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Kyle Rittenhouse is sobbing in the stands, which is wrong with America


Kyle Rittenhouse took the stand on Wednesday in an unusual move for a defendant. He cried. His defense team then filed a wrongful trial with prejudice, which means Rittenhouse could not be brought to trial again. But whatever the court decides, he’s already won.

He is charged with reckless homicide, willful homicide and attempted homicide for protesting the police shooting of another black man, Jacob Blake (two of whom were killed) last summer in Kenosha, Wisconsin. The protest followed many George Floyd-inspired protests that broke out around the world calling for police accountability and justice for the lives of blacks. Among the demonstrators were white allies like the one Rittenhouse shot. Rittenhouse has pleaded not guilty.

The truth is, too many white Americans are probably seeing each other at the Rittenhouse.

If Rittenhouse is convicted, he will likely stop being a right-wing mascot and become a right-wing martyr. If not convicted, he will set a precedent for others like him to pick up guns they shouldn’t have and throw themselves in the midst of riots they should avoid – confident that they are in the knowledge of prison won’t be in their future.

For his followers, and even for many of his critics, Rittenhouse is no monster. Not really. He was a stupid young kid who was excited about the Foxification or Fox News effect of the American discourse on the Black Lives Matter movement in a country that fetishizes guns – for show, for sport, and for killing – not a white man Racist, like Dylann Dach. Not really. He wasn’t hooded or wrapped in the Confederate flag. He’s a patriot who tried to calm the chaos because, as prime-time host Tucker Carlson on Fox News told us at the time of filming, the adults around him weren’t “keeping order”. He was so non-violent that police officers greeted him and his ilk like other community guards before killing anyone.

He did not open fire until it was absolutely necessary. It was “self-defense,” his supporters told us outside the courtroom and his lawyers argued in the courtroom. Had “criminals”, whom many of us would rather refer to as victims of Rittenhouse – although the judge said they could not be called that during the trial – had not rushed him, provoked him, they would be alive and he would never have been charged . None of his decisions before the moments he pulled the trigger seem to matter. He defended himself. That’s all.

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I mean, look at his red, tear-streaked face on the stand, so compelling that the judge paused the trial for 10 minutes to allow Rittenhouse to calm down. His tears tell the story.

A “guilty” or “not guilty” judgment in a single case cannot fix what hurts us.

These protesters had him shot. It was her fault, and hers only, not Rittenhouse’s. He tried to do good to protect this dying nation.

And that’s the same nonsensical claim people have used all over the United States

Mostly white voters tried to defend their freedom, so they flocked to an open fanatic like Donald Trump and stormed the U.S. Capitol. Angry parents, most of them white, storm the school committee meetings calling for an end to classes in critical racial theory in order to protect white children from falling victim to America’s violent racist history and how it created the basis of the inequality we see today still see feeling “guilty”. Politicians and local officials – again, many of them know – have fueled this by phrasing racial doctrine and context-exploring books as something that voters should protect their communities from.

The truth is that there is likely to be too many white Americans in Rittenhouse – fear of anyone, white or colored, who wants to live in a more just country – even if some refuse to say so out loud.

So many things indicated that they were “scared,” as Rittenhouse was described during the protest and after the shooting. Afraid of losing the land their hard-working parents and grandparents built. To become a minority among minorities. To be pushed aside as the de facto right way to be a true patriotic American, to be able to define exactly what that means. But it wasn’t just fear that convinced Rittenhouse that he had a right – even a responsibility – to stick a weapon in the midst of unrest that did not directly concern him. It was also a claim. A right to make the rules and obey them to make America great again.

Rittenhouse’s story is a microcosm of what America has before it, a dangerous journey to become something the world has never known: a fully functioning multiracial, multiethnic democracy born from the blood of slaves to genocide the Native American and the notion that all human beings are created equal. No matter what you heard or said, we are not there yet. We weren’t there on July 4th, 1776. We weren’t there in the smoke, ashes, and shadow of the Civil War in 1865, and not even in the wake of the Civil Rights Act and the Suffrage Act for half a century.

If released, the status quo of America’s flawed criminal justice system, where white offenders are less likely to be convicted, will last just a little longer, the inevitable can only delay if not denied. When he’s imprisoned, those who sympathize with his plight have even more reason to use him as an example of how their way of life could be threatened if they don’t fight hard. His followers basically guaranteed these results.

Because of this, regardless of judgment, in this case and in other cases, forcing the nation to grapple with what it means to be black and white in America, it is up to the rest of us to guarantee different results. We must ensure that the inequality in who is granted life, freedom and the pursuit of happiness is discussed honestly and continuously (regardless of how uncomfortable it is for people to face the truth) and ensure that it is Principles of American democracy are expanded to include those who have historically been left out.

If saving this democracy from the Kyle Rittenhouses of the world is important to you, then you shouldn’t turn to a judge and jury. Because a “guilty” or “not guilty” judgment in a solitary case cannot heal us.



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