Kyle Rittenhouse currently is currently being tried for murder. Remember Kyle? He’s the teenager who crossed state lines with an AR-15 to confront protesters, to show how much of a man he was. After murdering three protesters, he was able to walk past the police and go home. (He turned himself in later.) He now claims he was in fear of his life.
The actions of the police, in this case, are beyond the pale, and many have rightfully questioned the competence (and impartiality) of law enforcement that would hear gunshots and ignore the teen walking towards them with an assault rifle. Be that as it may, my thoughts keep going towards Rittenhouse’s mother. She drove him across state lines with that murder machine.
What the hell was she thinking? She must have approved of his actions — and the possibility he would kill someone — or else she becomes a poster child for the “world’s most dangerous and stupidly indulgent parent.”
Any competent parent knows that you don’t give children everything they ask for. Children and teens have limited notions of consequences, for themselves and others. Giving them everything they desire results in adults that are incredibly self-centered at best and sociopathic at worst. Guess which one I think Kyle Rittenhouse is headed toward being?
I love my kids dearly. But each of them knows that there are limits to that love. All of them know, because I have told them, “I love you, but if I find out you have done something evil, like murder, or rape, or domestic violence, I will turn you in. I will find you the best defense attorney I can, but I will still turn you in.”
Not that I ever think they will do anything like that. I have raised three moral, compassionate, human beings. (My statement was prompted by a discussion of another case — I don’t remember which one — in which parents smuggled their kid out of the country so the kid wouldn’t face prosecution.) But it never hurts to reinforce that each of us lives in a web of civic responsibilities. “Don’t do evil,” to swipe an overused phrase from the Google Marketing team, is the least of those responsibilities. (The extent to which Google lives up to its own motto is a post for another day.)
Maybe it’s being a lawyer that makes me feel so emphatic on this point. I have a responsibility to uphold the law. (And I wouldn’t be my kids’ defense attorney so there would not be any privilege.) Does this conflict with my instructions to my kids that if they are picked up they should not tell the cops anything beyond their name until they talk to a lawyer? I don’t think so. The Fifth Amendment is part of the law, as well, and I have a responsibility to uphold that, too.
But the basis of civil responsibility is the recognition that others matter, too, even people engaged in activities you don’t agree with. I wish Kyle Rittenhouse had understood that.
Or at least his mother had.