Pivot point

ZMan Wins Teh Intarnets today with the most penetratingly insightful, comprehensive, and above all beautifully-written Rittenhouse analysis yet.

The Kyle Rittenhouse trial has gone to the jury after both sides presented their closing arguments and the state presented its rebuttal. Wisconsin stacks the deck against the accused by not only allowing the state the final word but giving them a chance to address the closing argument of the accused. That means before the jury got the case, they had to sit through a long day of the state making unfounded claims about their case as well as the case of the defense team.

Putting that aside, the trial has not exactly riveted the country, but it has become a symbol of the problems facing America. For example, there were the howler monkeys of the new religion writhing in agony whenever the judge enforced the basic rules of criminal procedure. Immediately they labeled the judge a white supremacist fascist and issued a fatwa against him. The death threats came pouring in and he is now under police protection. Welcome to America.

On the other side of this you have people slowly waking up to the reality of the situation, who are glued to the case. They hold out hope that the jury does the moral thing and clears Rittenhouse of all charges. They do not want to see an innocent man condemned for holding the wrong opinions, but mostly they do not want to see the ugly reality of this age piled onto the head of a baby-faced young man. This trial offends the decency of the remaining honest men in this society.

Of course, that brings up the confused audience in this tragic drama. Most white people are trying to avoid looking at this trial. The grotesque nature of it turns their stomach, as it should. The ugliness of the human condition is on display. There are the savage calls for mob vengeance and the cruelty of fanaticism. This trial is a human sacrifice carried out by a mob of fanatical lunatics. Most white people thought we had evolved beyond this sort of thing. Welcome to America.

It is a good reminder of something said by John Stuart Mill. “Let not any one pacify his conscience by the delusion that he can do no harm if he takes no part, and forms no opinion. Bad men need nothing more to compass their ends, than that good men should look on and do nothing. He is not a good man who, without a protest, allows wrong to be committed in his name, and with the means which he helps to supply, because he will not trouble himself to use his mind on the subject.”

This has been the story of the last five years. The overwhelming majority of people in America, regardless of race or national origin, just want to live quiet lives enjoying the benefits of their circumstances. They are Burkean conservatives in that they do not want to flip over the tables and begin anew. That understandable and justifiable desire for stability and normalcy easily gives way to passivity in the face of evil. The story of the last five years is a nation of good men doing nothing.

This trial is probably a pivot point. The good men looking away do so with the certainty that their fellow citizens on the jury will do the right thing. They still trust the system even though they see the systemic corruption. If the jury sends this young man to prison many more eyes will be opened to the reality of this age. Not all, as some people put all of their efforts to remaining blissfully unaware. Theirs is a life of willful ignorance and a selfish disregard for the suffering of others.

On the other hand, the just verdict will allow most people to extend their holiday from reality a bit longer. They will comfort themselves in the belief that the system still works, despite what they have seen. Like a high wire performer who miraculously survives a fall and returns to his act, these people will learn nothing. Thoreau was right about most men living quiet lives of desperation. It is just that most men desperately wish to live outside of the great currents of history.

For those who have made the journey to this side of the great divide and see things as they are, this trial is just another opportunity. If the jury does the right thing, then the issue is why this kid was persecuted by these ghouls. If he is found guilty then the issue is the grotesque injustice at the hands of a savage mob of fanatics. The dissident is an opportunist, using every event to press a partisan case. The Rittenhouse case is just one more story in a long struggle for Western civilization.

Precisely so. Frankly, I don’t see how any reasonably aware, historically-literate person could see it any other way. The deep, dark connections between the Rittenhouse case and all the other calamities, collapses, and controversies swamping us of late are readily discernible, as hard to miss as boxcars on a passing train, clanking and groaning as they slowly trundle by in front of your stopped car. ZMan seems maybe a touch too flippant with his final line; the Rittenhouse shit circus is way more significant than “just one more story,” or seems so to me. Although I do also concede that the passage of time and the change of perspective that is its inevitable by-product—bringing as it does fresh new outrages and disasters to shift our attention away from those confronting us today—could easily prove me all wet about that.

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