The exploitation of Kyle Rittenhouse is bad for everyone

Count me among the large number of Americans who familiarized themselves enough with the trial of Kyle Rittenhouse to know that under no rational definition of the crime of murder could he be found guilty.

All the peripheral questions, concerns, and debates – things like, "should he have been there," or "why does a 17-year-old have a weapon like that," or "those are fake tears he's crying," or "what did he think was going to happen," or the weirdest of them all, "why did he cross state lines" – were ultimately irrelevant to the question of whether he murdered those two men on the streets of Kenosha, Wisconsin.

I should hasten to add that the charge from the Rittenhouse defenders that the two men he killed were violent criminals, one a child rapist, was also immaterial to the core question of whether the young man committed murder that night.

In a world without cell phone cameras, drone video, and social media, perhaps some could be left to wonder whether the impartial jury had all the facts. But we don't live in such a world, and every piece of presented evidence, including the testimony of the third man shot by Rittenhouse that night, bore down heavily on the side of legal, permissible, justifiable self-defense.

For all its faults, the American legal system worked as it should in finding Rittenhouse not guilty.

That being said, I also put myself in the category of a large number of Americans who didn't find in Rittenhouse someone who should be celebrated or championed. What good is there in that, for anyone, but especially Rittenhouse himself? There was nothing to be gained for any worthy cause by turning him into a folk hero. And those who would do so are operating with ulterior motives that have nothing to do with helping Kyle through what is a traumatic life event at a very young age.

But a hundred interviews and speaking contracts later, we arrive at this moment:

Watch this again and realize that this is a young man who took the lives of two other individuals. Justified? Yes. Self-defense? Yes. Still tragic? Absolutely. This is a man who is famous for killing two men while fearing for his own life.

What part of that deserves or calls for a WWE-style entrance before a raucous crowd, complete with pyrotechnic floor-based fire fountains?

What part of that deserves or calls for photo ops with flamboyant lawmakers seemingly more interested in celebrity than legislation?

This is a now 18-year-old young man who undoubtedly has some serious psychological scarring to work through. Anyone who believes that his tears were real should recognize that the taking of another human life, no matter how justified it may have been, is not something that just blends in to the minutia of a person's daily existence. Someone who has experienced that kind of trauma doesn't need celebration, they need counseling.

But, more than just Rittenhouse himself, our fractured society doesn't need this type of thing. Those who wanted to see Kyle found guilty were motivated by their own unhealthy sense of vengeance and hatred. Those of us who know that can express gratitude that the legal system worked to shield Rittenhouse from such turnabout vigilantism without grotesquely spiking the football for no real reason other than spite.

That is if we truly desire to be peacemakers. Again, I'm not talking about backing down and allowing Rittenhouse to be found or treated as guilty in some vain effort to "keep the peace." I mean, once he has been appropriately cleared legally, allow the issue to dissipate and dissolve rather than keeping it fresh and allowing provocateurs to continue using it for their own benefit at the expense of reconciliation.

For instance, Kyle J. Howard – the very man who posted the video from Rittenhouse's TPUSA/America Fest speech above – used the attention his post created to repeat a patently false, divisive lie:

Why Howard, who markets himself as a preacher and campaigner against spiritual abuse, would abuse the truth in such a galling and flagrant way is curious if only because video evidence lays waste to his bizarre description of the two men killed. Anthony Huber and Joseph Rosenbaum were not "marching in a Black Lives Matter protest." They were participating in a street riot, before pursuing and attempting to murder Kyle Rittenhouse.

This is the type of divisive rhetoric powered by a racial tribalism that is exceedingly unhealthy for our society. It isn't advocating healing, it's fueling hatred. It's not promoting justice, it's profiting off division.

Which is the other reason why the exaltation and idolizing of Rittenhouse is such a bad idea. Beyond the callous message it sends and the damage it does to what will be a lifelong struggle for Kyle's own pursuit of a normal life, it provides unnecessary fodder for race-baiters and merchants of discord.

The fewer issues voices like Kyle J. Howard can have at their disposal to manipulate, stir up rancor, and generate lucrative racial rifts, the better.

Rittenhouse is no villain, and he is no superhero. He's a normal guy whose best life will come once he's treated as one. So for his sake and ours, let's start doing that.

Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Not the Bee or any of its affiliates.

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