The curse of fame | In Focus

Both the left and right have stripped Kyle Rittenhouse of his humanity—and turned him into a symbol.

Have you ever wanted to be famous?

I sometimes think about the people who have risen to national and international prominence. Fame made some of them rich. Others became powerful. Some spiraled down into addiction or problematic relationships. For all, it meant the loss of privacy and freedom.

Today, when I think about fame, Kyle Rittenhouse and the Kenosha, Wisconsin shootings and subsequent trial come immediately to mind.

What troubles me is that this now 18-year-old adolescent has gained fame. He now represents those who strongly favor 2nd Amendment rights and the carrying and use of semi-automatic AR-15 style rifles. Because of his acquittal, Rittenhouse has been interviewed many times and was even invited to visit Donald Trump in Mar-A-Lago.

This young man has ceased to be a human being and has instead become a meme; a character in a play rather than a person; a symbol of the left-wing media’s bias against gun rights and the right to self-defense.

For some on the left, Rittenhouse has become an example of white privilege. Had Rittenhouse been Black, and had he used a semi-automatic rifle to kill whites, the same justice would not have been accorded him.

Here’s a quote from Jasmeet Bahia, a Ph.D. student in Sociology at Carlton University from an article entitled, “The Acquittal of Kyle Rittenhouse Raises the Question of White Privilege” in “The Conversation”, an e-magazine:

“Those who are familiar with the American justice system aren’t surprised by the non-guilty verdict. Rittenhouse is added to a long list of white men who have everything stacked in their favour in a court of law…. The protection of white safety is ingrained in western societies, including within our legal systems. The Rittenhouse trial has likely created a sense of safety among right-wing groups as this case establishes historical precedent for their actions to be labelled as self-defence.”

After watching the phone videos of the shootings and his lawyer’s defense, I came to agree that Rittenhouse should be found not guilty of the murders of two men and the wounding of a third based on self-defense. Had I been on the jury, I would have judged as it did.

What troubles me from views shared by both the left and right is that both groups stripped Rittenhouse of his humanity—his youth, his ignorance and his naïveté. He lacked parental guidance before, during, and after his acquittal. Rittenhouse has become a symbol—a meme of all that is wrong with America.

I feel a deep sense of sadness to see how Rittenhouse continues to be manipulated by adults who know better and who should care. When his value to them has ended, what we will have is a young man still rudderless and needing guidance. It’s likely that Kyle’s experience will severely damage him for the rest of his life.

What if his parents, or siblings, or other relatives, or even friends would have stepped forward and warned Kyle about the dangers of participating in the anti-racism riot in Kenosha? What if someone who cared about him warned him that carrying an AR-15 during a demonstration was to invite harassment? What about after the trial? If only one person pointed out to him that he was being used by adults in positions of power to push their agendas at his expense, how might he be acting now?

If I were Kyle Rittenhouse, I would be feeling a sense of confusion. Rapid fame has changed him and will continue to change him. Wherever he goes now for the rest of his life, people will see him and form opinions.

Someday, hopefully, Kyle will come to an understanding of how those in American culture used him for their own ends. Hopefully, he will be angry at being dehumanized. Hopefully, he will be able to put this life-changing experience into perspective and become mature.

These quotes describe the dangers of sudden fame and make one ponder this young man’s future:

“What a heavy burden is a name that has too soon become famous.” — Voltaire

“If you come to fame not understanding who you are, it will define who you are.” — Oprah Winfrey

“A life without fame can be a good life, but fame without a life is no life at all.” — Clive James