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Chester County Press

Editorial: The marionette of their deepest convictions

11/24/2021 11:27AM ● By Richard Gaw

This editorial is being written just moments after 18-year-old Kyle Rittenhouse, who fatally shot two men and wounded another amid protests and rioting over police conduct in Kenosha, Wis. in 2020, was found not guilty on five counts, including two for first-degree intentional homicide and first-degree attempted intentional homicide.

For the next several weeks – through Thanksgiving, beyond the holiday parades and heading past Christmas and New Year’s Day -- the facts surrounding this verdict will be twisted and pulled on every imaginable form of media in order to fabricate the belief that a 17-year-old carrying a semiautomatic weapon from another state had arrived to render medical aid to a community he did not live in.

What is most sickening in this verdict is not that a young man who murdered two people and injured another – with a firearm that was purchased for him because he was too young to buy it himself – is allowed to go free, but the fact that many have molded Kyle Rittenhouse into a symbol of national empathy, a hero of sorts doing the good work of a Samaritan.

Therefore, because we are a newspaper beholden to facts, we offer them up again before they are entirely spun into oblivion, in the order of how they happened:

Fact 1:             On Aug. 25, 2020, just a few days removed from the shooting and murder of African-American Kenosha resident Jacob Blake by white Officer Rusten Sheskey had set off three days of civil unrest in the town, Rittenhouse, then 17, arrives in downtown Kenosha from his hometown of Antioch, Ill. with a small medical kit fastened to his chest and a Smith and Wesson AR-style semiautomatic rifle that was purchased by Dominick Black, a friend of Mr. Rittenhouse’s, because Mr. Rittenhouse was 17 years old and not legally old enough to buy it, testimony showed

Fact 2:             After helping clean up a Kenosha park that afternoon, Rittenhouse and Black return downtown that evening, and join other armed men guarding a second location of a car business that had been severely damaged Sunday night.

Fact 3:             Rittenhouse walks alone to the business’ third location four blocks away, where he tells a Wisconsin newspaper reporter: “Our job is to protect this business, and part of my job is also to help people. If someone is hurt, I’m running into harm’s way. That’s why I have my rifle.” Fifteen minutes later, he is chased by 36-year-old Joseph Rosenbaum, who is seen on video behaving in a violent manner earlier in the evening, and who is also heard threatening Rittenhouse.

Rosenbaum catches up to Rittenhouse and in the corner of a parking lot, he reaches for the barrel of Rittenhouse’s rifle. Rittenhouse shoots Rosenbaum in the chest four times, killing him, and then flees from the scene.

Fact 4:             On video, just moments after killing Rosenbaum, Rittenhouse is seen falling to the ground, when he is approached by 26-year-old Anthony Huber, who attacks Rittenhouse with a skateboard. Rittenhouse fires his rifle at Huber, who is killed. Just seconds later, 26-year-old Gaige Grosskreutz, a medic who was seen on video rendering aid to some of those wounded in the protest, approaches Rittenhouse, brandishing a handgun. Still on the ground, Rittenhouse shoots Grosskreutz in the arm, severely injuring him.

Fact 5:             Having fatally shot two people and severely injured a third, Rittenhouse then walks toward several police tactical vehicles at the nearby intersection, his arms raised in an apparent surrender. The police do not acknowledge Rittenhouse, perhaps because he is not the only armed citizen; the streets of Kenosha are filled with several packs of militias who feel it is their solemn oath to take up arms in an arena that is already ripe with tension. Their involvement apparently paid off; the Kenosha police thank them for their assistance in helping to keep the streets of Kenosha safe during the protests.

Of these facts, the saddest is one that proves that the once implausible is now commonplace; that we no longer live in a nation where facts are sacrosanct and final but rather, we contort them into the shape of our bias. Our networks of data and information are no longer based in details but are empowered by opinion, and we have made it so that we can believe only in what we want to believe and see what we want to see.

Right now in America, while one half of our nation’s electorate is trying to comprehend the madness of a verdict that would allow a trigger-happy teenager who murdered two people to go free in a country that has surrendered its last shreds of the law to the breathtaking horror of vigilantism, the other half is fully indoctrinating Rittenhouse as a national symbol of heroism under the banner of self-defense.

Judge Bruce Schroeder, the longest-serving circuit court judge in Wisconsin, insisted that he wanted to keep politics out of his courtroom. What Judge Schroeder neglected to acknowledge was that the very essence of the Rittenhouse trial has devolved from a question of ethics into the latest fistfight of a divided nation and fueled in part by political affiliations.

To those who believe the freeing of a teenage vigilante was justice properly served, Kyle Rittenhouse has become nothing more than the marionette plaything of their deepest convictions, their largest fears and their most obstinate biases.

We are in a new age and one that we’ve become very comfortable with -- a nation where the arguments that once consolidated our disagreements have been replaced by the realization that if reality is twisted hard and long enough, the facts will eventually conform to our side, and we will never have to admit that we are ever wrong.

Those who believe that Mr. Rittenhouse is a well-meaning soldier of justice have elevated this teenager to a height he has no businesses ascending to. His likeness will be on flags now. From now on, his every movement will be paid for, sponsored by and supported by factions too numerous to name. One Republican senator even went as far as to say that Rittenhouse would make a superb legislative aide in Washington, D.C.

But what does it matter now, to those who believe that actions of a gun-carrying teenager to enter a morass of conflict and commence firing were just? Nothing, really; two men are now dead and all of the plain facts of this double murder have been misshapen – reduced to ash -- and those who made it so will look at this verdict as a moral victory, absolutely convinced that they are right.