The Other McCain

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Kenosha: Joseph ‘JoJo’ Rosenbaum and the Problem of White Trash America

Posted on | November 20, 2020 | No Comments

Nearly three months ago, I wrote a post about Joseph “JoJo” Rosenbaum, the convicted child molester whose attack on Kyle Rittenhouse precipitated the shootings during the Kenosha riot that left Rosenbaum and another rioter dead, wounded a third rioter, and has Rittenhouse facing murder charges as a result. At that point — just three days after the incident — there was not much background information available. However, in October, while my mind was focused on the presidential campaign, the Washington Post published a very detailed report on who JoJo Rosenbaum was, a report that also included important background on the other dead rioter, Anthony Huber, and details of events preceding the shooting. The Post is to be commended for doing this work, which includes this information:

Joseph Rosenbaum — depressed, homeless and alone . . . had spent most of his adult life in prison for sexual conduct with children when he was 18 and struggled with bipolar disorder. That day, Aug. 25, Rosenbaum was discharged from a Milwaukee hospital following his second suicide attempt in as many months and dumped on the streets of Kenosha. . . .
Hours after he was released from the hospital, Rosenbaum stopped by a pharmacy in Kenosha to pick up medication for his bipolar disorder, only to discover that it had closed early because of the unrest.
He visited his fiancee, who was living in a cheap motel room, but she told him he couldn’t stay the night. She had pressed charges against him a month earlier after a fight in which he knocked her down and bloodied her mouth. If Rosenbaum violated his no-contact order, she warned, he could be sent back to jail. . . .
The weeks leading up to Rosenbaum’s death had been as chaotic as his life. Raised in Texas and Arizona, Rosenbaum met his father only twice and told his mother that he was molested by his alcoholic stepfather “on an almost daily basis,” according to court documents.
When he was 13 his mother was sent to prison for two years, and Rosenbaum was sent off to a group home, where he began using heroin and methamphetamine, according to court documents. By 18, he was in prison for sexual conduct with five preteen boys, the children of people who had taken him in after his mother told him to leave her house, according to a presentencing report. He spent most of the next 14 years behind bars.
Not long after he was released in 2016, he met a woman in Arizona and fathered a child, but the relationship didn’t last. When the woman fled to Kenosha, Rosenbaum chased her. . . .
[In December 2019] he and his new fiancee, whom he met in a Wisconsin hospital, were braving the winter in a tent they had pitched in an overgrown lot behind an abandoned department store. . . .
They spent their days at nearby fast-food restaurants where the staff sometimes gave them free meals. At night Rosenbaum, his fiancee and her cat huddled under piles of blankets. “We lived off of each other’s body heat,” she said.
In the spring, the police confiscated their tent, so they slept for a while behind dumpsters in town. Eventually, the county’s social services department helped them get a room at a cut-rate motel . . .
Aside from one supervised visit, he never saw the child for whom he had moved to Kenosha. In June, he attempted suicide by overdosing on pills. A month later, his fiancee confronted him after finding pornography on his phone. Rosenbaum body-slammed her, according to police, who took him to jail and then released him.
One week later, Rosenbaum called a suicide crisis line. Police found him vomiting and having convulsions outside a McDonald’s. He spent a few days in the hospital followed by a few more days in jail for violating the no-contact order with his former girlfriend. Then he was sent for more treatment to the mental hospital in Milwaukee.
Two hours before he was killed, Rosenbaum left his fiancee’s motel room and caught a bus for downtown, where a second night of protests had erupted.

JoJo was a product of the White Trash American Lifestyle — no dad, no family, no home, prison record, sexual perversion, domestic violence.

He “met his father only twice”? Can you even imagine that? It boggles my mind, almost as much as the claim that Rosenbaum was repeatedly molested as a boy by his “alcoholic stepfather.” You have to figure Rosenbaum’s mother was a loser to make such disastrous choices of male companions. The picture of Rosenbaum’s “chaotic” life is, alas, increasingly common with the breakdown of family life in America. There’s lots of riffraff out there, children of single moms, raised without the security of the kind of stable family life that Christopher Lasch called Haven in a Heartless World. You don’t have to be rich to give your kids that kind of security; you just have to keep your marriage together. But the sensibility that fosters stable marriages — the ability to recognize your own faults and errors, to forgive the faults of others, to refrain from cruelty and selfishness — has been wiped out by the storm of hedonism that has crashed through our culture. Too many people have lost their sense of self-respect and basic decency; they’ve become trash.

Sorry, worthless, lowdown, no-account white trash, sleeping behind a dumpster, then getting a cheap motel room with the help of the local welfare office, but JoJo couldn’t even keep that, because he beat up his girlfriend after she found porn on his phone. Priorities, you see — can’t be doing something useful like looking for a job, because you’re too busy downloading porn on your phone. A real menace to society, this JoJo character, yet I suppose many people will feel sympathy for him because he had a hard life, but whose fault is that? That is to say, there can be no personal responsibility in a culture that treats even convicted child rapists as helpless victims of society. This tale could be taught as a lesson to young people — don’t be white trash, kids — but our culture denies that people have it within their power to avoid the kinds of behavior that result in people living and dying the way JoJo Rosenbaum did.

The Washington Post has now produced a 22-minute video telling the story of what happened in Kenosha. You should watch it.




 

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