“When the law fails to serve us, we must serve as the law.” — Kenneth Eade
Rage is an emotion I rarely ever feel. I’m thankful that it doesn’t happen very often. When rage hits I have to take a step back and collect my thoughts. That happened last night when reports about the Jacob Rittenhouse case started coming down the pike. I first saw the story here.
My first reaction was disbelief. In the interest of full disclosure, some of my commentaries end up on that site. Sometimes works border on the satirical or at least with tongue firmly implanted in cheek. So, I wanted to check myself and go to the source.
However, I know Twitter is not the best source for news either. So, I kept digging. So, I decided to go to a reputable source like NPR and saw the same story again. I still couldn’t believe what I was reading. It was like we had gone down some sort of worm hole in time into a different universe. I certainly wasn’t capable of intelligent commentary.
I’m still not sure that I am capable of it, but I’ll give it my best shot. Jacob Rittenhouse killed three people and injured others. The judge has not allowed the prosecution to refer to them as victims. Okay, that seems bad enough, but it was what came next that turned me into Mount St. Helens. The defense can refer to the victims (I am under no such order) as rioters, looters, and arsonists.
Let’s start with the obvious. Does this judge have proof that those particular individuals were participating in looting, arson, and rioting? Moreover, did Rittenhouse absolutely know which of his victims (oops) were guilty of those things? Firing indiscriminately into a crowd would seem to show a lack of discerning on his part, but that’s probably my fault for using big words like discerning.
How is anyone (let alone a judge) allowed to refer to anyone in public as a looter, rioter, or arsonist unless we know for a fact that they were doing those things? In one flail swoop, the judge has managed to not only render a ruling that makes the case for an appeal a slam dunk, he’s opened himself up to class action lawsuit for defamation of character.
However, let’s forget all of that for the moment. Do we want to live in a society where that even matters? Do we want to live in a society where a teenage boy gets to decide what crosses the line between peaceful protests and rioting? Do we want an adolescent deciding when someone has crossed the line into looting? Do we want someone without a fully developed frontal lobe getting to decide the fate of someone even if they have been caught committing an act of arson?
I’m not qualified to make that decision and I’m a grown ass man. Besides, I don’t want to live in a world where individuals on the street get to decide whether my actions somehow call for me to be the victim of state sanctioned murder. The whole concept is so morally repugnant that I can’t even entertain it. This didn’t come from a high school buddy or some stranger down the street. Apparently, this thinking came from a judge in a court of law.
So, one decision collectively demonstrates where we have gone wrong. This decision just told the families of those VICTIMS that it was their fault for protesting in the wrong place at the wrong time. This decision told the families of the VICTIMS that their loved ones will forever be branded as criminals or miscreants. This decision white washed a young kid’s decision to take the law into his own hands and become judge, jury, and executioner.
A friend labeled this as a good example of white privaledge. I wish I could agree. This goes beyond that. White privaledge is a kind of abstraction that we use to explain how some people have it better than others. This is a court sanctioned lynch mob. Some have collectively determined that some of us deserve to die. That sentence can be carried out by an adolescent if need be. We know they never make mistakes in judgment.