Like pretty much everyone else, I groan when I find a jury duty summons in the mail. The prospect of having to serve – or even of just sitting for hours in windowless, fluorescent-lit rooms, waiting to hear if you’ve been picked or not, is the perfect amalgam of inconvenience and boredom.
And yet, to tell the truth, the two times I have actually sat on a jury (both DUI – both voted to convict) were both interesting and reassuring. Every single juror paid close attention and seemed sincerely determined to serve justice.
Fair, unbiased jury trials are a mainstay of democracy. Theoretically, when you’ve been busted for picking your nose and then wiping the goo on the post office wall, 12 of your peers will determine your guilt or innocence. They may be right. They may be wrong, but that’s how the game is set up. But, you may ask, who are your peers? Would they have to be nose pickers, too, to be actual peers? And, if so, will their judgment really reflect the best interests of society? Who the heck wants to live in a snotocracy?
Well, the jury is no longer out. When Kyle Rittenhouse was acquitted, I felt vaguely ill, assuming it would encourage others in the current, misnamed Patriot Movement (where “Patriot” really means gun-toting thug) to act out their vigilante fantasies, suppressing “progressive” demonstrations/riots. I presumed a miscarriage of justice, as in the O.J. Simpson fiasco years ago, where a cynical jury with its own agenda and grievances ignored damning evidence of the defendant’s guilt.
Not wanting to be governed by my own knee-jerk bias, I sat down to watch the trial on YouTube. And, for the first time ever, I was wrong. The testimony, and especially the video footage, convinced me the jury was right. As regards to the charge of murder, the evidence pointed to Kyle’s innocence and legitimate self-defense. His real infraction, though, was to exercise bad judgment, grabbing a weapon he could not legally possess and going downtown to play make-believe cop.
Any father figure (of either gender) worth their salt would have delivered a more simple, appropriate punishment: a swift, painful kick in the young, foolish ass, and confiscation of the bad boy’s very deadly toy. Apparently, there was no such father figure.
Young Rittenhouse, if we believe him – and he did seem both honest and forthright – went out that night with his AR-15 to oppose anarchy. This has been seen by some as the heroic behavior of a model citizen. To others, it was misguided behavior and youthful folly. Perhaps both are right. In the big picture, the important thing about Kyle’s trial had little to do with the silly, and eventually desperate behavior of a naive 17-year-old, and everything to do with the dangerously polarized attitudes of this country today.
Poor, clueless Kyle became a bone of contention between the crazed, rabid dogs on the gun-happy right and the bleeding-heart, humanist dogs of the left – the verdict’s fallout less about his guilt or innocence than about conflicting value systems. More “culture wars,” to call them that.
I only regret that demagogue/flame-fanners, like Tucker Carlson, have seized upon this silly kid as some sort of symbolic hero, which he is assuredly not.
May God have mercy on us all in these demented times.
Oh, yeah. Amen.