If the title of this post is familiar to you, then this post might be of interest to you.
As I type, 9:30 a.m., Monday Nov. 15, the Judge and the Counsel are having a civil discussion about process prior to closing arguments to the Jury in this most significant trial in Kenosha WI, before the Jury enters the room. I am not going to opine about whose arguments are most relevant, or, obviously, what the Jury will decide. I am impressed that the discussion is civil…. The Rule of Law is complex in civil society. In the end, in this case, a jury of 12 people has to decide. Once that happens, I’ll amend this post with my opinion, and any readers who wish to express their own at this space.
Earlier this morning came Just Above Sunset, entitled “The Myth of Civilized Democracy”, here. I don’t recall a single reference to Rittenhouse. On the other hand, the tenor of the compilation enfolds the implications of violence in our society, as being hi-lited in the Rittenhouse case, specifically.
By no means do I portray myself as ‘expert’ in this or other legal matters. On the other hand, I probably was advocate in perhaps 75 grievance arbitrations in my career, and proximate to numerous legal cases. I am thus pretty well informed about the legal ‘dance’, rules of evidence, etc. And I remain most active in an organization whose founding and existence celebrated the Rule of Law not only in our own country, but its utility in a civil over our entire planet.
What tends to grip me in this case are race, guns and youth.
Rittenhouse has been the focus of the trial. Here are the three persons killed or injured in the melee in Kenosha. All of the actors were white men.
First, I am white, 100%. I have never owned a gun, and have no interest in owning a gun. 60 years ago, immediately after college, I volunteered for the Army Draft, served 21 months, qualified as Expert with the then-standard firearm, the M1, and went through all the other extensive weapons and combat training any military veteran will remember. I was 20 years old. I left the service with an honorable discharge at 23 years of age. I was a little older than most of my fellow soldiers. My service time came at the beginning of the Vietnam era, and included the Cuban Missile Crisis.
In Rittenhouse, two of the men were killed, and thus cannot speak for themselves. They apparently were not armed with any firearm. The third person testified – I watched his testimony on TV. He had a weapon but testified that when the time came to fire he could not pull the trigger.
Infantry training gave me plenty of background on acting under stress. It is one thing to have a gun, it is something else to actually use it, especially to kill another human being. It is something not easily described to someone with no similar life experience.
It is no accident that all of the participants were young men (to me, 37, the oldest, is young!)
For all of history, combatants are largely recruited from among young males. It is not necessary to go into this kind of history.
In my opinion, guns too often these days are considered as play things, more like video game props, but give the holder an exaggerated sense of power to intimidate others.
Those without weapons are by no means powerless – they are reluctant to use their power against someone with a gun. Some time back I used with a post this two page article, which deserves your time.
The evil with firearms these days is their use to threaten and intimidate others. We’ve seen these supposedly armed and dangerous louts on far too many occasions “occupying” state capitols and otherwise. Rittenhouse is only one of many unconscionable matters constantly in the news.
Regardless of the outcome of this case, there will be repeats where other young men with guns consider themselves immortal. Those of us unarmed have to learn how to use our own considerable power to change this conversation.
Closing arguments are just now beginning – 11:15 a.m. Nov 15, 2021.
November 16 4:25 p.m.
The Rittenhouse matter is with the Jury. I watched parts of the trial and saw the snips that went with news reporting. The primary audience is the Jurors, whose burden this trial now is. It will be interesting to learn after-the-fact what happens in the jury room, and what moved them individually and collectively to their ultimate verdict. We’ll see what happens.
November 19, Noon
Latest breaking news: families have been advised to return to the Courthouse. Not sure what that means. I will not comment further until after the verdict is announced.
4:25 p.m. – Not guilty on all charges. The initial shock will carry on for awhile. I’ll comment later, perhaps tomorrow. I think I know what I’m going to say, but I’ll hold on that.
November 22, 2021, late afternoon: I have watched/listened/read the aftermath, and, of course, last night the tragedy in Waukesha, which dominates the news today. What I personally have focused on is Kyle Rittenhouse’s age: 17 when he killed the two; and 18 when he was tried and acquitted.
I was 17 for all but the last two or three weeks of high school in 1958. That doesn’t make me unique, or an expert on being 17. Everybody old enough to have reached 18 years has experienced age 17. My personal cohort then was 8 fellow seniors in Sykeston ND. No matter, any reader should just think back to age 17 and remember what it was like for you, and how it compared with today’s reality.
Kyle Rittenhouse is not yet out of the legal woods. A civil suit might be in the offing, a la O.J. Simpson. He might be saved from that because he’s not worth enough to sue, but it could happen.
Now he is a celebrity, and will be a celebrity only as long as he is useful to his handlers and financiers. When he’s no longer useful, he’ll be discarded. (I just looked up George Zimmerman, about his life after killing Trayvon Martin…not terribly impressive.) Rittenhouse better have a Plan B.
But mostly I think of a young man named Francis – who I never knew, but who dropped out of high school in his senior year to join the Marines near the end of WWII. He wanted to go in. He didn’t live a year, killed in combat in the Pacific. But like Rittenhouse, he was 17, and probably full of a sense of immortality when he went off to combat, only to lose his life.
The annals of war are full of young men with similar illusions of saving whatever for whomever. Then, live or die, most often they are discarded.
Rittenhouse is acquitted, yes, but now he has to live the rest of his life with a reality that he created when he was just 17, and killed two un-armed individuals with a military rifle.
For me, age 17 is a long, long time ago. I still remember the days even in that tiny town. One time, some years earlier in that same town, a playmate took a single shot .22 off my Dad’s garage wall, aimed it in the direction of some of us, pulled the trigger and thankfully missed.
The gun was supposed to be unloaded, and it was off limits, and it was just a .22…but it could have been deadly.
Kyle Rittenhouse now has to live the rest of his life within a new reality which he himself created by making a stupid decision to be ‘armed and dangerous’. And after a while, nobody will give a damn.