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Was Kyle Rittenhouse acting in self-defense when he shot Joseph Rosenbaum, Anthony Huber, and Gaige Grosskreutz on August 25, 2020? That is the question the jury will have to answer. That is the only question the jury has to answer. The trial as envisioned by most news outlets and Twitter will, or at least should, settle an array of other questions. Should Kyle Rittenhouse have traveled to Kenosha that evening? Was he planning on being a vigilante? Does he suffer from a hero complex? Is he a good person?
Those asking these questions aren’t stroking their chins while deep in thought, they aren’t poring over the evidence, they aren’t asking. They’ve long had their answers—the trial is just a formality. These questions are interesting in a philosophical sense. They are irrelevant to the trial. Kyle Rittenhouse is not my friend, acquaintance, family member, coworker, employee, lover, or peer. I’m in no need to assess his character, judgment, intellect, or moral compass. He isn’t in the news because the country sees in his case grist for a hearty debate about ethics. He’s in the news because it is being decided whether the state will use taxpayer money to keep him locked in a cage for years.