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Posts published in “Day: November 21, 2021”

Rittenhouse IV


“Praise Jesus!”

That’s what the Facebook post said. It wasn’t just one post either — I saw several identical posts in reaction to Kyle Rittenhouse earning no penalty for gunning down two people and wounding a third.

“Praise Jesus,” they said.

From praising the Lord to offerings of Congressional internships via Republicans Madison Cawthorn, Matt Gaetz and Paul Gosar, social media was abuzz with ridiculous words of praise and reward for a guy whose rise to fame came because he shot some unarmed demonstrators. Gosar took the situation seriously enough to challenge Rittenhouse to arm wrestling.

Speaking of Congress, one guy suggested Rittenhouse be awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor. Seriously? First, it’s called a Medal of Honor — adding “Congressional” shows you don’t understand this great and grave honor. Second, stupid kids who shoot people armed with plastic bags and skateboards don’t usually get any awards, let alone the nation’s top military medal.

Cheapening the Medal of Honor in this fashion isn’t as offensive as invoking the name of Christ to celebrate the exoneration of a guy who murdered two people, but Rittenhouse’s supporters seem possessed of a special myopia that allows them to see only the side of the story that fits their worldview. When you can simply ignore the violent and unnecessary deaths of two men, you can elevate false heroes pretty easily, I expect.

“Praise Jesus!”

Some gun nuts will use the little laugh emoji to like this post because they think it’s funny — they think I’m a left-wing pinko who believes rioting is good and bad guys should get off. I don’t support rioting and all I have to do is look a few miles north to see what happens when a city boasts unlimited tolerance with no accountability.

In fact, I support the Second Amendment — I was schooled in firearms before I reached sixth grade. But I believe wielding a tool designed specifically to kill requires a deadly serious respect. I believe some combination of maturity, training and restraint should be expected of those who exercise their right to bear arms, especially in crowded public places. I do not believe immature teenagers who buy guns because “they’re cool” and who have no training are good candidates to mix with angry protesters while bearing semi-automatic weapons.

The gun lobby and many firearms enthusiasts talk a good game when it comes to firearms responsibility. But the Kyle Rittenhouse affair showed their true colors: we learned that maturity, training, responsibility, restraint and common sense are irrelevant when it comes to bearing arms. All that matters is a willingness to respond and an ability to bring a firearm along, nothing else.

If a stupid kid who desperately wants to prove his manhood wishes to take his high-powered rifle to a scene of racial unrest, by golly, he should do so. And if he panics and thinks he’s about to be killed by a guy shouting obscenities and wielding a plastic bag or a skateboard, by golly, he has every right to deploy that firearm. Four shots and dead. No more potty-mouthed, plastic-bag-wielding assailant.

“Praise Jesus.”

While a good portion of America was praising Jesus, was there even a shred of concern for the two souls Rittenhouse snuffed? Not a peep. After all, one of them was a mentally ill sex offender — surely he’s hell-bound, right? I mean, it’s not like we believe in redemption or anything. Yep, Joseph Rosenbaum was going to hell and Kyle Rittenhouse was gonna help him dig the hole. Pop, pop, pop, Rittenhouse hit Rosenbaum’s heart, lung and head, among other places. Reportedly, the lethal shot went into Rosenbaum’s back.

The other soon-to-be-dead guy had just witnessed Rittenhouse shoot an unarmed man — in Anthony Huber’s whirling mind, he’d just witnessed a cold-blooded killing, not a Second Amendment hero. Bravely (if inadvisedly) acting to stop the killer, Huber, too, was gunned down as he tried to use his skateboard to disarm the shooter. This time a torso shot, right in the chest — the skateboarder now lay in a pool of blood on the dirty streets of Kenosha.

“Those were clean kills,” someone said.

“He was a good shot,” said another.

“Praise Jesus!”

For the life of me, I can’t figure out why people who commonly find themselves vigorously defending the Second Amendment don’t have a vested interest in the responsible use of firearms. Seriously, we wouldn’t need to constantly debate Second Amendment issues if there weren’t so many instances of morons and maniacs exercising their right to bear arms. I don’t mean just talking responsible use, but living it — like when panicking teenagers who have no business inserting themselves and their high-powered firearms into violent events for which they have no training or experience. I’m sorry, gun nuts, but there are moral absolutes. No property crime — no matter how frustrating — is worth human life. Not legally, not morally. And even if he screams self-defense, sometimes the good guy with the gun is an unqualified and lethal idiot. The standard to earn a good guy label has sunk to an all-time low.

“Praise Jesus.”

I am sickened to see the name of Jesus Christ used to uplift a stupid kid who had no right to insert himself and his semi-automatic rifle into a chaotic and unpredictable situation. I am appalled the name of Jesus Christ is being used to dismiss the violent and unnecessary deaths of two souls who stood little chance against Rittenhouse’s fatal slugs.

“There are no winners in this case,” said one of the comments.

That comment is flat-out wrong.

Yes, there were several losers, especially the two dead people. But there was one big winner. His name is Kyle Rittenhouse and he is a killer.

“Praise Jesus.”

A former food and wine writer, senior editor of two regional food-and-beverage magazines and one of four or five remaining moderate republicans, Matthew Meador switched to writing political commentary because it allows him to be grouchy now that he is no longer paid to eat, drink and be merry. In a previous life, Matt was an award-winning graphic artist who often put his skills to use during election seasons. Matt also was rumored to have lurked around the Oregon state capitol building where he learned the cost of getting bill drafts to the front of the line in Legislative Counsel was no more than a plate of cookies — who says there’s no corruption in state government? Contact Matt at

Many blessings


September marked my 77th birthday and Thursday this week being Thanksgiving, it seems appropriate to reminisce a bit on life’s many blessings, twists and turns.

It’s been a chaotic year for everyone, what with the pandemic and all. I’ve had some health issues of my own and lost my brother David and Linda’s brother Randy. For the past eight years, since 2013, I’ve walked with the help of a cane and more recently, a walker or wheelchair, the lingering result of a viral infection which has affected my balance and limited my mobility, but not my mind. I don’t think of myself as disabled or impaired in any way.

If I have “world enough and time,” as the poem says, I’ll just keep on doing what I’m doing. I’ve been a college professor, a journalist, a newspaper editor/publisher, a business consultant, an elected state legislator, and now, a blog columnist and community historian in the Magic Valley. It’ a comfortable list.

I’ve lived in Southern Idaho almost forty years now and while not a perfect place, it has nonetheless been mostly a delight. The physical landscape is immense and the people mostly kind, generous and hard-working. It reflects the way America generally was before the country was overrun by near-constant discord of political correctness and identity politics. Here, we’re still a valley of farms, ranches, quiet towns and a shared base of conservative cultural values. How rare and special is that?

Since retiring from the Legislature in 2018 due to health issues, I have two new books out on the various cultural aspects of Southern Idaho life, and another underway. These follow a personal memoir in 2014 and several journalism books on reporting, as well as biographies of both my parents, Vincent Hartgen and Frances Hartgen.

I’ve been a writer most of my adult life, so I think I’ll stick with it. Ernest Hemingway once said that his goal as a novelist was to write one truly perfect sentence. I doubt I’ll ever make that standard, but I keep trying.
But none of this is as important as family, place and remembrance, living in this magnificent rural valley of Idaho, a land of freedom, energy and progress. Linda and I have five children between us and a passel of grandkids as well, rambunctious, curious, verbal, loving, all out to make something of themselves in this world. They are close, but not on our doorstep; both are part of the continual joy of grand-parenting.

My stream wading days are over, but I love to mentally fish Idaho’s pristine trout waters and to read American history. I particularly favor accounts of the American West, it’s rich legends and vigorous settlement, the courage and determination of its people in this vast and enduring landscape. It is the Magic Valley story, the Idaho story and the American story of this great country.

As I age, life’s more visceral past contests fade in importance; they were only sound and fury, as Shakespeare calls them, signifying nothing. Ecclesiastes tells us that no one knows when we may be summoned to a distant stream, when one’s spirit returns unto God, who gave it. In any case, I have many blessings. Here are a few:

A childhood of delightful memories in a safe and warm place on the edge of a deep, natural forest, a lens through which I have seen the world in most every circumstance;
Loving parents whose own efforts made the world a better place for those around them, a mother who helped others with sympathy and grace and a father who in his own art and teaching, opened people’s eyes to the world of beauty and human ennoblement;

An education at schools better than I had any right to attend and from which I was able to extract some, if not all, of what they had to offer, sometimes in counterpoint;

A life of the mind developed from an early age, nurtured by parents and then by myself in quiet hours and moments, overcoming each day’s hustings;

A long search and then a settling in what seems like “God’s country” of the West, in the presence of daily beauty, the flow of crystalline water, the crisp green of spring farms and range;

The blessing to live in the best region, in the best state, in the best nation on the planet, in freedom and opportunity, where love of country abounds. If freedom is to be found anywhere, surely Southern Idaho is one such place;

A flowering of family warmth and love and a spouse and partner whose dedication to the “us” of our marriage and to our faith has helped my own faith grow as we age;

A renewal in my sixties and seventies of public service and involvement, through both public office and appreciation of my community, giving me a chance to lead through the challenges of public life;

A gift of friendships bound by common purpose to make our community, state and nation a better place for generations ahead;

Reasonable health, despite setbacks and conditions. Yes, I have chronic ailments, but so do many others. So what? It is a blessing indeed to do what I can do. Each of us should be thankful for the inner strength God has given each of us.

Scripture tells us to be constantly ready, as we cannot know the hour of the calling. That’s good advice. But we should all take time here as well to count our blessings. Happy Thanksgiving to all! Now, about that turkey!

Stephen Hartgen, Twin Falls, is a retired five-term Republican member of the Idaho House of Representatives, where he served as chairman of the Commerce & Human Resources Committee.  Previously, he was editor and publisher of The Times-News (1982-2005). He can be reached at A version of this column has been published annually since 2014.