Making a Mess of Martin Shooting
I was going to write something about the Trayvon Martin case right after it happened, but I thought that a sarcastic " why don't they just lynch him now?", referring to the shooter, George Zimmerman, was too provocative. As it turned out that was mild. Michael Tyson, the former boxer, said something to the effect that it's disgusting that no one has shot him yet. The new, revised Black Panther organization, the black equivalent of the KKK, has posters out offering a $10,000 reward for Zimmerman, dead or alive. And, in between and before and after all that, the incident has been a mess.
It was a mess from the beginning: Zimmerman calling 911 after seeing someone in a hoodie walking around a gated mixed-race community supposedly acting suspiciously. Stupidly, he then follows what turned out to be Martin, even though 911 dispatchers told him not to. He apparently got out of his car to either confront or watch Martin, know one knows which. Zimmerman says he spoke to him and was walking back to his car when Martin jumped him. Martin's girlfriend says she got a call from Martin saying he was being followed, but Martin said he wasn't to run. He was obviously worried.
A witness saw Martin on top of Zimmerman and then heard shots. 911 dispatchers heard screaming, but aren't sure who was screaming. Martin died, Zimmerman had some kind of injury to his head and nose. Police came, made no arrest, apparently investigating, but indicating that "stand your ground" applied in Zimmerman's favor. It is unclear whether any arrest or other charges were contemplated and unclear why police and Sanford town officials allowed the matter to fester without definitive action or explanation.
And, not surprisingly, fester it did. Ultimately, a special prosecutor, appointed by the governor, filed second degree murder charges. That was only after mob-inciters and self-aggrandizing racial provocateurs Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton, showed up to get their share of the spot-light. It isn't clear whether all the professional protesting caused officials to take some action, or whether some action was going to be taken without the protests. It is equally unclear whether the second degree murder charge was forced because of the protestors, or whether a manslaughter charge would have been filed under another less inflammatory situation.
In between, the news coverage was terrible. It was first implied that this was a racial shooting although Zimmerman is Hispanic and according to a black friend was not racist at all. Some media later referred to Zimmerman as white Hispanic which, if applied, would make Obama a white African. Obama didn't help by referring to Martin as looking like the son he might have had. Electronic media tried to make Zimmerman's 911 remarks racial as in using the N word. It later turned out that he was saying punks or something like that. NBC actually edited the tapes to infer racial overtones.
Then there were the pictures: a 14-year-old Martin though he was 17. Then there was the gold-toothed Martin. Zimmerman's pictures weren't current either and furthered his image as a monster. The Tampa Bay Times front page picture this past week, a picture larger than the picture of Osama Bin Laden when he was killed, topped provocative coverage.
Zimmerman's problem isn't racial. His problem is that he's paranoid about crime and a stranger wandering through his development, where there had been burglaries, in the rain dressed in a hoodie translates to a potential criminal just as a non-black shooting a black translates to a racial killing.
Interestingly, the calmer, less inflammatory position was taken by Martin's grieving mother who called for action and justice and an opportunity for the legal system to work. She went so far as to refer to the shooting as an "accident" though she later retreated from that. It is not clear what it was. Clearly, Zimmerman was an over-zealous, self appointed policeman though he was only part of a neighborhood watch. That he wasn't a policeman, though he wanted to be, reflects a lot. He was licensed to carry a gun, which in his case was a problem though he had no history of having used that gun. We don't know whether he brandished the gun or threatened Martin and Martin responded by hitting him, or whether Martin attacked him because he felt threatened by this self-appointed policeman's following him. Was Martin standing his ground?
The shooting has provoked discussion about eliminating or revising the "stand your ground" law which was designed to allow someone to defend himself when attacked, particularly in the home. In practice it has allowed some to actually pursue and shoot someone. It has, of course, generated discussion about being allowed to carry a gun at all. The most cogent argument in both regards has come from Bill Cosby whose son was shot to death. He says that the problem is that carrying a gun gives a person a feeling of power. Power can be corrupting.
Martin's shooting has become more than it was other than that a death is a death, a killing a killing. The media, the racial opportunists, the political opportunists, and the public officials have not distinguished themselves. This compounded what appeared to be an avoidable incident with a tragic outcome from a matter of finding out the truth to trying to satisfy community emotions, from all perspectives, that really can't be satisfied.