I didn’t follow the George Zimmerman trial closely. I’ve been traveling and I hardly ever watch TV even when I’m home. But I didn’t have to– it was all over my Facebook and Twitter feed and featured on every news site I read. So my apologies in advance if I’m not up on every little nuance of the case. Here’s the thing, though: going in to the trial, we already had two of our three verdicts.
1) Trayvon Martin is dead. Back in the day, we used to have a word for people like Trayvon Martin, skulking around in the rain in a hooded sweatshirt, up to who-knows-what. We called them “kids.” A paranoid, angry wanna-be with a pistol made a snap judgement against another human being because he was a young black man and erased him from this plane forever. This is a tragedy, a tragedy at once both horrifyingly epic and chillingly banal.
2) George Zimmerman is guilty of iniating a prejudicial, premeditated confrontation with a vengeful agenda and escalating it to murder. These are the facts.
I had to interrogate myself yesterday about why I had zero sympathy for George Zimmerman. That I’ve always had tons of sympathy for Trayvon Martin needs little explanation– I’ve spent probably hundreds of nights wandering around after dark in the rain in a hoodie from age fifteen on, usually pursuing something less vanilla than junk food, but meaning little or no harm. I’ve gotten yelled at a bunch of times by protective or overprotective neighbors, but that’s kind of the point: they yelled at me and I left.
At first glance, though, I now appear to have more in common with George Zimmerman. We’re both old (I’m older). We’re both light-skinned (I am much whiter). We both have a chip on our shoulders (do I really need to clarify this?) And we’ve both engaged in vigilantism (in the last couple of years, I broke up a fight on a subway platform and I’ve run down two muggers). Then why do I feel justified in hating Zimmerman to death?
Here’s one difference between us: each time that I’ve interfered, a law has already been broken. On the subway platform, one guy was kicking the shit out of the other guy. In each of the two muggings, a woman was yelling because she’d had a black iPhone stolen. There were victims. Here’s another difference: I don’t carry a gun.
3) The third verdict is, of course, the big one. No, I’m not talking about Zimmerman being found innocent. Didn’t we all see that coming? Disgusting as it is, its a tenuous argument that the verdict is incorrect. In fact, if I was a juror and I was doing my job, I think I’d have a very hard time coming up with a guilty verdict. After all, Zimmerman executed the only other witness to the shooting and somehow wasn’t compelled by the court to testify.
Here’s the final verdict: In the United States, it’s not just legal to pursue with a concealed handgun a child innocent of any crime, provoke him, and then murder him, there is a law protecting your right to do so. The overriding tragedy of the Trayvon Martin murder is not that a guilty man was found innocent, it’s that, under current Florida law, murder of children is legal.
Do you care? I mean, really, do you care? No amount of ‘liking’ shit on Facebook is going to change things. If the United States had meaningful, uniform gun control laws, George Zimmerman would have gotten the broken nose he was looking for and so richly deserved; Trayvon Martin would have a crazy story about a racist shithead who got served to tell his friends. If Florida didn’t have a ridiculous, dick-swinging “Stand Your Ground” law, George Zimmerman would at least be in jail for his murder. If we– as a nation and as individual people– didn’t build our communities around fear like it was a fucking war monument, well, George would have watched some TV, Travyon would have gone home, played some Playstation with his stepbrother-to-be. At some point, both of them would have gotten tired, brushed their teeth, gotten undressed and crawled in to bed to go to sleep. George and Trayvon, each in their own bed in The Retreat at Twin Lakes, falling asleep. Think about that for a second. A man and a boy, the ages of a father and his son, sleeping innocently in their beds, their eyelids fluttering, dreaming.
I’m not going to give you a link to a petition or a specific cause. I’m not a spokesman and I’m not a politician. I don’t have answers, but to say that there is no way forward is pathetically weak. And to just sit back and do nothing is insane.