The cultural reactions to the Kyle Rittenhouse verdict, bring to mind the lamentations of the late Judge Robert Bork, as articulated in his tome “Slouching Toward Gomorrah,” two decades ago. Bork’s chief grievance was that virtually all issues relevant to American culture had been politicized to our own detriment.
Before and during the trial, people of a certain political persuasion were convinced that Rittenhouse was a racist and a vigilante, while the other side claimed Rittenhouse merely had exercised his right to self-defense. What has to be seen as somewhat remarkable, was that almost nobody gave deference to conclusions reached by the jury, which had full access to all the evidence and information, outside the milieu of a narrative driven conclusion.
Everywhere there are cries for justice, but it is apparent that “justice” is not really the desired outcome. Certain philosophers of ancient Greece, with cynicism, argued that ‘justice” is whatever comports with the interest of the stronger. I would tend to modify this a bit, but given my understanding of human nature, my definition would be at least equally cynical. I believe that “justice” is the outworking of whatever jibes with the prevailing narrative. This, of course, is not true justice, but “justice” as it is deconstructed and distorted.
We see the young child, his lower lip turned down, pouting that a certain situation he is experiencing is “not fair.” Does he really care about fairness, or just what is germane to his own self-interest?
I learned my own lesson about justice over 25 years ago. I was driving in my car and came up to a busy street corner. I was busy looking to my left to check for oncoming traffic that was partially obscured by a hedge of bushes. Suddenly, I heard a thud. I looked all around me, and to my horror, I spotted a teenage boy in front of my car writhing in pain on the pavement. He had been thrown from the bicycle he was riding. Within moments the youngster was standing upright and apparently, not badly injured. The police arrived and took reports of the incident, first from the boy. When it was my turn, the officer told me that as a matter of course, pedestrian or bicycle mishaps involving automobiles nearly always result in the motorist being declared at fault, as the other party is more vulnerable. However, he stated that there was so much negligent admitted by the bicyclist, that he found it difficult to cite me. The bicycle had no brakes, and the operator attempted to maneuver in front of me to avoid a collision, as he steered the bicycle down the sidewalk. He literally glanced his back wheel off the front end of my car. The officer said he had to discuss the incident with his captain and I would be notified later in the evening.
I remember praying all that night how I just wanted justice. But what I really wanted was to get out of a bad situation simply because the other party contributed heavily to the accident. But I then had an epiphany. I realized that true justice would mean that I needed to suffer the consequences I had avoided, for all the previous times when I was given a second chance, or my wrong was overlooked. No, justice was not really what I wanted. Likewise, for many of us, the Rittenhouse verdict was really about getting the outcome we desired, not justice.
My own observation circles back to Bork’s analysis. I have a friend who is a prosecutor. As I followed this trial, it appeared that the DA had a poor chance of getting a conviction based on the way the evidence was unfolding. Many DA’s run for reelection touting their conviction rate. Of course, one component of a high conviction rate is based on discretion not to prosecute cases that are difficult to win. My thinking was that the Kenosha DA was goaded into prosecuting this case based upon the political pressure behind the narrative. Absent of that pressure, I am skeptical the case would have been tried. Undoubtedly, this is why the DA stated that the verdict of the jury must be respected. Additionally, there was little hard evidence that Rittenhouse was the scoundrel the media made him out be, except for loose guilt by association innuendos.
There is without a doubt, pockets of racism in America. There is a history of minorities not receiving due process. But the individuals shot by Rittenhouse were not minorities, and one cannot assert a racial motive here without a crystal ball. In our court system, we have a legal process. We do not possess omniscience. We can’t trust the judgement of those that resort to the principle of “Reductio ad Hitlerum” on steroids. That is, whoever disagrees with me, or a certain narrative, is either covertly or blatantly a racial supremacist.© Robert Meyer
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