The Kyle Rittenhouse verdict

compassion, kindness

verdictI’m trying to contextualize the disappointing but unsurprising Kyle Rittenhouse verdict.

One part is Mark Evanier’s tweet. “And one day soon, someone of a different political view and/or race will do what Kyle Rittenhouse did and all the folks cheering today’s verdict will be screaming, ‘Rule of law!'”

There is a 2021 article in Slate that I found intriguing. “Black gun rights advocate Kenn Blanchard says Black Americans shouldn’t be scared of the Second Amendment.”

And of course, many African-Americans are afraid. Race DOES permeate the politics of gun control. Think of the death of Philando Castile, who announced to an officer at a traffic stop that he had a gun in his car. He ended up dead, and that continues to gut me.

I’m left to speculate what would have been the reaction by law enforcement to a young black male running through the streets of Kenosha, WI with an AR-15. Perhaps he would have ended up dead like Emantic “EJ” Fitzgerald Bradford Jr. He was a good black man with a gun trying to end an Alabama mall shooting.

But Kyle Rittenhouse, running through the chaotic streets with an automatic weapon, goes past law enforcement without incident. As a Boston Globe columnist noted: “You can be a vigilante when your mission is to serve the system.”

STFU

Much has been made of the judge’s rulings during the trial. For the most part, I concur. Yet there is one aspect that I have to agree with him. The fact that Rittenhouse had not made public comment before the trial should not have mattered. Moreover, when the prosecution suggested that this was an issue, and the judge reprimanded the state on Fifth Amendment grounds, it hurt the case. It was prosecutorial ineptness.

In this blog back in 2014, I wrote: “If I am ever in a situation that would involve the criminal justice system – whether as the victim and/or witness or defendant – I will not comment on what I might testify about until the trial is over. I won’t talk about it, and I certainly won’t blog about it.”

Very few things irritate me more while watching the news than having  Lester Holt, or whomever, saying, “X is breaking their silence.” It’s as though talking about testimony to the press before the trial is what one is SUPPOSED to do. I do not buy it.

As a practical matter, shutting up is probably better. Alec Baldwin spoke after the shooting death of the cinematographer for the movie Rust. When he talked about how well-run the set operated, he may have made himself vulnerable to civil liability.

polar bear

With God on his side

It fascinates me that the two folks on my Facebook feed who clearly supported the outcome put it in a Christian context. My old neighbor Greg says the verdict was “Absolutely beautiful totally innocent! 100% self-defense.” He bashed the “bleeding hearts”, and ends with “so good for Kyle excellent praise God.”

As someone who has been reading a lot of the Old Testament recently, there’s a lot of stories of the people of Israel preparing to invade other folks. Start with Joshua 1, for instance.

But this is not the Christian theology I believe in. I’m more of a Colossians 3:12 kind of guy. “As God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience.” That would mean, in my mind, not becoming a Stand Your Ground provocateur.

Hope & Fury: MLK, The Movement and The Media

Not only is the promised land he glimpsed still over that mountaintop, the mountain is much higher than any of us could have imagined.

There are uncomfortable parallels between the deaths of Emmett Till and Philando Castile, as the special “Hope & Fury: MLK, The Movement, and The Media” pointed out. The special was broadcast on NBC-TV March 24, but I didn’t get a chance to watch it until a week and a half later.

Emmett Till, who narrator Lester Holt suggested every black person in America knows about – is that true? – was a 14-year-old black youth from Chicago who was visiting his uncle in rural Mississippi. He was lynched on August 28, 1955, after a white woman said that she was offended by him in her family’s grocery store. She has only recently recanted that tale.

Philando Castile was shot and killed by a local Minnesota police officer after the car was pulled over on July 6, 2016, with his girlfriend and her four-year-old daughter in the vehicle.

In the Till case, it was the decision of Emmett’s mother Mamie to allow, nay, insist on photographers to take pictures of her now-misshapen son. In the Castile case, girlfriend Diamond Reynolds had the wherewithal to livestream ten minutes of video via Facebook.

The MLK special also noted the fickle nature of the mainstream press. It was only the black press that covered some of the seminal stories of the civil rights movement, such as the Montgomery bus boycott of 1955/56.

“When MLK’s peaceful protests aren’t covered by the national media in Albany, Georgia, he organized a children’s march in Birmingham, Alabama, making for some of the most powerful, iconic imagery of the civil rights movement.”

In general, the MSM was attracted if the action included white people – the freedom riders, e.g., or they can establish a clear good guy/bad guy narrative, as in the children’s march, when dogs and fire hoses were unleashed.

“Hope & Fury” pointed out the parallels between the bloody Selma march of March 7, 1965, and the demonstrations occurring after some young black children and men, with the social media-savvy demonstrators willing to challenge the accepted narrative in the latter case.

As Arthur noted: “The USA has so very far to go before achieving Dr. King’s dream. Not only is the promised land he glimpsed still over that mountaintop, the mountain is much higher than any of us could have imagined.”

Philando Castile homicide has wrecked me

‘Are we all watching the same video? The video where a law-abiding man followed an officer’s instructions to the letter of the law and was killed regardless?’

In the roster of black men killed by police and available on video, the brutal, and totally unnecessary death of Philando Castile, and the acquital of the police officer who shot him, has hit me the hardest. As Trevor Noah said on the Daily Show, “I won’t lie to you, when I watched this video, it broke me.”

In case you can’t keep up with WHICH miscarriage of American justice this was:

“After Officer [Jeronimo] Yanez politely informs Castile that he’s been pulled over for a broken taillight and asks for Castile’s license and insurance, Castile calmly discloses that he has a firearm (Castile had a permit to carry the gun). Then the situation rapidly devolves. Yanez places his hand on his holster and tells Castile not to reach for the gun; within a few seconds, Yanez is yelling ‘Don’t pull it out!’ as Castile and his girlfriend try to assure Yanez that no one is grabbing for it. Then Yanez fires seven times into the car.”

Yes, watching videos of police brutality can traumatize you, especially if you’re black. “Research suggests that repeated viewing of terrorism news coverage can lead to symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder.”

“Though Castile’s girlfriend, Diamond Reynolds, had previously streamed the immediate aftermath of the shooting on Facebook live, the moment of the shooting itself was not made available to the public until this week.”

And then it gets surreal.

Moments after Yanez shot Castile, [Diamond Reynold’s] 4-year-old [daughter] climbed out of the back seat of the car in which Castile was shot…

Diamond Reynolds and her daughter were in the back of a squad car for “45 minutes until an officer drove them to a nearby police station for questioning…” While handcuffed there, “Reynolds shouted an expletive, and the girl said, ‘Mom, please stop cussing and screaming ’cause I don’t want you to get shooted.'” The girl also wished they lived in a safer place.

I’m watching this with my teenaged daughter, and she’s crying, and I’m crying. We show it to my wife and watch it yet again, and she’s crying too.

And where’s the National Rifle Association in this? The NRA has shunned a Second Amendment martyr. “Philando Castile died because he exercised his right to bear arms.” Even the very conservative Hot Air thinks so.

“Part of the irony of this verdict, Noah explained, is that it comes after years of people saying that the solution to unwarranted police shootings is to require police to wear body cameras, to eliminate any doubt about what had happened. ‘Black people have already taken that initiative, all right?’ Thanks to cellphones, every black person has a body cam now’ — and for Castile, neither a dashcam nor a cellphone mattered.

“Even worse, Noah went on with palpable horror, is that the jury of Castile’s fellow citizens did see this footage, and concluded that Officer Yanez had reason to claim self-defense. ‘Forget race,’ Noah said. ‘Are we all watching the same video? The video where a law-abiding man followed an officer’s instructions to the letter of the law and was killed regardless? People watched that video, and then voted to acquit?'”

The Philando Castile story hasn’t made me mad as hell. It has brought out a level of despair that even I, as melancholy as I can be, have not felt in a very long time.

Ringo Starr and “peace and love”

Hate multiplies hate, violence multiplies violence,

spiderThe birthday of Ringo Starr is July 7. And for his birthday, Ringo wants us all to flash the peace sign and say the words “peace and love” at noon in whatever time zone you’re in.

In 2005, on that date, there were the horrific London bombings.

In 2016, on that date, there was the horrific shooting of police in Dallas, TX apparently by a lone gunman, an Army veteran.

OBVIOUSLY, this “peace and love” stuff is not working.  It’s NOT working. Does this mean we stop trying? Hell, no.

Scott Pelley of CBS News noted, in his live interview with the Texas Attorney General, the irony of the specific mass attack, since the Dallas Police Department has been a model for confronting police brutality. He misspoke in a cringeworthy moment, but yes, we DO get it. Dallas officer-involved shootings HAVE rapidly declined in recent years. DPD should get props for trying to do the right thing. Why were THEY targeted?

Just like Philando Castile was trying to do the right thing when he was shot by a police officer at a traffic stop, so this “right way to deal with cops at traffic stops” would not have helped. Why was HE targeted?

It’s our difficult duty to shut out the noise, that “race-baiting” Elizabeth Warren is to blame for the death of Dallas cops, or a former Congressman (!) calling for revenge against President Obama and Black Lives Matter. Escalation of rhetoric is NOT the remedy.

I’ve been reading a book – more about that when I’ve finished it – that suggests that certain segments of society see information very differently. This explanation of Black Lives Matter may be useful to some; I do hope so. And if not, well, I’m trying.

Regardless, we may be ultimately stuck with Ringo Starr and “peace and love.” We drag out hoary Martin Luther King, Jr. quotes, appreciative that his words have outlived him. And, given, the means of his death, hope that he is, or will be, correct.

“Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that. Hate multiplies hate, violence multiplies violence, and toughness multiplies toughness in a descending spiral of destruction … The chain reaction of evil – hate begetting hate, wars producing more wars – must be broken, or we shall be plunged into the dark abyss of annihilation.”

The Body Cams’ Lament by Howard Cruse

“You shot four bullets into him, sir. He was just getting his license and registration, sir.”

I am terrified, to be honest with you… Sad, and angry.

bodycam

“A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed unless you are a black man sitting in a car with a busted taillight.”

Alton Sterling and the Ritual Performance of Black Death

Deafening Silence: White Silence and Alton Sterling

After Alton Sterling’s Death, Larry Wilmore Asks: Where Are The #AllLivesMatter Protests?

“You shot four bullets into him, sir. He was just getting his license and registration, sir.” Those words were spoken over the dead body of Philando Castile by his girlfriend. He was a 32-year-old cafeteria supervisor at a Montessori school in St. Paul, Minnesota. In a video circulating widely after being posted to Facebook, the girlfriend documents Castile’s last moments after being shot by a police officer during a traffic stop.

Justified

Police Shootings Won’t Stop Unless We Also Stop Shaking Down Black People

The year-old cartoon still applicable

[From Bernie Sanders]: The violence that killed Alton Sterling and Philando Castile has become an all too common occurrence for people of color and IT. MUST. STOP. Today African-Americans are almost four times as likely to experience the use of force during encounters with the police. We need real criminal justice reform so that people can walk down the street without worrying about whether they’ll get harassed or shot. As South Carolina Rep. Wendell Gilliard proclaimed: “Enough is enough of our police officers targeting people of color.”

Why white police officers who aren’t consciously racist are quick to pull the trigger on black men.

More related links.

 

The Body Cams’ Lament graphic by Howard Cruse (C)2016. Used with permission.