John Colson: A known killer working at the U.S. Capitol?

John Colson
Hit & Run

The ongoing governmental takeover being engineered by right-wing forces in the United States got a strange little nudge recently with the exoneration of shooter Kyle Rittenhouse, a 17-year-old from Illinois who shot two people to death and wounded another during a protest against police brutality in a town near Milwaukee.

It was exceedingly interesting that close on the heels of Rittenhouse’s acquittal on five charges, we learned that a Georgia jury convicted three vigilante-type white men who chased and killed a Black man they caught jogging through their neighborhood.

I’d say observers of all this are to be forgiven if they feel a bit whiplashed by the two cases, as they have been taken by some to be proof that our courts cannot possibly be even-handed in the dispensing of criminal justice, and by others as proof of just the opposite — that our courts are operating just as they should be.

I’m not so sure about all this, but I note that the Kenosha, Wisconsin, jury completely bought Rittenhouse’s claim that he was acting in self-defense against rioters who were threatening him, though his victims were unarmed (the judge ruled that label could not be used during the trial).

In addition, the judge in the case committed what I view as grievous errors, such as his bizarre dismissal of a charge that the defendant was too young to be carrying, and using, a loaded rifle on the streets, although neither of his victims was armed. Testimony revealed that one of the men who died threw a bag of socks and other personal stuff at Rittenhouse, and the other tried to grab the rifle out of Rittenhouse’s hands. The man who was wounded, according to news reports, did have a gun and at one point pointed it in Rittenhouse’s direction out of fear for his own life.

The accusation that Rittenhouse was acting as a provocateur by carrying his assault-style rifle seemed not to have made much of an impression on the jury or the judge.

In any event, many observers see in the Rittenhouse verdict a kind of declaration of open season on protesters around the country, particularly since a number of deranged members of the U.S. Congress, including Colorado’s own Rep. Lauren Boebert (R-Rifle), have been doing their best to get close to Rittenhouse by offering him internships in their offices.

It is notable that Rittenhouse’s attorney has denounced these offers as “disgusting” examples of opportunistic politicians trying to cash in on his client’s troubles, which I find supremely ironic given that Rittenhouse’s defense benefited massively by celebrity support and donations from right-wing sympathizers.

In her zeal to use Rittenhouse and to gain some of the shine he’s enjoying, Boebert (along with other Republicans) has tried to inject a little supposed humor in this sordid mess. Representatives Madison Cawthorn of North Carolina, Paul Gosar of Arizona and Matt Gaetz of Florida, a triad of deeply authoritarian thugs, began joking about arm-wrestling contests to see who gets to claim Rittenhouse as his own pet thug, leading Boebert to one-up them by challenging Cawthorn (who is wheelchair bound) to a “sprint” race to see who gets to claim Rittenhouse.

So not only is this crew of legislative Neanderthals seemingly endorsing Rittenhouse’s violence and recklessness, they are doing so in the kind of bad taste that should be condemned by the leadership of their party and the nation as a whole.

Instead, we are being treated to silence from the GOP leadership, raucous claims of solidarity with the shooter from some elected officials, and a general circus atmosphere that seems to align well with the Republican Party’s apparent conclusion that government is simply a farcical game.

But I’d like to know if this is how we want our government to proceed into the future.

Do we believe it is right or acceptable to allow this kind of celebration of homicidal recklessness?

Do we think it is just another day at the office when a man who shot two people to death and got away with it is invited to work at the nation’s capitol?

Gosar, I should point out, was recently censured by the House of Representatives for online videos of himself killing Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-New York) and swinging two swords at President Joe Biden, which if I had done it would likely be considered a crime.

If Rittenhouse does get an internship as a consequence of his actions, might he feel emboldened to bring weapons into the U.S. capitol and, egged on by his cabal of supporters, to use them at some point against perceived political enemies?

Far-fetched imaginings? Perhaps, but it’s worrying, nonetheless.