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Rittenhouse case

Arguably and post acquittal, the President’s position has become more treacherous. The slide in his ratings may have become more pronounced in the perspective of the electorate whose patience has been sorely tried by the pandemic and ballooning inflation.

Statesman News Service | Kolkata |

The acquittal of Kyle Rittenhouse ~ an 18-yearold White ~ in Wisconsin, America ~ would on the face of it appear to be a victory of the colour of one’s skin. But it does not render President Joe Biden any the less vulnerable to pressure, most particularly after the horrendous killing of a black by a white policeman some months ago, not to forget the murders in Ferguson, St Bernadino and the like.

Arguably and post acquittal, the President’s position has become more treacherous. The slide in his ratings may have become more pronounced in the perspective of the electorate whose patience has been sorely tried by the pandemic and ballooning inflation. The Democrats are said to be outraged at the acquittal, and the Republicans are intent on using the Rittenhouse case to exploit the national divide over the race issue.

The acquittal has intensified the discord over racial justice, vigilantism, gun laws and policing that is often determined by the colour of the skin. Rittenhouse fatally shot two men and severely injured a third. It was, therefore, more than a double whammy for the victims. It was submitted in court that he had acted in self-defence during a confrontation in which he feared for his life.

Implicitly, the jury concurred with the plea of self-defence. The verdict has come at a critical juncture, specifically when Mr Biden wants Democrats to concur with the passing of his social security and climate bill, with the hope of deflecting criticism from across the aisle. In his immediate response to Friday’s verdict, the President has articulated his respect for the jury’s decision.

Of course he sought to mollify criticism with his written statement, specifically that “like many Americans, he is angry and concerned with the jury’s acquittal” of Rittenhouse. At another remove, Republicans have greeted Rittenhouse as their “newest hero”, in keeping with the political terms of engagement of a culture war. Truth to tell, there is yet to be a dramatic change in attitudes of a white towards a black in 21st century America.

In the reckoning of Republicans, the liberal outrage over the trial would benefit the party. Mr Donald Trump has been remarkably prompt in supporting Rittenhouse in the immediate aftermath of the verdict. He called the 18-year-old “brave” for having testified in his own defence and accused America’s Left of attempting to stoke hatred with its treatment of Rittenhouse.

It is clear that the verdict will widen the racial rift in America. After the victory in this month’s election in Virginia, Republicans have underlined a tweet by Mr Biden during his presidential election campaign in 2020, in which he appeared to suggest that Rittenhouse was a “white supremacist”. There is a complex melange of issues at play here, but one thing is clear. The fault lines in America are getting more pronounced.