make their voices heard in the courtroom and on the streets. It would be unproductive and unjust to suppress or tell them to suppress these feelings, as much as letting them lose with no regard for whom or what gets hurt. As with many high profile trials, Mr. Rittenhouse’s stands for far more than the events on a tumultuous night on year ago-for good or ill-and that association needs to be worked out.
As Mr. Rittenhouse himself states: “I support peacefully demonstrating. I believe there needs to be change. I believe there’s a lot of prosecutorial misconduct, not just in my case but in other cases. It’s just amazing to see how much a prosecutor can take advantage of someone.”
I won’t comment further about the verdict itself. I don’t have anything to add that hasn’t been already said more articulately or cleverly. Simply, I’m glad we are able to process this traumatic event in relative calm.
Key word: relative. At any point, this country could spill into riots, protests and who knows what else.
Fitting a long standing pattern, it’s not the event in and of itself which is the problem but rather responses to it.
Let’s begin with the protest side. The use of the phrase “All cops are Kyles” in some protests by some individuals is concerning. A variation of the All Cops Are Bastards (ACAB) contention from recent years, this ‘logic’ a textbook example of the association fallacy. So because some cops are bad or have done bad things, all of them are bad? Since they believe Mr. Rittenhouse murdered two people, they suggest police are actively doing the same every single day-when they should be helping people.
Per usual, there’s a lot of Facebook armchair analysis. One of the most aggressive takes I’ve seen is “Murder is legal in Wisconsin.” All I will say is: Look up the definition of murder. Review the events on August 25th, 2020, especially the plethora of videos documenting the events.
On the other side, a few lovely far-right groups have claimed Mr. Rittenhouse. Take VDARE, named for Virginia Dare, the first ‘American’ born in the Roanoke colony in 1587. Their three principles are:
1. America is real: NOT a melting pot.
2. Demography is destiny: Human differences are NOT social constructs.
3. The cultural identity of America is legitimate and defensible: Diversity per se is not strength, but a vulnerability.
It’s not hard to get the parallels here and a few other extremist movements from let’s say, the 20th century? While VDARE hasn’t been linked to any major incidents of unrest or bloodshed, it’s not hard to predict where this mentality leads for either its members or similarly thinking groups.
Shortly after the verdict’s announcement, the organization tweeted: “This much is true. Kyle Rittenhouse is the hero we’ve been waiting for throughout the turbulent summer of 2020, where a Black Lives Matter/Antifa/Bolshevik revolution has our country on the brink of total chaos. #KyleRittenhouse vindicated.”
These hyperbolic reactions further take us down the cycle of polarization and civil unrest. However, so far, it appears many are sick of the extremism.
How long will it last?
At least give us the holidays. After these last few years, haven’t we earned that much?