Kyle Rittenhouse, Reaction
Updated: Feb 18, 2021
For me this is more reminiscent of the Travyon Martin shooting than anything else in that it addresses a fundamental question, what constitutes self defense?
A lot of people argue that the answer to that question is incredibly straight forward, it’s your right to defend yourself against anyone who is threatening you or your loved ones with bodily harm. Period, full stop.
I would argue it’s not that simple, that there’s a spectrum. Let me establish the edges of this spectrum as I see it.
Note that this first edge is not an analogy of the Kyle Rittenhouse situation, I’ll get to that, I am just framing the extremes.
So, the far end of the spectrum on the “it’s not self defense it’s murder” side.
Let’s say I want to kill someone tomorrow. I arm myself, jump in my car, and drive down to a local restaurant. My plan is to walk table to table and find couples, stopping at each table to tell them that the woman at the table is ugly, waiting for one of the guys to jump up and lunge at me. I’m lucky, the first table has a guy that jumps at me, and I shoot him. I’m double lucky, he had a concealed weapon on him. On paper I’ve now killed a man who was assaulting me who had a weapon on him during the assault.
Nobody knows that it was my intent that day to go kill someone. If a completely straight definition of self defense is used, that I am allowed to protect myself against an assailant full stop, I’m good.
Everyone reading this, I hope, understands that this is not self defense, I murdered someone in this example. The prosecuting attorney would rightfully point out that I was seeking to provoke the aggression. I sought out the danger that I then “defended” myself from.
Now the good end, the “yes, totally self defense” end of our spectrum.
This is any scenario where the danger was brought to you while you’re going about your normal day. Someone breaks into your house, shoot them. Someone tries to rob you while you’re walking down the street on your way to work, shoot them. Someone tries to car jack you while you’re driving to the mall, shoot them.
100%, danger was brought to you and you had an answer, bravo for keeping your cool under pressure and defending yourself and those you love. I hope if anything like that ever happens to me I have the presence of mind to use the firearms I own and act decisively.
So that’s our spectrum of self defense. Not as perfectly straight forward as some want to claim it is. There is wiggle room around whether or not the danger you’re defending yourself from was brought on or sought out by your own actions, vs if it was brought to you while you’re just living your life.
Individual situations can be a mix, fall somewhere along the spectrum that isn’t in the extreme, be 80/20 for example.
Where you perceive a situation falls along this spectrum for any given event that happens determines whether or not you think the act is self defense or murder.
I said the Kyle Rittenhouse story reminds me of Trayvon Martin because this is exactly what divided people then, where did the Trayvon Martin shooting fall along this self defense spectrum.
Did George Zimmerman’s actions bring on the danger that he then defended himself from? If your perception is that Zimmerman was defending his neighborhood, and you view that as an extension of defending his property or his loved ones, then you likely believe that the shooting of Trayvon Martin was self defense. Zimmerman was defending something he had a right to defend plus he didn’t throw the first punch.
If you believe that Zimmerman sought out the danger by chasing Trayvon, that he went looking for the danger due to some hero complex, that the initial act of aggression was the chase, then you likely believe that Zimmerman murdered Trayvon Martin.
That’s how people split during the Trayvon Martin incident.
So the question today is, where along that spectrum is Kyle Rittenhouse?
The best light you can view Kyle Rittenhouse in is that he was defending his local community, an extension of his neighborhood, an extension of his home. He was so troubled by the idea that his community would come to harm that he had to stand up and do something about it.
So that’s one camp, those that view Kyle as a hero defending his community from riots. He didn’t want to kill, but he was ready to defend himself and when the mob attacked he had an answer for them.
Quick aside, I’m shedding the side debates for the moment. He didn’t legally own the firearm himself. He crossed state lines to get to the riot. For this conversation I’m calling both those things irrelevant to our spectrum. I don’t personally find them completely irrelevant, but he lived close enough to the riot to consider it his community, and his family owned weapons legally, those arguments can be chalked up to splitting hairs, not the focus of this discussion.
Now camp B. This is the group that don’t think Kyle Rittenhouse is the poor man’s Batman, they think he murdered people.
This is the group that watched the video of Kyle Rittenhouse from some time in the last year showing him repeatedly punching a girl in the kidneys from behind in a high school fight. This camp does not believe he’s some angel.
Side note that’s a real video that’s out there, and I shoehorned it in here so that people could get mad at me for besmirching his character by bringing up a past event that's completely irrelevant to the moment, because those are the same people that frantically google prior criminal records every time a black man is shot.
This camp believes Kyle Rittenhouse brought the danger on himself that he then “defended” himself from, or worse that he purposefully went there looking for blood, that he wanted to kill someone and found his opportunity.
This camp sees Kyle Rittenhouse going to a riot with a long gun across his chest, putting himself in the middle of everything, deeper than law enforcement was willing to go, and think that’s him creating his own danger.
Another quick aside. The rebuttal, “well the riots shouldn’t have been going on in the first place to create the dangerous situation,” agreed, but they were. It wasn’t a surprise to him that riots were happening. They didn’t spring up around him while he was window shopping. He knew they were happening, he went to meet them.
So where do I see Kyle Rittenhouse on the spectrum of self defense?
I think Kyle Rittenhouse believed his own hype. He pumped himself up, he was going to be a hero, got his gear on, ready to stand up to the bullies that were invading his town. I think he got there and it was freakin scary. I think he got in over his head.
I think people in the riot crowd that saw him were probably freakin scared too. They saw a militia group move in with rifles, they didn’t know what their intent was but they were carrying weapons that could kill hundreds potentially. A few among them pumped themselves up in their own heads as heros. They moved on a militiamen to disarm and disable him to protect their side.
That’s not glorifying the rioters by the way, they’re assholes, but even assholes have other assholes they’re friends with and it’s a human reaction to want to protect your friends.
I do not think any parties involved can legitimately claim self defense. They all brought this on themselves.
I think Kyle Rittenhouse should be charged for murder. He didn't need to be there, and just like the rioters didn’t need to be there destroying things and should be prosecuted to the fullest for their actions, Kyle didn’t need to be there putting himself in harms way and then killing people, and he should also be prosecuted for his actions.
More broadly this is why we don’t handle this kind of stuff with untrained 17 year olds.