Kyle Rittenhouse is a monster made by America

Photo-Illustration: by The Cut

More than a year after that fateful night in Kenosha, Wisconsin, Kyle Rittenhouse is crying in front of the jury. He’s just an ordinary kid who loves his country and wants to be a policeman; now he’s an icon, an embodiment of a country that is tearing itself off the seams. If tears weren’t enough, if arguments weren’t enough, he would have gone to jail for shooting 3 people and killing 2 of them instead of going to a nursing home. like his mother. That’s not how the story is supposed to play out.

Policymaking seemed easy enough as he did as a child with the local department, and in August 2020, when he was 17, the situation was dire enough – for all he was told. heard – that reinforcements are needed. Just half an hour away, Kenosha and her safe were surrounded; The images of seemingly endless upheaval appear to prove that the small Wisconsin suburb is in trouble. It seemed there was nothing Kyle could do when the world was on fire. He’s a good person motivated by good intentions but accidentally pushed into a bad ending: So what does he have to apologize for?

We are a nation perplexed by this question, each afraid of the other to deny the obvious answer that should be given. For many, there was nothing for Kyle Rittenhouse to feel bad for, no crime he had committed. He simply does what Candlestick was done, so did the police and politicians Weak for what, what needs to happen more often to this country wonderful. To others, he is a harbinger of explosive violence, the specter of domestic terrorism, a devastating memory of past and present trauma. For this side of the argument, if Kyle Rittenhouse were to be released into a normal life, it would be an invitation to destruction.

And yet, despite all the attention, despite all the objections and admonitions, Kyle Rittenhouse was an average white guy from an average white family who settled in a middle-white suburb jar. There was no possibility of anonymity that he would be called a “bad kid”. From the brief 17 years of his life before last summer, there aren’t many records of antisocial or violent behavior, few extremist posts, and a lot of baby-faced enthusiasm. He was a mirror image of the American avant-garde, and as such, an uncomfortable reflection of the culture we had raised. If the violent death he is responsible for represents who he is, it also represents who we are.

We see not just a trial of a boy and a gun but a trial of the hypocrisy at the core of American mythology. Rittenhouse was young enough to be a child but was accepted by others that evening, old enough to carry a lethal weapon; He is an “isolated incident” between a coordinated coalition of white men armed on dark streets. We are told he is not invested in white supremacy, but he chose to call a friend instead of paramedics after firing his first shots and he was given a self-shield. defense for carrying a loaded weapon in protest of a Black man being shot in the back. For a country where atrocities occur only in the passive voice and past tense, which we cannot deny such obvious agency is an existential crisis.

Rittenhouse thinks he’s living the story of a good guy with a gun because everything in our society tells him so much. This is the truth that we have tried to deny, the fact that the trial has unequivocally presented. He is an ordinary person living an ordinary life with ordinary interests and passions, and in a range of ordinary choices – wants the gun, has a friend buy it for him, drives to his friend’s house to buy it. take it – he did a monstrosity. And in this, he is simply a new chapter in a lasting legacy of American monstrosity.

Rittenhouse was an ordinary Confederate soldier, fighting for the hearth and homeland rather than slavery; Christ in the dark, only “protecting” the safety of white women; a white jury passed a verdict for taking black lives; insurgents trying to “prevent theft.” We have tried to isolate, correct, reduce, and deny our historical and cultural truths to bring redemption to these ordinary people. We didn’t create our story templates: domestic violence and misconduct so often predict serial killers; non-stop propaganda that urge to provoke and dominate when personal desires are not enough; the flood of white supremacy into a land so profound and complete that it is seen as an ideal to strive for. If no one can see it coming, then no one can avoid it.

We writhe in a tug of war: To see someone as human is not only to sympathize with their hurt but also to recognize the cruelty within them. Walking the path of prioritizing comfort over truth is necessarily a choice, and that choice is necessarily a responsibility. We cannot be appalled by the violence we perpetrate, nor can we punish those who engage in it. This is the result of rationalizing decades and centuries of good people doing bad things because it’s easier to demand better from ourselves.

There are always excuses for damage, and these are the very reasons that explain the reckless actions of a 17-year-old civilian carrying weapons of war on a suburban street: It is the mentality of a crowd; he was overwhelmed by this moment; he has no choice. Wrap cruelty in ordinary things and it makes ordinary people cruel. None of us could be guilty if we all were. We allow others to fall down the path we opened and speak with a voice of regret when what has always happened again.

The footage of Rittenhouse walking through the streets of Kenosha and firing a rifle at unarmed people is the product of a modern phenomenon, but it resembles another artifact of American tradition: the postcard. lynching. These photographs also show ordinary people in extraordinary circumstances, caught up in frenzy, surrounded by an unknown crowd. They flock from far and wide in the dark nights, undeterred and fearless, and share a baptism of blood. They were shopkeepers, librarians and carpenters, judges and bureaucrats, fathers and mothers, cousins ​​and friends, churchgoers and singers – and, turning smiling to the light of the shadow lights, are monsters.

After they collect their grisly souvenirs, the crowd will scatter back to normal life to become normal people again. No costs, no courts, no reprimands, no justice – no trial, no jury, no tears in the stands. There is no one to convince with justifications because no one will ask any questions. Send guilt by mail – leave with a rifle: This is the purpose of the system, the gift of a normal life.

Here’s what the jury acquitted for Rittenhouse: freedom, autonomy, and normalcy. Fear, Despair, and Death: This is what the Black community has received and is forced to accept again. There is no document that can make society accept the punishment of white people for the safety of black people. To get back to normal, Kyle Rittenhouse just had to ask.

That’s how the story is supposed to play out. Kyle Rittenhouse is a monster made by America


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