November 19, 2021- I have friends and family, on both sides of the Chasm, when it comes to discussions of race. Just so we’re clear, I am dead set against ANY policy or action that limits or prevents a person from following his/her life plan-so long as that plan does not itself involve limiting or preventing another person from following theirs.
It started, in a sense, with Emmett Till. When he was killed, I was four. An older cousin saw the news on TV and commented: “That is just plain SICK!” I asked what was sick and he told me that a kid, not much older than he, was killed by some crazy people in a place called Mississippi. I knew that name, because the older girls in the neighbourhood spelled it out while jumping rope. It bothered me, from that time on, that adults would kill a child.
As time went on, I witnessed and experienced all types of adult behaviour towards children-mostly good, but some very wicked things as well. I was, thankfully, never beaten or abused-but I knew plenty of boys and girls who were.
Growing up in a mostly White town, I saw and heard people of all ages-including some of my mates, express hostility towards people of other racial groups. In fairness, they were just as caustic towards people of other European ethnicities. I never felt such animosity towards anyone, but as the saying goes, “You stand in chalk, you inhale the dust.” It took time in the Army and frank discussions with people of other backgrounds, in which I chose to listen more than talk, for me to truly understand their experiences.
It is the duty of adults to teach teens in the ways of maturity. Maturity, as my father explained to me, means not rushing furiously into a situation, unprepared and likely overmatched. Now, we see what happens when the reverse is true. Kyle Rittenhouse went into battle, in his own mind, against an imagined foe that he barely understood, and of whose diversity he was completely ignorant. Someone in his life owed him a hand of restraint- not a violent hand, but a firm one.
Like many people in adolescence, he seemed to think he was capable of rising to the occasion and fending off those who had trouble in mind. Ironically, it was not the thugs on the periphery of the social justice movement whom he faced down, that awful night. It was three grown men, who likely fancied themselves allies of that movement, coming at him, a boy of 17.
I question how he was able to bring an AR15 with him, when the minimum age for BUYING such a weapon is 18. Yet, there it was, in his hands, after who knows how much training and practice he had been given in its use. Even people in the military, who are, with rare exceptions, 18 and over, have to have a minimum of eight weeks of training in the handling, use and maintenance of firearms, especially automatic weapons. Kyle should not have been there alone. Adults should have been with him, and then as a force of restraint.
There is, additionally, the research into the maturation of the human brain. The brain is not completely formed until the age of 25, if then. I look back on myself, in my teens and twenties, and sometimes shudder that I am still alive- my parents’ best efforts to raise me aside.
We are, however, in a crisis of adulthood when, once again, people at the street level are left trying to explain to the wider society why People of Colour are frustrated and angry-while not exactly hearing the voices of reason from those above them, in the halls of power. We are in a crisis of adulthood when a child is castigated in the court of public opinion, publicly coddled by a sitting judge and probably just as confused as he was on that awful night. We are in a crisis of adulthood when the voices of the nation’s leadership use vitriol, rather than step back, breathe deeply and foster healing. We are in a crisis of adulthood, when we just go back to the same sides, across the Chasm, that led us here in the first place.
A good-hearted, gentle family member remarked this evening that she just wants to see love for everyone. She is a conservative Christian. I am a gadfly, who leans progressive, in most matters. My sentiments, though, are the same.
A child is a child; raise him (her)!
I was not alive yet during Emmett Till’s death and can only imagine what you experienced watching the story on the news.
I have been so upset over this verdict since it came out last night. This morning, I had a foreign language class to attend and instead of attending, I watched videos on the case trying to figure out how this could have happened. I opened the WordPress app to pen a few thoughts and found your posting. You are right, he’s a child. He was given a gun and encouraged to use it and then hailed as a hero for doing what he did. In some ways, it is not his fault because the behaviors were positively reinforced and has been again reinforced with this verdict. He was clearly confused and scared during the chaos on the night of the riot. Confused and scared with an assault rifle his friends and family gave him permission to use… An assault rifle purchased with his stimulus check with help from his friend. He became afraid of a homeless man fresh out of a mental hospital throwing his sole plastic bag of belongings and shot him. This is murder to shoot a man for throwing a plastic bag in my eyes. The other two men who approached him afterwards were probably hostile towards him because he had a gun! I can see how it was self defense to shoot the other two as they approached him, especially since one was armed. Honestly, the whole situation is a tragic example of our violent culture. Somehow it’s acceptable for a 17 year old to carry a gun into an angry riot because he was “protecting” a business. That business had insurance and those people did not deserve to lose their lives. I don’t believe in violent riots either but how does shooting at or bringing a gun help other than to cause more anger, fear and chaos?! I know the families involved will probably never heal. 💔
I believe that at least part of the onus for the deaths of two men and the injury of a third falls on the person who gave KR the weapon. The police who cheered him on are also culpable. The fact that he crossed state lines, with an illegally-purchased weapon puts him under the scrutiny of the US Department of Justice. Those conservatives who are after AG Merrick Garland, the same man who is giving the Jan. 6 Rioters a hundred thousand benefits of doubt, are ignoring that simple fact. Cross state lines, commit a crime using a firearm, and you draw the attention of the Feds, whether the local Judge Pudge agrees or not. Had the adults in KR’s life done their job, no one would be dead or injured-at least not by the weapon he should never have had.
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I agree! Such a tragedy!
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Thank you, friend!