Confucius was asked what would be the first thing he did if he was ever granted power. He answered: ‘rectify words’.
It is neither Rittenhouse nor the jury verdict that is a sign of US cultural collapse. Matters like that have a long history in the US. We need only reference Rodney King.
What reveals the decline is the loss of correct word usage. Anders Walker (Note 1) describes the events and refers to the specific local law in that State. It has always been fundamental to all understanding of justice that the law and justice are not the same thing. In an ideal world, they are, but that something is legal does not make it just. For Anders Walker, a St Louis University professor of law, to happily endorse the outcome as right and legal because it was the law and for the interviewer not to challenge him reveals how far down the slope US culture has gone.
In respect of abortion, those opposing Roe v Wade demonstrated against in their eyes an unjust law. For them, law and justice were not the same thing. For the US conservatives to endorse opposition to Roe v Wade but be strictly legal elsewhere and for this not to be challenged reveals much.
But to return to Confucius. The key question is: what is the real law? We know the words, but how are they interpreted? If these words do not apply to Black people, then the true law as it applies should be restated as ‘if you are a white person …’. If the law does not apply to civil rights protestors, then perhaps the true law should be restated ‘if you are a White person and not involved in Black civil rights, then ….’. An easy way to begin seeking the true wording is to ask: when and with whom is this law applied? How many Black people have been able to rely on it? How many poor Whites have used it against the police?
Strictly speaking, a Black person should be entitled to frequently shoot police officers as often when stopped they are in fear of their lives, and there is statistical support for their fear. If the law would not apply in such cases, then the apparent law must be restated. In the case of Black men versus police, it would rapidly be a question of shooting first to survive.
When a culture is in gross decline, it no longer sees itself for what it is. It is the news commentary and the response of lawyers and journalists that reveals the direction of travel.
Obama quoted MLK : ‘the arc of the moral universe is long but it bends toward justice.’ As Mychal Denzel Smith points out, there is an elision here. (Note 2) However, even Smith avoids noting that from the original quote of Theodore Parker through ML King, it has become a metaphor just for the USA.
A future event may change the verdict regarding Rittenhouse, but it will not affect the evidence of cultural failure. To be unable to ask – ‘what is the real law here and is the outcome justice?’ – speaks volumes. It is the law professors and journalists that are the bellwether of decline here.
At present, the moral arc is bending towards the toilet, not justice.