The Skateboard is Mightier than the Sword
A few weeks back, I personified the pent-up rage of angry white men in the humorous characterization of a rabid raccoon feverishly protecting a steaming pile of trash. Well, welcome to the real world where Kirk Rittenhouse, the 17-year old psychopath who shot and killed two harmless, unarmed victims and shot and maimed one other, is that rabid raccoon, and the steaming pile of trash he is trying to protect is a latent right-wing agenda fueled by bigotry and ignorance.
I had a friend of mine from high school, who was actually defending this pathetic rage circus of a teenager, ask if I had been watching the trial on television. I am sorry, but both my vocation and my self-respect keep me from finding the daytime hours to allot to watching what should be a prima facie case against a murder we all witnessed right on television. And yes, as you can probably tell from my use of the term “prima facie”, I went to law school for a spell, so let me take a moment and explain specifically how Kyle Rittenhouse’s claims of self-defense are utter nonsense and just why this little piece of shit needs to spend the rest of his days behind bars.
There are limits to the application of self-defense. Without them we would regress into a lawless anarchy like in the old American West where you could shoot just about anybody you felt like. You being scared does not grant you immunity for accountability for your actions. After all, fear is a subjective state of being, and no one is capable of knowing for sure someone else’s emotional truth. That is why we rely instead on the standard of: Would a “reasonable” person be so afraid of an “imminent threat” that they would feel compelled to use “proportional force” in similar circumstances? Rittenhouse’s availing of self-defense fails on all three grounds.
Just watch the video. Who the hell was the imminent threat here? Just what was this kid supposedly afraid of? Joseph Rosenbaum, father and faincee, who was the first man shot by Rittenhouse and was completely unarmed? Or was it Anthony Huber, the long-haired hippie who watched Rittenhouse gun down Rosenbaum and then tried to take away the killer’s massive assault rifle armed with nothing more than a skateboard? That’s right- a fucking skateboard. We have lost our collective minds when a kid who just shot an innocent victim in the face somehow gets to claim he felt “threatened” by the guy trying to keep him from shooting more innocent victims when the kid is armed with an assault rifle and his would-be assailant is wielding nothing more than a 2011 homegrown Santa Cruz with a fluorescent Zumiez wheel set. Rittenhouse’s defense team is basically trying to suggest that Jeff Spicolli is somehow more of an imminent threat than Rambo. What- was Rittenhouse worried that Huber was going to blow bong hits in his face after he hit him with the skateboard?
Which also gets to the whole notion of proportional force. As a general rule of thumb in the application of self-defense as an affirmative defense under criminal law, proportional force means that you can only use the same force or less than the “imminent threat” you face. If some attacks you with a knife, you can use a knife. If someone hits you with a bat, you can use a lead pipe. And if someone comes at you with a skateboard, well, you can chuck a pair of roller skates at them and then hurl vague epithets their way, like “Fucking skateboard trash! Why don’t you get a real job and come at me with something real, bitch?” How the hell has right wing media turned us so preposterously delusional that we suddenly believe that the proportional response to being attacked with a skateboard is shooting someone with an assault rifle?
So no, I do not need to watch Kyle Rittenhouse embarrass himself weeping crocodile tears over the fear he felt from two unarmed victims in order to know that the fear he felt would not have led a reasonable person to shoot and kill his fellow human beings. And just how afraid was Kyle Rittenhouse anyways? So afraid that after watching the protests on television he talked his mom into driving him across state lines so that he could protect not lives (the protests in Kenosha did create significant property damage but were otherwise relatively peaceful), but property that didn’t even belong to him? So afraid that he continued down the street running after, not away from other people, who were clearly trying to run away from the kid with the giant assault rifle? So afraid that soon after getting out on bail he took selfies with the Proud Boys in which he smiles gleefully and flashes white supremacist hand gestures? If you are afraid, you lock yourself behind the door and hope it all goes away. When you throw the assault rifle in the car and drive hundreds of miles away to join the fray, you are looking to kill some folks.
The recent precedent here should have been set in George Zimmerman’s trial for killing Trayvon Martin. In that case, Zimmerman was found guilty for slaying Martin because he saw him walking around his neighborhood in a hoodie and thought that Martin constituted an imminent threat for little more than reasons of racial bias. That case stood for the notion that you don’t get to just go around killing black teenagers because you happen to be afraid of them. If Rittenhouse is not held accountable for his crimes, it will open a can of vigilante justice that allows mere irrational fear to serve as the pretext for excuses of self-defense. And if that happens, every long-haired dude with a skateboard had better head for the damn hills.
Steven Craig is the author of the best-selling novel WAITING FOR TODAY, as well as numerous published poems, short stories, and dramatic works. Read his blog TRUTH: In 1000 Words or Less every THURSDAY at www.waitingfortoday.com