The Kyle Rittenhouse case is, legally speaking, dead simple. It is everything around it that is complicated and layered, 

T.REX Newsletter

Lessons from Kenosha 

The Kyle Rittenhouse case is, legally speaking, dead simple. It is everything around it that is complicated and layered, so much so that it can be hard to see the forest for the trees. Every detail is fascinating and instructive. Every commentary opens a new can of worms. Every minute aspect of the current legal trial apparently justifies a new deep-dive opinion piece in its own right.

And yet, we should take a step back because, culturally speaking, this is much more than simply a self-defense case. The pundits have generally been looking at only a few seconds of action on the night of August 25th, but a lot more happened in Kenosha, Wisconsin, that week. There was a big mob causing big destruction in a relatively big city that week. The unrest, like many riots that wracked American cities during the summer of 2020, was a pretty big deal.

And we should really step back even further because Kenosha didn't fall into chaos overnight. It was a tinderbox of issues caused by years of neglect and incompetency from self-serving politicians. Officials like Mayor John Antaramian (first elected in 1992 and currently the longest-serving Mayor of Kenosha) have spent decades strengthening local government institutions at the expense of community stability.

On August 25th, Kyle Rittenhouse walked into a battle that probably had been lost before he was even born. That day he set out wanting to do the right thing in a bad situation (help out a few people in an embattled community). And when he found himself in a different kind of bad situation, he did do the right thing. We should applaud his actions in the terrible situation he found himself in, but we should also ask why he was put in that situation—alone, surrounded, in a burning city—in the first place.

An overreaching government wants to do everything: Land management, housing control, price-fixing, educational reform, and of course, social justice. But, ironically, an overreaching government always neglects its only legitimate purpose and actual jurisdiction. When the protesters began burning private property, there wasn't much actual justice enforced. It's little wonder that private citizens took things into their own hands and tried to do what their government was neglecting—serving and protecting those threatened by unlawful violence. 

That week, the Kenosha 911 center received over 31,000 calls asking for help. When the smoke finally cleared, more than 40 buildings had been completely destroyed, $50 million worth of property was damaged, and Kyle Rittenhouse had been forced to defend himself, alone, against multiple lethal threats.

Even though law enforcement agents from the city, county, state, and Federal Bureau of Investigation were present and watching Kenosha, there was very little protection of the actual citizenry. Only 175 arrests were made. But, thanks to all these watchers, the Rittenhouse case involves what is probably the best-documented case of self-defense in legal history. 

However, there is an embarrassing problem. The evidence also reveals that the watchers did nothing. It reveals that the media has been lying to us. And overall, the Rittenhouse case reveals the deep failures of Kenosha's government officials. Which means it should be no surprise to us if people like Mayor John Antaramian, his cousin Ed Antaramian (Kenosha City Attorney), his nephew Michael Easton (Kenosha City Judge), and his nephew Benjamin Antaramian (lead detective in the Rittenhouse case), are driving the prosecution of Kyle Rittenhouse

Ultimately, the trial of Kyle Rittenhouse is not just about a few seconds of action on the night of August 25th. In many ways, the fundamental right of self-defense is also on trial. The right of a free people to protect their homes and businesses is on trial. And thus, the ability of a government to deprive a community of its rights is also on trial.

That is why there is so much pressure on all the parties involved to demand that this trial goes their way. But regardless of how the jury rules, there are some hard questions that we need to ask ourselves. How can we do what is right, like Kyle Rittenhouse did, while avoiding finding ourselves in a terrible situation like the one Rittenhouse found himself in?

Rebuilding a community, like destroying one, takes time. We need to do the boring, unpleasant cleanup at a boring community level right now. We need to be involved in local politics before our cities and towns become tinderboxes. If you can clean the graffiti off the buildings before the riots start, support your local businesses before they burn down, and un-elect the bad mayors before their nephews make you into scapegoats, you will be able to stand against injustice without having to stand alone.

T.REX Talk Podcast

Saturday on the T.REX Talk Podcast, Isaac Botkin discussed the larger issues surrounding Kyle Rittenhouse's trial and his own recent perspective shift on the court case.