America’s Trial

What Kyle Rittenhouse’s Trial Means for America

For most of America’s history, protection of life and property was not just recognized as a right, but as a manly virtue. And when the law couldn’t or wouldn’t see that justice was done, the men of the community would take it upon themselves to uphold the law, an ancient right in our customs passed down to us by our ancestors.

Like so many others, I spent the past week or so riveted by the trial of Kyle Rittenhouse. I’m not much of a courtroom TV guy, but this case was different. Friends I’ve talked to reported the same feeling, of projects and work grounding to a halt. Why? I don’t live anywhere near Kenosha. I am not a personal friend or family member of the accused. I’m not subject to a jurisdiction in which the laws and precedents of the state of Wisconsin have the slightest thing to do with me, and yet I was unable to think of little else. The reason is that on a gut level we all felt this trial was something far bigger than it appeared on the surface. It’s not even the spectacle that it has been — though it has been that too, a proverbial goldmine of high-octane meme content. It was America itself on trial. 

Rittenhouse, among other charges, was on trial for killing Joseph Rosenbaum, a pedophile guilty of eleven counts of child molestation on five boys aged nine to eleven, including anal rape. That this pedophile was not already executed for these crimes — in fact, not even in jail for them — is evidence of a failed state that abdicated any right to a monopoly on the use of violence. If you need any further evidence, just look at what was allowed to happen in Kenosha before Rittenhouse put the fear of God into the rioters. Forty buildings burned to the ground and an additional hundred were damaged. Livelihoods destroyed and the local residents terrorized. They would have us forget our experience of Summer 2020, the tension and fear that hung in the air, knowing that dialing 911 no longer assured someone would show up to help. Americans were on their own. This was the reality of those months, staying up late watching riots unfold in real-time through internet live streams, wondering when this might come to our neighborhoods. This was true of small towns across America. Hundreds of armed citizens in towns like Snohomish outside of Seattle took to the streets in response to rumors that Antifa was planning to come to smash up the downtown business district. Clips circulated on social media of these well-armed gatherings and while there was an outraged response from the left, they never showed up to Snohomish. The Washington State Legislature responded by passing legislation to ban the open carry of firearms near public demonstrations.

Too often folks on our side get hung up on technicalities and adopt the left’s frame when responding to their charges. It is correct in this case that strict standards of self-defense were adhered to, that Kyle lived only twenty minutes away and didn’t “cross state lines looking for a confrontation,” and that his conduct was unimpeachable under the law. But that doesn’t really matter. Suppose for a moment that instead of just going to clean graffiti, put out fires, and administer medical aid, he had actually gone out with the intention of using armed force to stop Antifa rioters from carrying on with their destructive acts. Not only would that have been justified, but it would also have been the right thing to do. Something that should have been done around the country en masse. But when red-blooded Americans started to stand up — people like the McCloskeys in St. Louis, the gun brandishing couple that defended their home from a mob — they found themselves targeted by a justice system controlled by leftist activists and faced legal persecution. The message was unmistakable: the left is allowed to burn cities and violently attack people and their livelihoods, and the legal system and political establishment are on their side. Joe Biden called Rittenhouse a white supremacist and praised the rioters; Kamala Harris raised bail money for rioters so they could get back to their mayhem in the streets; Mitt Romney marched in the streets with BLM. But how different the response was for those who deigned to defend life and property from the mob, and how different was the reaction to peaceful protestors who showed up at the Capitol on January 6th. At this very moment, there are hundreds of political prisoners in the DC Lubyanka being tortured and beaten by the jackbooted thugs of the regime. 

The show trials of the Soviet Union were not televised, but we are now getting a glimpse of Soviet-style prosecution. The spirit of Krylenko was alive and well in Assistant District Attorney Thomas Binger, who asked the jury to judge Rittenhouse not according to the law, but according to revolutionary conscience. The jury was in effect not being asked to judge the past, but the future. The caste to which Rittenhouse belongs, that of patriotic young American men, it must be utterly destroyed. There can be no solidarity among his kind. They must be bullied and repressed, and if that fails, locked away in a cage where they can be of no impediment to the black-clad lumpenprole foot-soldiers of the regime. That charges were even brought in this open-and-shut case is a national disgrace. This is nothing more than a high-tech lynching of uppity young men who deign to think and act in a way that would be lauded as virtuous in an earlier age. Judge Schroeder is by all appearances, a good man and a good judge. That this case ended up in his court rather than that of another is a stroke of divine fortune. It could have gone in a very different direction altogether. That is the situation we are in — where the luck of the draw can determine whether you face a political tribunal or something representing a normal American judicial proceeding. 

Conservative politicians have rightly taken note that masculinity has ebbed from our society to disastrous consequences. Sen. Josh Hawley of Missouri recently commented that if America is to survive as an independent republic it needs men who will exercise the masculine virtues of “courage, strength, risk-taking, and commitment.” I happen to agree. But I also take note of the Senator’s silence when a boy who exercised these virtues is libeled by the press, the President, and the regime functionaries, and is subjected to political prosecution. If we want to see courage, strength, risk-taking, and commitment become the norm once again in America, we have to back up those who display these values. There is a new crop of Republican Senate candidates who appear to understand this. Blake Masters and J.D. Vance, candidates for the U.S. Senate in Arizona and Ohio, respectively, have spoken out forcefully and eloquently about the importance of the case, both for the importance of ensuring Rittenhouse’s rights are protected personally, but also for what this trial means for our country.  

The left’s reaction to the acquittal is telling. Some wrote it off as yet another proof of the dominance of white supremacy and racial injustice, despite the fact that the manner in which it was prosecuted it (indeed that charges were even filed at all) is a stunning indictment of prosecutorial overreach and systemic injustice. How many more like Kyle Rittenhouse are there? Innocent men who were not fortunate to have a fair judge, conscientious jury, or competent defense attorneys. You would think that this case would be a marquee one for the criminal-justice movement. Their idea of justice is that straight white men should suffer injustice to make up for injustices inflicted upon minorities, while actual minority criminals should be let off lightly for their crimes as a form of reparations, which happened just this week as Oklahoma Governor Kevin Stitt, a Republican, commuted the sentence of Julius Jones, a Black man who murdered a white man in cold blood in front of his two young daughters. The death penalty isn’t going away, it will just be the tacit rule going forward that it will only be used against white defendants. Yet others hid their seething behind sarcasm and irony. “What kind of nerd cleans up graffiti and puts out fires? He should have been at home. He’s just another flyover country chud. His mom looks poor.” The reality is that it’s not Kyle that they hate. It’s what he represents. He reminds them of goodness, of heroism, of the kind of youthful idealism they’ve long abandoned, and for that they hate him.

The odds were stacked against Rittenhouse from the start. Kyle comes from a working-class background in a rust belt town, the auto manufacturing jobs long since shipped overseas. His dad was an alcoholic, once charged with domestic battery for punching his mom in the stomach when he was four-years-old. She and the kids lived in a shelter, twice. His parents eventually split up and his mom became a certified nursing assistant. She still struggled financially, her and the kids were repeatedly evicted. Here was a boy who had the odds stacked against him. Our system is hard on kids like this. He had every excuse to fail, to become just another casualty of America’s decline. And yet he chose a different path. In 9th grade, he enrolled in a program for kids in “challenging life situations” put on by the local police department. In 10th grade, his family was evicted again, his mother was hospitalized for gastrointestinal bleeding, and his sister was also hospitalized after attempting suicide via an overdose of over-the-counter pain relievers. Kyle got a job as a fry cook and a janitor, taking his high school classes online to do so. He also got his lifeguard certification and got a part-time job at the local YMCA. He planned to become a paramedic or police officer after graduation. Faced with a situation that would lead most to become overwhelmed with despair, he persisted. This is the boy they wanted to lock away in a cage and throw away the key. They still do. 

We should celebrate the jury’s acquittal, but we should also take note of the Establishment’s reaction to it. They are already setting plans in motion to ensure that this victory is erased and a similar acquittal never happens again. Congressman Jerry Nadler, Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, has already asked the Department of Justice to consider bringing federal charges against Rittenhouse, a violation of the 5th amendment of the Bill of Rights, which states “No person [shall] be subject for the same offence to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb.” But they don’t care about such things, they want only to get their way. The law becomes man, this much is certain. No nation has ever bound itself consistently to a legal text. Men always decide in the end what the law is to be in practice. This trial thus reminds us of our biggest struggle: to be able to determine against all odds what kind of man the law will be.

Benjamin Braddock is an American writer and IM—1776’s Commissioning Editor.

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