Kyle Rittenhouse, a 17-year-old from Antioch, Illinois fatally shot Anthony Huber 26 and Joseph Rosenbaum 36. He wounded a third person, Gaige Grosskreutz 26. This was done with an AR-15 style rifle in Kenosha, Wisconsin. He was acquitted of all charges as his trial came to a close a few days ago. How? Why? These are questions that thoughtful folks might care to ponder.
Though it took a few days to recover from the announcement of this verdict, many of us were not surprised by it. Unfortunately, the long historical record of judicial manipulation to achieve favorable outcomes for folks who need to be held accountable for their behavior has created the lack of trust that the system will be fair. The notion of blind justice is actually quite comical. The current system of laws that exist is neither blind nor just when it comes to people of color and poor people. Since, I am not a lawyer, this blog is not about evaluating the law. Many of us realize that the law is not reliable. But what about morality? What about our claim that freedom is important in this land? What about democracy? There is much to interrogate in regards to this matter.
My interrogation begins with his mother who actually took a 17-year boy across a state line with a gun, which should be illegal in a civilized nation, during time of civil unrest. Surely, she must have known that he was disturbed about what was happening in Wisconsin. Though he was 18 by the time his trial began, he is still a boy in many ways and the fact that we have been happy to send 18-year-olds off to die in battle does not make them grown-ups. Thus, what is being done to help this boy understand that he is not on the best path that one can find to follow by choosing to believe that killing your fellow humans is a problem-solving remedy? What about the loud message that was sent by this acquittal to the next young white male who is disturbed about protest and civil unrest and is looking for a way to engage and who chooses violence? If one has a right in this country to have a gun, surely one must have a right to protest and to make their voice heard without having to kill anyone.
It seems that this issue goes far beyond race and the manipulation of the law with fancy footwork in the court room. All of us, who care about helping to create a livable world, should be concerned about the hit that democracy took with this verdict by basically affirming that you can kill protesters and claim fear for your personal safety as a basic defense. The most important remedy for Rittenhouse's sense of personal fear would have been to stay away from Wisconsin. Now that we have heard the verdict, there are many who wish to make this young white male a hero. Two young persons are dead. They were exercising their right to speak by putting their bodies in the street. This is a basic right in this country. It is called the right to free speech. It is crucial not to vacate that right to speak freely too easily.
Furthermore, our divided country is in grave danger of traveling deeper into the energy of violence and this verdict helps to welcome that energy. What are thoughtful and caring people to do in the face of these challenges? While the court has spoken and moving on is important, it is important not to move ahead in silence. Thoughtful and caring folks must continue to resist this huge tidal wave of violence as a remedy to manage whatever or whoever is troubling to you.
May our individual interrogation of our ways of being in the world lead us forward and help us to vacate any path that reinforces violence in any shape or form and may we have the courage to be brave enough to tell the best truth that we can about what we see. May we be a part of the remedy for peace and healing in this land.