Let us hope close to Kyle Rittenhouse trial in Wisconsin helps to close, not to reopen, an unhappy chapter in United States history

News Letter editorial of Monday November 22 2021:

Letter to the editor
Letter to the editor

There were fresh protests last night in America over the acquittal of Kyle Rittenhouse.

The teenager was found not guilty last week in relation to a shooting in which he killed two people and injured another.

Rittenhouse had travelled from Illinois into neighbouring Wisconsin to a demonstration at a time of massive racial tension in the United States.

He became involved in a dispute with protestors and a chase, culminating in the shooting, which was captured in shocking footage on video.

President Joe Biden, who during last year’s US election seemed to imply Rittenhouse was linked to white supremacists, has said he supported the jury’s decision and urged Americans to react calmly.

Whatever one’s thoughts on the verdict, this is a welcome intervention.

However disappointing, or even dismaying, an outcome in such a highly sensitive trial, things are made much worse when senior politicians openly undermine a jury decision.

America has deep divisions that in some respects mirror the divisions in Northern Ireland.

While the US has never seemed at much risk of tipping into a conflagration akin to the Troubles that erupted here more than 50 years ago, in one crucial respect the situation across the Atlantic is a much more volatile than it has ever been here — the massive levels of gun ownership.

There are deep resentments among some racial minorities that they have been at a disadvantage for centuries.

There are similar resentments among many white Americans that radicals want to overturn the society. Both sets of resentments have at least some elements of justification.

America is still a global beacon of modern living.

The atmosphere seems less unstable than it did in mid 2020. Let us hope the trial marks the beginning of a closure of that unhappy chapter rather than a reopening of it.

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