The trial of Kyle Rittenhouse has aggravated several of America’s seeping cultural sores. In the swirl of public debate about race, Second Amendment rights, First Amendment rights, crime, policing, and myriad other issues, 12 brave jurors did the right thing and justice was done.
The case was very simple. Irrespective of why Rittenhouse was where he was at the time he was and for what reason, all the jurors had to decide was whether he was reasonably acting in self-defense when he killed two men and maimed a third. Thanks to the continuous live coverage of several news outlets, all of us could watch the trial in real time and see all the evidence presented. If you think that the jury should have returned anything other than an acquittal, you are objectively, demonstrably, and categorically wrong.
The greatest crime perpetrated was that Rittenhouse was ever tried at all. Given the overwhelming evidence from multiple videos and witness testimonies, there was never any doubt that Rittenhouse acted in self-defense. Yet, despite that overwhelming evidence, the district attorney and his deputies decided to prosecute Rittenhouse anyway for reasons that can only be explained by their political and personal biases.
For the people who distrust the police and prosecutors to act fairly and responsibly, you are right. They should not be trusted. In fact, our entire system of government is replete with strong protections for individual rights, diffused power, checks, and balances was designed that way precisely because we should not trust our government and the people who are in it.
Any student of history should know that government can never be trusted, but one does not have to look very far in our modern America to find examples of abuse of governmental power. Less than a decade ago, a team of rogue prosecutors sought to criminalize protected political speech by launching multiple John Doe investigations against conservatives in Wisconsin. Their black-booted raids and secret proceedings were designed to silence political opponents.
For five years the corrupted FBI has been using lies, raids, and thuggish tactics to undermine former President Donald Trump and his allies based on a Russian dossier that they knew was fake all along. They knowingly used lies from Trump’s political opponents to attempt to topple or undermine an elected president. The same corrupted FBI has now been turned against parents who are voicing concerns about how government schools are performing.
The vast majority of police, prosecutors, and judges are good people who are doing hard jobs to uphold the rule of law. They deserve our support and respect. But do I believe that a prosecutor might unjustly railroad a person because of their political biases or racial bigotry? Absolutely. Do I believe that a police officer might let their personal prejudices guide their decisions? I would be a nutter not to. The vast majority do not, but it only takes one rotten government agent to unjustly ruin someone’s life.
For this reason, we have erected an entire infrastructure of jurisprudence that is rightfully designed to make it very difficult for the government to punish a person for a crime. Resting on the principle voiced by the great English jurist William Blackstone that, “it is better that ten guilty persons escape than one innocent suffer,” our American system leans heavily to protecting the accused from the potential abuses of government.
If you have a healthy distrust, with respect, for our government law enforcement agencies, that is good. You are in the right frame of mind to be an engaged citizen of a self-governing society. Now you must extend that distrust to all of the other government agencies. While a corrupt or abusive police officer or prosecutor can negatively impact your life, so, too, can a corrupt or abusive Department of Revenue agent, game warden, school superintendent, or mayor. We give these people extraordinary power over our lives as the price paid for a civil society, but we must do so grudgingly and with extraordinary oversight. We have been blessed with more than our fair share of superb elected and unelected government officials, but we have also had our fair share of the corrupt and the stupid.
At its best, Thomas Paine tells us, “government is a necessary evil.” Nobody in their right mind would trust evil, which is why we must be skeptical about our government and the people in it. We should also not allow that evil to grow too large as to become uncontrollable. I fear that we have already crossed that Rubicon.
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