My twitter feed (which you should follow) is still abuzz with angry words about Kyle Rittenhouse and the Covid crisis, especially where lockdowns are concerned. I’ve already touched on both of them here, here, and here in long form. In all of them I’ve made rare calls for nuance, and yet for some reason my blog with readership measured in the 10s of people on a good day hasn’t resulted in making the screaming stop.
I think I know why people are still so intense about it on both sides: the legality and the morality of both situations don’t line up neatly with each other. In the case of Rittenhouse he may well be legally innocent, he may well have acted in self defense, and he may go free. Given that two people are dead and another is seriously wounded behind it, it’s an ambiguous situation and exactly why we have courts. Even in ancapistan there would nigh certainly be a referral to one, if not several private arbitration services about this, and they might not all come back with the same ruling. BUT…why people on the other side are so pissed is that he was on the wrong moral side of the issue. In a year where anger over the state murdering people boiled over in many public ways, Rittenhouse was on the side of…the state. He brought a gun to the wrong side of a protest and wound up shooting protestors. Even if he was legally in the right in the moment, he was morally wrong and put himself in an incendiary situation.
In the case of Covid, libertarians, including a lot of people I have great respect for, and Trumpers are screaming about lockdowns, business shutdowns, school closures, and curfews like it’s the greatest abuse of power since the internment of Japanese Americans in World War II and a permanent mental crippling of our youth. On the other hand, just about everyone who’s had the virus, along with the bulk of the center and left is flat out saying @#^! you to anyone who won’t wear a mask, or who protests, or who threatens to have Thanksgiving with their family. And the thing is…both sides actually have a point. Yes, government mandated lockdowns and curfews (although not, I’d say, shutdowns of government specific services, such as schools) are unconstitutional and awful, and they set a terrible precedent. Yes, entire sectors of the economy have been tanked by this intervention, and way too much corporate welfare has been given to large businesses at the expense of small. Yes, school closures are absolutely taking a real toll on our students, depriving them of experiences they will never get back. But the flip side is that the virus is real, and the low risk is still a lot higher than other diseases (such as the normal flu), along with much longer lasting after effects and a much higher death rate. The appropriate legal thing to do is to not come with 100 miles of government with a mandate, but the right moral thing to do is chill out for a minute, stay home at least through regular flu season, and let’s get through this.
Herein lies the problem. For libertarians especially, most things are pretty cut and dried, and most things are so long overdue and so wrong that quick, decisive, drastic action is called for. Ending the wars, ending the drug war and pardoning/exonerating people. Declassifying files on US war crimes. Ending corporate welfare. Ending the war on guns. Ending the war on immigrants. And we love to be contradictory almost for its own sake, which most of the time makes sense because the status quo answer sucks. But some things actually are complicated, and need to be treated as such. Yes, Rittenhouse may have been acting in self defense, and no, you don’t always get to pick the people that you should defend (Clive Bundy, anyone?), but that doesn’t mean we should hold him up as a hero, or that we should hold him blameless, or that we should blindly stick up for him without acknowledging context. And we should especially recognize that in a summer of very visible public murders by police, which, yes, fits inside a longer history of police abuse and racism in the United States, people are going to take the shooting of protestors as more evidence of the racism of our society, no matter how legally justified he might have been in the moment. For the lockdown yes, kids can’t recover from mental health issues if they’re dead, but the toll that months of isolation and missing important events and rites of passage is still a very real toll. No, governors shouldn’t be trying to lock people down, but it would be really nice if we the citizenry would actually chill out for a minute on our own.
Or in other words, most of the time we should fight hard and take no prisoners. But sometimes? We need to calm the @#^! down and acknowledge the other side has a point.