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Three variables

November 19, 2021

From Ken’s Qwik and Dirty Definitions (also known as Definitions to Which One or More of my Professors Would Object)

  • Variable: something that can change
  • Dependent variable: a variable that can change as a result of another variable
  • Independent variable: a variable that does not change because another variable did
  • Tactical: decisions you make and actions you take that help you achieve an objective
  • Moral: “can you live with yourself” type decisions
  • Legal: at least in the jurisdiction in which it occurred, wha the law says about your actions

I recently had the opportunity to reread a Larry Correia post from several years ago. It offers a brief but very informed explanation of self defense shootings. Of particular interest, to me, is the point he makes that the tactical, moral and legal aspects of any violent encounter “don’t always match up neatly.” I’m going to express that this way: tactical, moral and legal are independent variables. It seems to me that for many people this is fine in the abstract, but not so much when faced with real-world cases. In those real -world cases, we find ourselves outraged because the real world winds up being far messier and less comfortably warm and fuzzy as we might like. We simply cannot tolerate the tension.

The Rittenhouse trial (and the events that necessitated it) are a fine example of the above tension. While I wasn’t there, the tactical aspect seems fairly simple to me, at least at first, and is reflected in my belief that you win 100% of the fights you don’t get in. When possible, it’s far better to avoid than engage. Better to avoid contact than have to break contact. If not possible, then, especially for the average person, better to engage and then break contact (if possible) than to continue to engage and increase your risk. These sorts of questions are answered by neither law nor morals.

The moral issues are perhaps not as clear. That they are moral issues is shown by the frequent use of the word “should.” It’s a word that implies a moral obligation. (Please note that the word “ought” also implies such an obligation, so no attempts at cheating) Thus, we have question like

  • Should he have been in Kenosha?
  • Should he have been where he was in Kenosha?
  • Should he have been armed?
  • Should he have been armed with the rifle he had?
  • Should he have fired the weapon at all?

There are more should type questions, but they are all moral questions. They’re good questions, but they aren’t decided by tactics or law.

Legal questions are the things that depend on statute, precedent and concepts in that world inhabited by lawyers and judges. These are the questions which determine if you get to be a guest of the state for a prolonged period of time – or, sometimes, even if the state is going to kill you.

Then tension comes in, I submit, in that many people thought he “should” have been found guilty. That’s a moral issue. They thought, perhaps, that his guilt was indicated by how he acted tactically once that whole situation went so horribly awry. The thing is, those are not, in and of themselves, legal issues. “But, but, but…he shouldn’t have been there at all.” I tend to agree with that moral assertion. “A warning shot would have been a good idea.” Aside from the fact that “warning shots” are never justified in any US jurisdiction of which I’m aware, that would have been a tactical decision. The jury apparently decided, regardless of what it various members thought regarding the moral and tactical decisions Mr. Rittenhouse made, that the prosecution failed to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that he was guilty of the crimes with which he was charged under the laws of Wisconsin. That was the legal decision.

I, for one, am beyond appalled that his parent(s) allowed him to go there at all, much less that they allowed him, once there, to venture out armed and without a full-time adult escort. Further, if I were going to be there and armed, I would have been carrying concealed or I would have kept my butt in a controlled area. Those are moral and tactical issues and they are significant ones that many people apparently wanted to address via the law, though arguably that is not the best way to do so.

Kyle Rittenhouse is not legally guilty of murder. Good, bad or indifferent, that’s just the way it is and will not change.

NOTE: If you look at the list of moral questions, I really do think they are good questions. I’d encourage you to be careful with how you answer them. I’ve seen a lot of people express opinions utilizing those questions that were little more than “she was asking for it” comments. That approach is morally reprehensible.

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One Comment
  1. Old NFO permalink

    This is one that there is NO good answer to, everyone’s perspectives will ‘color’ their answers.

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