Kyle Rittenhouse’s Apologists are Defending Terrorism
Last week, avowed Trump supporter and #bluelivesmatter advocate, 17-year-old Kyle Rittenhouse, traveled across state lines, grabbed a buddy’s AR-15, and thrust himself into the chaos of the Kenosha marches. Within hours while patrolling the streets, he murdered two people.
The image of a young white man with conservative views wielding a gun in our neighborhoods is synonymous with the domestic terrorism we’ve experienced in our shopping malls, places of worship, on our college campuses, and in our elementary, middle- and high-schools. No matter how much Rittenhouse has been lionized by some on the Right, his attempt to “maintain law and order” is thinly veiled domestic terrorism.
I’m aware we’re all caught up in the chaos and intricate politics of the BLM movement and largely de-centralized civil rights marches, but there are news anchors on mainstream networks and politicians and voters defending Kyle Rittenhouse, including a phlegmatic non-condemnation by POTUS. Even College Republicans United donated to his cause. The kid murdered protestors. Protestors = People. Protestors = Americans. Kyle Rittenhouse murdered Americans. With scant evidence, his defenders claim he was acting in self-defense, that he was charged at by protestors hurling Molotov cocktails or had others had him at gunpoint. There are only two verifiable moments. One of a masked man kicking Rittenhouse. The second of a man swinging a skateboard, attempting to disarm him. But the self-defense argument deflated the moment Rittenhouse willingly traveled out of the safety of his home, across state lines to the protests, and made himself visible as a vigilante.
The bottom line, this kid should not have been there. Whether or not someone hurt him while he was there, he openly carried a borrowed assault-style rifle (illegally because of his age) into a charged situation with an agenda to intimidate.
A white man walking with that rifle is the image of the domestic terrorism we’ve experienced in our country, whether it’s the school shootings, white supremacist or misogynistic-fueled shootings, etc. for years. As a country, we historically denounce that terrorist behavior (while unfortunately harboring the toxic masculinity that breeds these terrorists). But for Kyle’s apologists, he was “maintaining order when no one else would.” There’s no confusing his actions with the actions of other gunmen. The excuses for his type of behavior exacerbate violence every time.
For that behavior to become excusable, and for this vigilantism to flourish, one simple element needed to be mixed into a society riddled with unrest: FEAR.
Donald Trump, Bill Barr, and the administration’s attempts to label the outside agitators at the marches — those looting and destroying businesses — as ANTIFA or Marxist/Leftist organizations, is a page out of an old Joseph McCarthy/LBJ playbook. Their attempts to classify property destruction as domestic terrorism and not the public execution of two Americans as such gravely misses the point. They’d rather conceptualize and lay blame on “the other” — the shadow following you down the street at night; the bogeyman. It’s a scare tactic. It’s fear. It’s false. It’s deflection, a distraction from the real perpetrators: The Trump administration, systemic police brutality, and the police’s abetting union, right-wing militia groups like the Boogaloo movement, conspiracy theorists, extremist right-wing media, racism, the American racial caste system, etc. In other words, it’s an avoidance of the complex reasons for the looting and property destruction, and by extension, the continued murder of Black folks by the police. All by creating the “Leftist” terrorist bogeyman.
Who was one of these “Leftists” at the march in Kenosha? A young man wielding a skateboard to protect others.
I’m now speaking about the skateboarder, Anthony Huber, who went after Kyle Rittenhouse in self-defense after he’d already shot someone. I ask: What would you do to protect your friends if a kid with that gun approached you? Anthony Huber’s attempt to stop a rogue kid with a rifle is heroic. Just like our teachers and principals and peers in our schools and our neighbors who attempt to disarm the perpetrator, like Keanon Lowe at Parkrose H.S. in Oregon and James Shaw Jr. in a Nashville Waffle House. They’re heroes. We lionize them. Anthony Huber is a hero. These types of heroics, this standing up to terrorism, sends a message to the Kyle Rittenhouse’s of the world: for all those who think that if you show up with a gun everyone will submit, you’re wrong. There are people out there who not only defend democracy but their friends and family and strangers.
Kyle Rittenhouse’s defenders are acting like he was the victim and not the murderer. I want his defenders to take a bird’s eye view and understand the difference between angry protests and property destruction and murder. They need to see that if they don’t denounce Rittenhouse’s type of behavior and decision-making, our streets will burn for years.
You can be pro-gun, pro-police, or pro-civil rights, all while being anti-terrorism. Because that’s what this is. But if terrorism is what Rittenhouse’s defenders want — vigilantes shooting people dead in our streets — then we’ll have full anarchy and less law and order. If his defenders want the Americans exercising their democratic rights in the largest civil rights movement in decades to bow to death, these streets will burn for years.
Justice and equality are all that’s being asked. To recognize #Blacklivesmatter is all that’s being asked. But until all of that is finally granted and until right-wing terrorism is exposed, condemned, and eradicated, conservatives’ favorite refrain that “all lives matter” will no longer matter.