Kyle Rittenhouse, during the trial. He was found innocent. AP Photo

The United States and the Rittenhouse Affair: Political Warming

In a more or less normal country like Argentina, boys do normal things like spending the day and a good part of the night with their video games, killing imaginary people with virtual semi-automatic rifles.

In a rather abnormal country like the United States it serves as a preparation to kill people in the real world. They go shopping with their moms in places like Illinois or Wisconsin and see that the same weapons they use in Call of Duty are available in supermarkets.

At a certain age, in the case of Kyle Rittenhouse at 17, they go and get one. Or maybe Santa Claus gives it to you on Christmas Day.

Kyle is one of those who plays at being a good guy hunting bad guys.

He longs for the opportunity to do it for real. One day his opportunity comes.

He sees on Fox News that there is a town not far away called Kenosha where leftist radicals are making a mess in the streets in protest against the local police, one of whose uniforms had just fired seven bullets at a black man, leaving him paralyzed.

Kyle dons an olive green T-shirt and leather boots painted with American flags, loads his AR-15 rifle, and travels to Kenosha.

He finds what he’s looking for: street riots, broken glass, looting. In a little while, mission accomplished.

He shoots three men, kills two of them, and busts the other’s arm. The police do nothing. Normal: Kenosha 2021 is Dodge City 1860. Kyle goes to his house.

But video images of his feat come out on social networks and the next day the police arrest him. How can it be him?

This is not what happens to the guardians of democracy and peace. Much to his perplexity, they lock him up in a cell and accuse him of murder.

The judgment arrives. Kyle’s attorneys argue that he fired his rifle in self-defense, even though the two people he killed did not carry firearms. The court gave its verdict last week.

He is innocent of all charges. Kyle, they conclude, had no choice. He thought they were going to kill him so he acted as any normal person would have acted in the same situation. He shot first.

Happy ending, for Kyle. He becomes a hero. Fox News proclaims him a brave patriot and an exemplary young man. T

wo Republican congressmen say they want to hire him. Former President Donald Trump invites you to his mansion in Florida.

The two pose for a photo. Behind them is the American flag and a portrait of Trump alongside North Korean leader Kim Jong-un.

He is a very good boy. He should never have suffered to go to trial for what he did, ”Trump declares. “If he hadn’t shot that guy who put a gun to his head he would have fired a quarter second later and Kyle would be dead.

Kyle is in glory, but he has reason to be a bit frustrated. Not everyone sees it in the same way as Trump and company.

Rather, and once again, America is split in two. Half the country sees him as a villain.

Some describe him as a neo-fascist vigilante; others limit themselves to saying that he is a stupid baby who traveled with his gun to the scene of the riots to participate in what one political commentator defined as “recreational chaos”.

In any case, this sector of the population agrees with President Joseph Biden that he should have been sentenced to several years in prison.

I suppose that most of the people reading these words, that the majority of the inhabitants of the planet, would think the same.

But the trumpet world is like another species. Sectarianism defines reality for them. The facts are interpreted according to the point of view, there is no more. As an example, imagine if the man Kyle Rittenhouse shot, Gaige Grosskreutz, had shot first.

Grosskreutz was carrying a Glock revolver. When the two clashed Rittenhouse had already killed the other two and Grosskreutz knew it. What if Grosskreutz had killed the boy?

Answer: Trumpism would have viewed Kyle Rittenhouse as a martyr and Grosskreutz, a 27-year-old left-wing activist, as a killer deserving of maximum punishment. But instead of celebrating the outcome of the trial, the Trumperos (fans of Trump in Latin America) would be screaming because the court is supposed to have acquitted Grosskreutz for the same reason that it acquitted Rittenhouse: legitimate self-defense.

The United States is different, as the curious Rittenhouse case shows, as the existence of capital punishment laws still shows, as shown by the fact that it is the country with the most firearms per inhabitant in the world.

The second is Yemen, with 52.8 per 100 inhabitants. The figure in the United States is 120.5 per hundred: 393 million in total, in the hands of civilians.

This is nothing new. What is new, since Trump’s emergence on the political scene, is how crazy the great Western power has become.

Polarization is fashionable in the world, but there the abyss is greater than in any other democratic country and the danger of an outbreak grows.

There are signs that the temperature is dropping in other divided places, such as here in Spain due to the Catalan issue, or in the United Kingdom due to Brexit. In the United States it is on the rise. The Rittenhouse case has made its particular and dangerous contribution to political warming.

With so much hatred and so many weapons in the hands of so many exalted, with laws that exhibit extraordinary permissiveness in defining what it is to kill in self-defense, given the likelihood that others will envy the idolatry that the child Kyle has enjoyed and want to to imitate his example, in a country where millions cannot distinguish between the virtual reality of the video game and the real reality of flesh and blood … well, something has to change, and that’s it, because if nothing can happen.

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