NOVEMBER JUSTICE

Like a lot of Americans, I have been intrigued with justice the last two years – especially racial justice.  Not the first time, but more intently than in a long time.  Then, of course, the two infamous “self-defense” trials for Kyle Rittenhouse and the killing of Ahmaud Arbery.  And like a lot of Americans, I am not fully satisfied with the justice had.

Let me acknowledge here at the start that my opinion expressed here is not only my own and no one else’s, it has little value, I think, and probably isn’t worth your time to read.  My understanding of the law is limited, for one thing, and not my main thrust, on the other.  So, I encourage you to click off now.  However, I still feel compelled to process my thoughts and feelings, and if you want to indulge that, you are welcome to stay.

It so happens, there is a “self-defense” case brewing in Lubbock right now which is teasing national headlines, but since the killing occurred in a conflict between two white men, it may not prove to be as big as the others.  Still, it is a shooting caught on video, very disturbing, and complicated since one of the participants is a close relative to a sitting judge.

So, what is it I want to say?

I am thinking about JUSTICE as it is had with regard to these recent cases through a lens of Christian faith, personal feelings, and maybe even a little “common sense” – if there is such a thing.

First off, whether talking about Rittenhouse or McMichael/Bryan, not only am I dissatisfied with the outcome (at least in part), but I didn’t see an option available to the courts and juries where I could have been satisfied.

I really chafed at the verdict for Rittenhouse especially.  I have sat on a jury in a “self-defense” case before, one where that jury also acquitted the defendant because when we interpreted the law (the previously agreed upon rules for the “game of life”) he acted within its limits.  His actions in killing were not in any other way justifiable.  Not even a little!  That dumb law gave so much latitude that his “self-defense” looked for all the world like one man hunting down another after knocking off his cowboy hat!

I have long chafed at that verdict too, but I did come to a consensus with the other jurors regarding it.  So, I “understand.”  

But did that make our community better?  Was that really justice?  How about in the eyes of God???

But then Rittenhouse, as the jury decided, fired on people who physically and verbally threatened him.  It was caught on video, and at those points where the camera rolled, sure enough, he fired in “self-defense.”  He had no business carrying that gun into that situation, of course – already a legal problem for a 17-year-old.  Already a stupid idea for the wise.  Already a matter of vanity, as the court showed since he bought that particular weapon so he could look cool.  I am not satisfied that these observations didn’t lead to the death of two and the severe injury of another.

But on the other side of the coin, I also don’t see life in prison (the option the jury was asked to consider) of a young man full of youthful indiscretion as a fitting alternative to the justice we got.  This wasn’t premeditated murder!  It was a stupid kid having a stupid moment.  Costly!  Yes, but something we can all grow from too.

He also was, for those on the scene that night, an active shooter who someone needed to stop!  Even if you disagree with this observation, you really should consider how close Rittenhouse comes to that.  So close in fact that his case fairly raises red flags about future active shooter events.  After this verdict, it appears that if I am out in public and shots are fired, I need to run up to the nearest armed gunman and consult with him whether he is a “good guy with a gun” or the bad guy, AND probably need to take his word for it rather than try to disarm him.  Perhaps we need a law that says you can’t be the “good guy” in an active shooter situation unless you wear a white hat!

Ever heard of the “fog of war”?  If everyone at the protest is armed when one of these guns goes off, and if they all respond with “shoot first and ask questions later,” half the post office will die from friendly fire in a “self-defense”!

Look.  I grew up around guns, and I don’t have some liberal agenda to disarm everyone willy-nilly, but when I was a kid there used to be such a thing as “common sense.”

Surely, Rittenhouse is guilty of something.  The cost of human life for his stupidity begs to be held to account.  Not life in prison, in my view, but some sort of creative community service and maybe at least some jail time.  And anyway, those were some intense tears he squeezed out in his testimony, which begs for me to question where his sorrow is.  I am glad he found an alternative to life in prison, I really am, but now that he is free of legal guilt, surely, he needs to make amends for his stupidity guilt!  He really could go on a campaign to reach out to those he hurt and their families with gestures of sorrow and peace.  THAT would begin to look like God’s justice and mercy in my view.  And there is nothing stopping him from doing that now.

Moving to the Arbery case, I likewise don’t believe the McMichael family or Mr. Bryan were hardboiled racists setting out to kill a black man.  For one thing, the crime was too opportunistic and too home-defense for a man-hunt killing.  That man-hunt is in fact what they did, in the end, and did so at such egregious levels (what with “trapping him like a rat,” chasing him with guns, and showing callous disregard in their language and their lack of CPR or any kind of First Aid), I am not convinced they meant the harm they caused. 

Hear me carefully here.  I think they were guilty and deserve prison, alright, but I really want to iron out some of these wrinkles because I think until we do, we haven’t achieved real justice that pleases God or makes our communities better.  I look at the defendants in this case and see my family and friends in them, people motivated ostensibly by protection of life and property (something I appreciate) and only latent racism.

It’s that “latent racism,” as I call it (a personalized level of systemic racism), which needs to be addressed and so far is not.  These men don’t see their own racism!  They meet black people at the post office and might even hold the door open for a black lady and her kids on a Tuesday morning only to shoot an unarmed black jogger Sunday afternoon!  How does THAT happen?  And how can we address it?

I don’t think we address it by painting these men as haters.  They don’t see themselves that way, and though I will challenge it, I see where they don’t see it.  I am a white man dealing with my own latent racism, challenging myself.  (I think the defendants should have been doing what I do, and challenge themselves, but there is no law requiring it, and most white people are slow to this.)

But, I pointed out in a post on this blog many months ago that whereas the liberals in California could not get an appropriate verdict in the Rodney King case, the simple country folx of Jasper, Texas (people who surely remind me of my friends and family) did deliver justice for James Byrd Jr.  And if you go watch the documentaries on Jasper surrounding that case, you will see white people in sore need of reevaluation of their ideas about justice!  Very ironic!

I watch that video of Arbery, and I see a young man who could have conducted himself more prudently given the world we actually live in, but he did NOTHING deserving of the treatment he got.  Not even close.  I agree with the prosecution that if Arbery had been white, this would not have happened.  I agree that makes it extremely unfair and prejudicial.  But, I think that as long as we overly demonize the white men, they will not come to their senses about it.  And white people remaining defensive about this will not serve justice; it will set up yet another Treyvon Martin, another Rodney King, another George Floyd, another Ahmaud Arbery.  SAY THEIR NAMES!

McMichael’s and Bryan are taken out of circulation now, and that is good.  I think their behavior warrants a stiff sentence, but I wonder if the total loss of the rest of their lives is truly justice.  It may well be, but I have enough sensitivity to wonder about creative justice.  I wondered the same about The Manson Family.  Those girls who actually committed those heinous crimes were very young, very dumb, very influenced by an evil genius who kept his own hands clean!  I really think Manson needed to remain behind bars for life, but not those girls.

Those girls lost their whole lives over those stupid crimes.  I personally began to wonder after about 20-25 years if they shouldn’t be paroled.  These women were back to their right minds, though Charlie never was.  If they had been ordered to visit high schools telling their stories for the rest of their lives, I didn’t see where they posed a continued threat to anyone.  And though I don’t see a lecture circuit deterring kids from using drugs as all that highly valuable, I think it is of higher value than their continued incarceration.

I wonder if we can’t put the McMichael’s and Bryan to something similar – even if only after two decades of prison.  Maybe they could be forced to visit churches and legion halls with their story, and coming from them, they might really reach people who need the message.

Are these defendants a continued danger to society now?

Yes, probably they are – and so is Rittenhouse.  But I figure we have their attention at a level now we didn’t have before.  We have an opportunity with that latent racism right now that we didn’t have before they killed Arbery.  And while we have these idiots trapped like rats in jail now, we are doing nothing to stem their families or their supporters from glorifying them and treating them as martyrs of WOKE. 

Am I making sense to anyone besides myself here?

I don’t mean to present a clear set of conclusions on these matters, but to raise new sets of questions.  

I am a white man born into a racist world back when racism was still cool.  Somehow, I managed never to be a hater, but I grew up stewing in latent and systemic racism.  I find myself challenged afresh with every new case to make the news.  I challenge myself to look deeper into my heart and into black lives as I process myself into better sensitivity.  Those protesters in Kenosha who Rittenhouse shot felt rightly impassioned that a cop shooting a black man in the back 7 times and getting off was not justice too.  Rittenhouse’s gun may not have been overtly racist in that mix, but I sure smell the latent racism in it.

I remember how shocking it was that video could not convict those cops of beating Rodney King too.  There may have been some overt racism involved in that too, but it was a society full of latent and systemic racism that allowed it to happen.  And so, all these years later we come to George Floyd and do it again!  Only this time we finally got that cop in jail!

Well, yay!

But wouldn’t it be a far better justice if that cop had addressed his own racism (latent or overt) back when Rodney King begged us to all just get along?  Wouldn’t the ending of systemic and latent racism be a better legacy for Quez than a life sentence for his killers?  One of these justices provides for vindication and accountability of a few, alright, and that is powerful, but the other creates a fair and just society.  I prefer the latter.

As important as the conviction in the Arbery case is for setting precedent and all that, challenging and changing latent racism so that homeowners seeing people trespass construction sites in their neighborhood confront them about it peacefully, and certainly refrain from chasing unarmed black men jogging while heavily armed means addressing people’s hearts.  It was a series of little things that set these white boys up for their “driveway decisions” long before they trapped Arbery “like a rat.”  Even now, as far as I can see it, those white boys and their defenders, though sorry the thing happened (and I believe that) still don’t see how their latent racism set them up for this horrible driveway decision.  And neither do almost any of my family and friends who might well find themselves in that same decision-making driveway.

Surely my pastor, at least, could address these expressions of justice with the love of Christ, and develop a fresh “dialog” in the church.  It would be a great way for the church to be relevant in today’s world!

 

4 comments

  1. Anonymous · December 1

    You are wrong. Kyle was, as demonstrated, attacked and attempts made to take his gun by an angry mob. As well as a handgun being drawn against him. Stop lying.

    Like

    • Agent X · December 1

      Wow!

      Okay… Thanx for reading.

      Care to elaborate?

      Liked by 1 person

    • Agent X · December 1

      Hey, While I am still thinking about it, I wonder if these words (copied from above) are the lie you wish me to stop telling:

      But then Rittenhouse, as the jury decided, fired on people who physically and verbally threatened him. It was caught on video, and at those points where the camera rolled, sure enough, he fired in “self-defense.”

      Or am I confused?

      Maybe you got hot before you read the post? Maybe???

      Would love to have you back to straighten this out. Hopefully with a civil discussion.

      Like

  2. Pingback: KYLE RITTENHOUSE KYLE RITTENHOUSE KYLE RITTENHOUSE KYLE RITTENHOUSE KYLE RITTENHOUSE | Fat Beggars School of Prophets

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