Friday, November 12, 2021

Made Men


Via Heavy.

I am going to be discussing how sorry I feel for Kyle Rittenhouse in a minute—not as sorry as I feel for the guys he murdered and their families and friends, and not so sorry as to doubt whether he deserves to be found guilty, and (of course) not as sorry as he feels for himsself, but something, a liberal twinge—but I need to work myself into it. 

From a headline, now gone, in The New York Times continuing updates page on the Rittenhouse trial:

Kyle Rittenhouse, who styled himself a medic, said he is now studying nursing.

As the report clarifies, he was lying both times. When he and his friend Dominick joined the crowd on the night of the shootings and he told people he was making it up. He doesn't even have a high school diploma—he dropped out of school three years ago, and I can't find any suggestion online that he earned a GED (he was taking online GED courses in June). Not that being a high school dropout makes you a bad person! But habitual lying does make you a liar. 

By the same token he is not studying nursing at Arizona State University, as he testified under oath:

Jay Thorne, a spokesman for the university, said in an email that Mr. Rittenhouse had enrolled in an online program that allows students to take classes before seeking admission to the university. The online program is not affiliated with the university’s nursing school or any other degree program, he said. The session in which Mr. Rittenhouse is enrolled began on Oct. 13.

What he started doing a month ago is pretty clear: taking advantage of Arizona's alternative high school equivalency program, the College Credit Pathway, which can give you a diploma for passing 25 credits' worth of 100-level courses from, say, ASU Online's Universal Learner Courses, $25 to enroll, and you only pay ($400) if you pass.

At 17, he was too young to buy the gun, so he paid Dominick to buy it for him, at Ace Hardware in Ladysmith, WI.

His parents were divorced, and he lived with his mother, Wendy, in an apartment in Antioch, a small town in a rural area along the Wisconsin border. But he found a male role model in Dominick Black, the boyfriend of Mr. Rittenhouse’s sister McKenzie. The two young men became so close that they called each other brothers.

Mr. Black was perhaps Mr. Rittenhouse’s strongest tie to Kenosha...

Which you might think of as odd, because Rittenhouse's father lives in Kenosha, 20 miles or so from his little town, and they aren't exactly estranged. I learned this from one of my favorite low-class websites,, which gave Michael Rittenhouse one of their 5 Fast Facts treatments after his name came up during the trial, though in point of fact most of the fast facts are really more about Kyle.

Mike was a machine operator who struggled with alcohol and drugs and unemployment and was accused of domestic battery against Wendy, but he denied the charges, which were later dismissed, according to The New Yorker, which said Wendy and her kids lived in a homeless shelter for a time.

According to The New Yorker, Mike is now sober and wants to be more connected to his family, but Wendy continued to struggle financially, even being evicted. She is dyslexic and has had health issues, The New Yorker reported, so Kyle, as a teen, worked jobs to help support the family.

The New Yorker piece cited there, from 28 June and by Paige Williams, should be required reading for anybody who wants to think about the case. One of the things that emerges from it is a rich and distressing picture of that "brokenness" they keep telling us about among white men with less formal education, from fathers who can't stay married, can't pay their child support, can't hold on to their jobs, to sons who seem less competent still, who can't get around without their mothers—though it's not true that Kyle had his mom drive him to the Kenosha disturbances, with his gun in his lap, he did that himself. But then after the killing,

Black later told a detective that he drove Rittenhouse home to Antioch, where Wendy gave her son two choices: turn yourself in, or leave town. Around 1 a.m., she drove him to the police station in Antioch. They waited together for more than two hours, Kyle crying and vomiting.

His mom keeps photographing him in heroic uniforms, for her Facebook page: as a state trooper, a firefighter, a police cadet, in camo. In January 2020 he tried to join the Marines, apparently unaware that you have to have a high school degree. He has on-off jobs in Antioch and Kenosha as a pool lifeguard, but that only works in the summer. And then he gets the rifle, which, he'll tell the jury, "looked cool". 

He's not political at all, really, according to Paige Williams:

The Rittenhouses, with considerable input from [the security guy who came to them with Kyle's first defense team, featuring the abominable Lin Wood, who stuck with them after Wood left, former Navy SEAL Dave] Hancock, described Kyle as selfless (“He has this nature to protect people”) and ideologically open-minded (“huge Andrew Yang fan”). The Rittenhouses did not see themselves as particularly political, but [his sister] Faith considered herself an ardent advocate of Black Lives Matter. I was told that Kyle liked Trump because Trump liked the police.

Not political, but very Blue Lives Matter and Blue Line Flag T-shirts. That Times piece said he "idolized law enforcement".

He was looking for a way to be a man, and what society offered him was a mob, with uniforms, to make him one. But the cops barely even noticed him staggering away from the killing, with his huge gun, to get Dominick to drive him home. He's guilty, no doubt, but he's so lost. 

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