Kyle Rittenhouse was found not guilty of the charges brought against him in Kenosha, Wisconsin. The charges stemmed from his killing two men and wounding another in the riots that stemmed from an officer involved shooting. Rittenhouse was defending himself from potentially lethal force when he fired the shots. The jury in the courtroom saw all of the evidence in the case and heard the presentations thereof by prosecution and defense counsel.
The system worked. That doesn’t matter.
The other jury, the public at large, is divided. Many see this verdict as justice. Many others see it as justice failed.
It was the same in the incident that brought Kyle Rittenhouse to trial. The jury of public opinion, while not unanimous, had members who decided that taking to the streets to riot in the wake of an officer involved shooting was the appropriate thing to do.
There was no trial, no evidence presented and no arguments made by prosecutors or defense attorneys. There was no judge to ensure the matter was fairly adjudicated on the evidence at hand. The evidence was not yet presented. That didn’t matter either.
An outraged mob, regardless of facts, decided that they knew the verdict and what had to be done. Kenosha was burning down. Businesses and lives were destroyed.
Right or wrong, Kyle Rittenhouse was protecting lives and property when his life suddenly hung in the balance. Would I have allowed my seventeen year-old to have been in that position? No. But, had my seventeen year-old found himself in a similar position, I would hope he would have been able to protect himself from such attacks.
None of this in either case mattered in the court of public opinion. Those who were outraged decided their own facts of the cases deserved action and cities, not just Kenosha, burned.
Fueled by emotion and with a strong push by traditional and social media the fires of destruction were lit. Lives and livelihoods were on the line. They were threatened by people who did not care for the facts. Their only concern was their outrage and how to relieve it. Revenge for perceived injustice was the only goal. Someone had to pay and it didn’t matter who that was.
It was a community, actually several, and the country that paid that price. We lose a bit of who we are as a country every time something like this happens. We all pay for it.
There will always be those who are dissatisfied with something. Outrage is even understandable in some circumstances. But riotous behavior is never the appropriate answer. There is a system for handling such disputes and most of the time it works quite well.
The courtroom allows for a dispassionate look at the facts as they are known and presented. The judge or jury has the advantage of time and distance from the immediate emotion of a volatile situation before rendering judgment on the matter. This is appropriate and as it should be in a civil society.
Anything less is less than what we should be and less than we would desire if it were our loved ones’ lives or businesses on the line.
Law and order matter. When the officials in any location allow for lawbreaking with riotous behavior, they condone mob rule. Rarely are they held accountable for ordering law enforcement to stand down and watch a community burn. It falls to us to make that difference and those officials should be thankful that the majority of us don’t see similar behavior as the answer when it comes to them. For if we did, tar, feathers, pitchforks and torches would be in high demand.
No, we rely on the ballot box to be the arena for that change. If we don’t do our part to make it happen we can look for more cities to burn and more young men to find themselves awaiting a real jury’s decision.