Desperate Times Call for Temperate Measures

“Kill ’em all, God will recognize his own.”

Massacre at Beziers, the Albigensian Crusade

Some of the most common reactions to a piece I wrote about the Kyle Rittenhouse trial verdict ( were to point out the criminal record of the two men killed by Rittenhouse, the violent nature of the protest allegedly by mostly outside agitators, and lack of action by authorities.

What the criminal record of these two men has to do with the matter is beyond me. Unless it is to confer added justification to Rittenhouse shooting them as if he did society a favor. After all, Rittenhouse had no idea who he was shooting. He had, under Wisconsin law, no duty to retreat and the right the stand his ground, and nothing else.

Would it have made a difference if Rittenhouse shot a nun, a rabbi, and an imam who threatened him? Who knows? But, perhaps with his track record, nuns, rabbis, and imams might be wise to use caution in dealing with Mr. Rittenhouse, or those who will inevitably try to emulate him.

Do we really think 17-year-old pretend militiamen—or anyone else for that matter whose only qualification is a gun and the willingness (but perhaps not the wisdom) to use it— are the best choices for avenging angels to rid society of evil people?

After all, one person’s evil is another person’s…

The violent actions of some participants in the protest overshadows the underlying cause—outrage over the police shooting of Jacob Black and the continuing outrage over similar situations, such as the murder of George Floyd—and offers a convenient smokescreen to ignore it.

As to the allegation of inaction by the police, authorities made over two hundred and fifty arrests during the protest the night of the Rittenhouse shooting incident. Contrary to popular belief—fueled by misinformation out of the then Trump White House and other right wing sources—most of those arrested were from Kenosha or surrounding areas. They were not organized outside agitators. (FACT CHECK LINK HERE)

And the police were not ordered to “stand down.” Clearly, the law enforcement presence, which included local, state, and federal resources was inadequate, but they were not told to ignore violations of the law. In moments of such unrest, like during any high demand on law enforcement services, priorities must be set. And in some situations doing nothing is the most efficacious action, something professionals understand.

But two hundred and fifty arrests hardly reflects a “standing down” by the police.

And the only incident involving a fatal shooting was the one by Rittenhouse. Not one officer killed anyone.

Yet, the clamor for a more forceful response persists.

In the late 70s and early 80s, a Black Liberation group known as MOVE rose to prominence in Philadelphia. Over the years, there were various confrontations with the police, including the fatal shooting of a police officer.

The MOVE members barricaded themselves in their homes and refused to come out or allow the children inside to come out. Ultimately, a decision was made to drop a “small explosive entry device” on the roof to penetrate the barricade. A Pennsylvania State Police Helicopter deployed two of the devices. The explosion ignited gasoline stored on the roof, and the ensuing fire killed several MOVE members, including five children.

Now one might argue if the MOVE members had just left the compound, the fire never would have happened. One might also argue that, while force may always be effective, it can also be counterproductive.

None of the officers involved in the decision process to deploy the devices intended to kill children, but children still died. One can blame their death on the actions of the MOVE leaders, but it fails to consider that there were alternatives available to the authorities.

This was an incident where an American police department essentially called in an airstrike on civilians. We often deploy our troops to countries that take such actions to protect the innocent from such governmental actions. It is incidents such as this that prompted serious reviews of policies and tactics in these situations.

One of the basic tenets of hostage negotiation is to slow things down. Time can be an ally as the adrenalin of the initial incident fades, and rationality can be encouraged.

Why does this matter today? Because despite the clamor for strong enforcement, authorities in Kenosha chose restraint over overwhelming force. Not one officer was forced to use deadly force to make arrests or quell the protests because they were trained and professional in their actions.

In contrast, self-proclaimed militiamen—something Rittenhouse claims as a calling — see armed confrontation and unrestrained use of deadly force to protect themselves from a situation they placed themselves in and are often unequipped to handle as the correct solution.

They, and those who seek a hardline Police response absent well-articulated rules of engagement, are wrong.

These militiamen like to portray themselves as modern-day versions of the patriots of the Revolution. Yet, what they seek—the government using overwhelming military-style force to quell disturbances—is precisely the thing those original Patriots died to prevent.

Some would think in the face of protests…

If we sent just one Blackhawk helicopter, we could annihilate anybody in the street.

One tank, and we could crush all the insurrectionists (Hmm?).

One Marine rifle squad, and we could eliminate all the looters.

And this would solve the problem. Like the quote at the beginning of this piece says, some innocents may die but it is the price of strong enforcement in the face of rebellion.

So why don’t we?

We don’t not because we lack the will, but because we shouldn’t.

Where some see weakness, I see wisdom.

When some see reticence, I see reasonableness.

We haven’t lost our strength or the will to use it. Instead, we’ve learned to employ it wisely through experience.

These militiamen like to portray themselves as modern-day versions of the patriots of the Revolution. Yet, what they seek—the government using overwhelming military-style force to quell disturbances—is precisely the thing those true Patriots died to prevent.

They are not emulating the call of the Patriot; they are acting out as schoolyard bullies, albeit armed with deadly weapons, playing at the complex and challenging task of fairly and equitably enforcing the law. The are playing video games without a reset button, which is where most of them probably got their “training.”

I wonder what the reaction would be if someone—acting under the same premise of self-defense—shot a couple of the “patriots/insurrectionists” violently destroying property and killing cops on January 6th?

Methinks the outcry would ring differently.