I have been home lately, at loose ends some days. I have had extra time on my hands.
So I’ve watched and listened to a lot of the trial of Kyle Rittenhouse and also the McMichaels trial. I have learned quite a bit about the American legal system, about the laws that govern many of our states and cities and about our American relationship with violence.
As a confirmed lefty, of course my initial reaction to the Rittenhouse trial was one of pure outrage. I believed with every fiber of my soul that he was guilty of murder and should be sentenced to jail.
And that goes triple for the actions of the men who chased down an unarmed Ahmaud Arbery and killed him for trying to protect himself from their loaded guns.
I watched both trials with all of the ingrained beliefs of a good progressive left wing activist.
I have two Black Lives Matter flags on my property. I have a Bernie Sanders bumper sticker on my car. I have been a slightly socialist voter since the 1970s.
But in the past couple of weeks I have learned some things, and I’ve changed my mind a lot in terms of Kyle, if not the McMichaels.
I learned that in spite of the assurances from my lefty news sources and social media contacts, Kyle Rittenhouse’s Mom did not drive him across state lines with a loaded AR15. She didn’t drop him off in a riot zone.
I also learned that in the state of Wisconsin, people routinely carry loaded weapons around town. I learned that in Wisconsin, it’s illegal for a minor to purchase an assault weapon like an AR15, but it is not clear that it’s illegal for that same child to own or to use that gun.
I learned that the conservative part of our country honestly believes that the surest sign of patriotism is to grab your gun and head out into the streets to stop those “bad guys with guns.”
So I’m thinking.
At the tender age of 17, a boy in Wisconsin is not allowed to vote. He’s not allowed to buy himself a beer. He is not considered an adult, and can’t sign a contract, consent to medical treatment or ask to be emancipated from his parents.
Why not, you ask?
Because medical science, and neurological research, shows that adolescents do not have brains that are developed enough for them to make logical decisions about their lives. Science understands that the adolescent brain is impulsive, disorganized and deluded into believing that its owner is immortal.
So why do the adults who make our laws allow those same immature brain owners to carry loaded weapons into dangerous situations?
I’m not excusing the reprehensible actions of Kyle Rittenhouse. In my view, carrying a loaded weapon is proof that you want to shoot someone. Sorry, but that seems obvious to me.
But that doesn’t convince me that Kyle should be in jail.
I do NOT want to see even one more young life lost to the endless gun violence in this country. I can’t see any way that any good could come from putting this kid in jail. He would have become a martyr to the right. An immature, pudgy, gun toting martyr.
No lives would have been saved.
No lessons would have been learned.
Instead, it is my deepest wish that the law makers at every level of this country walk up to the nearest mirror. I want them to look into that mirror and I want each and every one of them to ask this question: “What the hell do we think is going to happen when we allow every man, woman and teen in this country to drag around a loaded weapon? What do we think is going to occur when we let hidden, loaded guns be brought into bars, restaurants and churches? Why do we act shocked when people with loaded guns end up shooting each other?”
I am angry about the deaths that happened in Kenosha. I am disgusted, and appalled and horrified.
But I don’t hold one stupid, meat-headed kid responsible.
WE, in this country, WE have allowed ourselves to live in a nation where weapons of war are bought and sold by people who have no training and no experience. WE have allowed our teens to buy these weapons because, in the words of Kyle Rittenhouse, they look “cool.”
WE have allowed our elected officials to air campaign ads in which they hold those same “cool” guns while threatening anyone who has a different point of view. WE have voted for people who brag about murdering their colleagues.
I am disgusted. I am scared. I am in shock.
But I don’t think putting the blame on one idiotic kid is the solution to the mess in which we find ourselves.
We need to look into our own mirrors.