Letter to the Editor:

The outcome of the Kyle Rittenhouse murder trial is an American tragedy.

The acquittal of Mr. Rittenhouse came as no surprise. The complicated legal issues involving self-defense apparently led the jury to conclude that there was at least reasonable doubt that the 17-year-old was responsible for the deaths of two, and shooting of a third, amid the chaos of Kenosha in August of 2020.

In the narrow context of the law and within the parameters of courtroom procedures, this may have been the only likely outcome. I am not here to gainsay either the verdicts or the jury.

What is clear though is that impartiality was not part of this trial. The judge, from the beginning, favored the defense. His ruling that the three men killed or wounded were not “victims,” but instead rioters and looters, was shocking. His dismissal of charges related to the open carry of a dangerous weapon by a minor was equally shocking. His deference to the defendant in allowing him to actually choose his own jurors, no matter how randomly, was an unnecessary and gratuitous gesture.

But what is by far the most disturbing lesson is what it says about the state of American culture and politics. We are a nation awash in guns and increasingly so. We are a nation that allows even delusional children to insert themselves, fully loaded, into dangerous situations. We are a nation, or at least half a nation, that finds it perfectly acceptable to resolve conflict at the end of a barrel — that, given enough firepower, the good guys will vanquish the malcontents and evildoers.

Rittenhouse will now be celebrated, in many circles, as a frontier-style hero who dared to stand up for the American “way of life.” In this storybook fable, Rittenhouse took on the rioters and looters in a heroic effort to protect that way of life. The dead and maimed are not victims, but merely collateral damage in an ongoing battle against the liberals and the socialists.

This could have been, should have been, an opportunity to expose the dangerous logic of the “good guy with a gun” mythology — that more firepower is better than less, that more armed Americans will result in a more peaceful America.

Sadly, that lesson is unlikely to be learned. Instead, the greater likelihood is that of increased vigilantism, a rush to arms and an acceptance of violence to impose some ideological purity.

Jeff Laadt

Eagle River