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The System Works

Kyle Rittenhouse's acquittal is America being America.

kyle rittenhouse verdict
Washington Post

There is not much to be said about the total acquittal of Kyle Rittenhouse that we didn’t know before. The verdict felt unsurprising, and that means something. It is blindingly obvious that if a young Black kid had swept into a town carrying a large automatic weapon he had no legal right to be using, and wound up shooting and killing multiple people, that kid would not have the chance to live the kind of life that Kyle Rittenhouse will now be able to live. It is obvious that that kid would not have had the many complex moments that led up to those killings so charitably framed as the act of a bewildered little boy operating in self-defense. His tears would not help him, his youth would be no barrier to punishment. They’d throw the book at him, and then two or three more books as well. But the American legal system was made for the protection of Kyle Rittenhouse. His acquittal is the system working as it’s supposed to.

In the year since his rampage in Kenosha, Rittenhouse has become a ghoulish folk hero of the American right. The glee with which conservatives have celebrated him has been one of the most disturbing signs of the fascist tide sweeping across the country, something that feels like a clear harbinger of worse things to come. Now that lionization carries with it the imprimatur of the American legal system, the overt signal that Rittenhouse did nothing wrong and that, if others want to do the same, that is all to the good. The greatest country in the world, everyone. Get ready for whatever’s coming.