Eric Goldin | Passing the Rittenhouse Test

SCV Voices: Guest Commentary
SCV Voices: Guest Commentary

When psychologists analyze our mental state, one of the diagnostic tools they can use is the Rorschach Test. It’s a projective psychological exam where a person is shown a series of inkblots and asked to express what they think the images represent. Through the vocal responses and body posture, hidden depths of their psychological condition are revealed. 

The validity of the Rorschach Test is disputed among psychologists, so I propose we use a different exam to draw out the inner workings of an individual — the Rittenhouse Test. 

This test can illuminate the thought processes, feelings, agendas, motives and biases of a population. Whereas the inkblot images of the Rorschach Test are cryptic and vague — meaning there are no true right or wrong perceptions — this test shows a very clear scene. People who can’t overcome certain extreme prejudices will analyze this scene inaccurately.  

The Rittenhouse Test ultimately answers the question: Can a person put aside their political opinions to stand up for the rights of someone with a worldview diametrically opposed to their own?  

It’s named after Kyle Rittenhouse — the young man who, on Aug. 25, 2020, justifiably used lethal force in acts of self-defense. Our perceptions of the events of that night can be a huge indicator of whether we’ve allowed our biases to distort reality.  

Here’s an overview of what happened: Kenosha, Wisconsin, was in a state of civil unrest after a Black man named Jacob Blake was shot by police. The protests turned into riots. Rittenhouse was dismayed by the destruction, and decided to help the residents of Kenosha. He went to the riot zone with the intent of protecting property, cleaning up trash and providing medical aid to the injured (he had first aid and CPR training). Kyle brought a medical kit, and knowing he might need to defend himself, was armed with a Smith and Wesson M&P 15 rifle.  

Kyle was first attacked by Joseph Rosenbaum, an unhinged man who had spent years in prison for child rape.   

Rosenbaum was incensed after Kyle extinguished a dumpster fire that Rosenbaum had started and was pushing toward a gas station. Rosenbaum, who’d been acting belligerently throughout the evening, pursued Rittenhouse and said he was going to kill him. Rosenbaum advanced on Kyle while a third individual fired a gunshot into the air. Rosenbaum lunged at Kyle — even grabbing the barrel of the rifle. Kyle, fearing for his life, fatally shot Rosenbaum. 

Moments later, a mob was chasing Rittenhouse. Kyle attempted to flee to the police line, but stumbled onto the ground. A man named Anthony Huber struck him in the head with a skateboard and also attempted to take the rifle. Kyle, once again, believing his life was in danger, shot and killed Huber. Another man in the group, Gaige Grosskreutz, aimed a pistol at Rittenhouse. Kyle, reacting quickly, shot Gaige in the right arm, tearing off most of the bicep.  

In both of these incidents it’s undeniable that Kyle’s actions were all justifiably done for self-defense. The video footage and eye/expert witness accounts prove that Rosenbaum, Huber and Grosskreutz were the aggressors, and they put Kyle in a life-or-death predicament.  

Sadly, many people refused to look at the facts, and instead condemned Kyle solely because of his perceived political opinions.   

The media painted Rittenhouse as an ultra-conservative and a staunch supporter of Donald Trump. In reality it’s actually unclear what his views are. But even if he was a conservative, it shouldn’t matter at all. Unfortunately, some people on the Left viewed the scene through a tinted political filter.   

These people brought forth a slew of arguments against Rittenhouse that were not based on facts, substantial evidence or legal precedent, but instead were designed to obfuscate and mislead. Here are the top three bad arguments used against Rittenhouse and the legal proceedings:  

“Kyle Rittenhouse should’ve never gone to Kenosha. He crossed state lines. It’s not like he was defending his own front yard. Kyle was obviously looking for a fight, and therefore is guilty of murder.” 

“Kyle Rittenhouse was in possession of a firearm that he was underage to carry; therefore, he can’t claim self-defense, and is guilty of murder.” 

“Judge Bruce Schroeder, who presided over the trial, was sympathetic toward Rittenhouse. He forbade the prosecution team from using the word ‘victim’ to describe the people who were shot. Therefore, the judge was biased, and the trial was a farce.” 

Kenosha is a very short distance from Kyle’s home in Antioch, Illinois. Kyle had family members (including his father) and friends who lived in the area. On the day before the shootings, he stayed overnight in Kenosha at a friend’s house after working as a lifeguard at the local RecPlex. He spent the morning of Aug. 25 cleaning graffiti. Later on, he administered medical aid to multiple people. There’s no evidence suggesting Kyle was looking for a fight.  

But even if Kyle was the one who instigated the trouble, he still had the right of self-defense under Statute 939.48(2)(a) of Wisconsin state law. The video footage shows Kyle was clearly retreating. Even if Kyle had started the altercation (there’s no evidence showing he did), it’s irrelevant because he was attempting to disengage from the situation. He only started shooting after he had exhausted all reasonable means of escape and believed his life was in mortal danger. Gaige Grosskreutz even admitted at the trial that Rittenhouse only fired at him after he aimed his pistol at Kyle.   

Regarding the legality of the firearm: Because Rittenhouse was a minor he arguably was committing a Class A misdemeanor under Wisconsin state law. However, Kyle’s legal team successfully convinced Schroeder to drop this charge by invoking a subsection of Wisconsin gun law stating minors are only banned from carrying rifles or shotguns that are short-barreled. Furthermore, even if Kyle was unlawfully carrying the rifle it doesn’t forfeit his right of self-defense. The legality of the firearm and Kyle’s right of self-defense are two separate issues.  

Regarding Schroeder and the word “victim”: The whole purpose of the trial was to decide whether Kyle justifiably acted in self-defense. The alleged “victimhood” of the three men was being adjudicated. It would’ve been highly inappropriate to frame Rosenbaum, Huber and Grosskreutz as “victims” before the verdict had been reached. This would’ve been tantamount to preemptively declaring Kyle guilty. Schroeder rightly deemed “victim” is a loaded term that could have too much sway over the jury.  

Thankfully the jury didn’t let bias cloud their judgement, and correctly acquitted Kyle.   

To paraphrase the elegant words of liberal political commentator Steven Bonnell: The Rittenhouse case shouldn’t be used as a liberal purity test. In reality it’s a measurement of our intellectual honesty.  

Eric Goldin is a Santa Clarita resident.   

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