The Memo: Rittenhouse Trial Exposes Deep Divide in America

The Kyle Rittenhouse trial is once again exposing the deep fissures in American life – divisions so deep that people on either side seem to see two completely different realities.

Rittenhouse is on trial for murder after fatally shooting two people and wounding a third last year.

Rittenhouse, then 17, traveled, armed with an assault rifle, from his home in Antioch, Ill., To Kenosha, Wis., When protests broke out after police shot a black man, Jacob Blake, in the back. Rittenhouse had previously expressed support for the police amid the uproar over police killings of black people.

Those facts are almost the only ones on which everyone agrees.

For progressives, and particularly black activists, the Rittenhouse case is the embodiment of a fundamentally biased police and judicial system.

They look at every step of the way Rittenhouse has traveled and ask what would have happened if a black teenager had done the exact same things.

“All of these things form a composite picture of a criminal justice system,” said Earl Ofari Hutchinson, radio host, commentator and author of several books on black life. “That’s why you see so many African Americans on social media, where the only topic that comes up over and over again is: ‘double standard’, ‘double standard’, ‘double standard’. “

The night of the shootings, Rittenhouse had wandered the streets of Kenosha armed with an assault rifle that he was too young to legally possess. No police officer appears to have confronted him. In fact, he and other conservative protesters received bottles of water and the police thanked them.

Even after the shooting occurred, Rittenhouse was not immediately arrested and passed freely by police vehicles.

Once he was charged and bail was set at $ 2 million, a large fundraising effort was successfully launched to post bail. When his trial began, the judge, in one of the many contested sentences and interventions, said that the word “victims” should not be used to refer to the people Rittenhouse had shot.

Meanwhile, the teenager has found support among conservative politicians and media figures.

Rep. Marjorie Taylor GreeneMarjorie Taylor GreeneGOP’s Efforts to Minimize the Danger of Capitol Riots Increase The Memorandum: Now What for Anti-Trump Republicans? Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene Says She Will Meet With Trump ‘Soon’ In Florida MORE (R-Ga.) She has called him an “innocent child.” Previous President TrumpDonald Trump Former Chicago-area CEO Sentenced to 30 Days in Prison for Involvement in Jan. 6 Attack Noem Formally Launches Overnight Health Care Re-election Campaign – Presented by Rare Access Action Project – Biden Reveals FDA Choice PLUS he once sympathized that Rittenhouse had found himself in “big trouble” and “probably would have been killed.” Rep. Thomas massieThomas Harold Massie Republican Rep. Clyde racks up, 500 in mask fines Industry rejects efforts of the federal cybersecurity mandate and Congress Greene racks up at least K in fines for ignoring House mask mandate MORE (R-Ky.) He said he had shown “incredible restraint.”

Rittenhouse’s mother once received a standing ovation at a Republican Party meeting.

Tucker carlsonTucker Carlson ‘Legacy American’ is the latest catchphrase in the racist lexicon Buttigieg says the administration will continue to fight for family leave Republican collaborators help make white nationalists stronger than ever MORE Fox News has portrayed Rittenhouse as a patriot who has been exposed to legal dangers because “legitimate authority refuses to do its sworn duty.”

Greg Gutfeld echoed that idea on the same network this week.

“Kyle’s victims, the two dead guys, deserved better from the government. But they didn’t deserve any better from Kyle, ”he said. “He did the right thing. He did what the government should have done.”

The controversy has migrated out of the political arena into a broader cultural furor. NBA star LeBron James accused Rittenhouse of faking when the defendant appeared to break down while giving testimony in his own defense.

“Man that’s enough,” James tweeted. “That boy ate some lemon heads before entering court.”

That, in turn, sparked a fierce, if predictable, conservative backlash. JD Vance, the conservative author seeking a US Senate seat in Ohio, called James “a wealthy man who makes fun of a child.”

Rittenhouse, in short, has become a canvas on which people project their feelings on any number of visceral issues that are shaking the nation: police surveillance, racial justice, Black Lives Matter, Trump, gun control, and more.

Progressive figures criticize Rittenhouse’s defenders as part of a conservative reaction.

“They are people of the mentality that ‘America is good enough, what are you complaining about?’ “said civil rights attorney William O. Wagstaff III.” They saw people who were outraged that a black man was being shot in the back like whiners or looters and rioters. “

But Rittenhouse’s status as an emblem of bigger issues has made the complexities of the evidence presented at his trial even more divisive.

For example, the only person who survived Rittenhouse’s shooting, Gaige Grosskreutz, apparently a prosecution witness, may have ultimately assisted the defense. Grosskreutz acknowledged that he was armed himself and that Ritttenhouse did not shoot him even when he could see his gun, until Grosskreutz pointed the gun directly at the defendant from a short distance.

Another witness said he recalled that one of the men killed by Rittenhouse yelled: “If I catch any of you alone tonight, I am going to kill you.”

That has left many people doubtful that Rittenhouse will be convicted, and has bolstered conservative criticism of much of the mainstream media coverage of the Rittenhouse case.

Final arguments in the case are expected Monday.

Regardless of the way the verdict goes, it is clear that the battle for Rittenhouse’s fate is part of a much larger war.

The Memo is a column reported by Niall Stanage.

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