Sunday, July 14, 2013

Trayvon Martin, This Decade's Emmett Till

Don woke me early this morning with the news I've been dreading for weeks now, a travesty of justice that I simply could not believe would happen again, the acquittal of George Zimmerman for the murder of Trayvon Martin. Once more, I feel that I have to apologize for being a Floridian. In the wake of the shooting in Sanford, Florida, a year and a half ago, I felt confident that there would be no problem convicting Mr. Zimmerman of something that seemed so obvious. But as time went by, the trial finally started, the strange seating of only six jurors, all female, the burden of proof for a second degree murder conviction seemed to be too much heavy lifting for the prosecution to bear.

Still, refusing to cave in to cynicism, I felt positive that the charge of manslaughter would stick. All the obfuscation, whose voice was on the 911 call, who was on top during the struggle, whose DNA was or was not on the gun, seemed superfluous to the first fact of the case. No means no in a rape case, no matter how close to consummation a couple may be, if one party says "no," then any further sexual advances constitute rape.

Why then, when the police dispatcher distinctly told George Zimmerman, "no," do not pursue the hooded stranger walking through the neighborhood at the, yes, ungodly hour of 7p.m. on a Sunday night, did George Zimmerman get out of his car and take the law into his own hands anyway? This one act, no matter its motivation, set in motion the entire tragedy that followed and resulted in the death of a 17 year old boy. Is this not manslaughter? Is this not the rape of innocence? Is this not yet another act of vigilantism that appears to be increasingly infecting our country? Is this not another reason why we should be tightening, rather than loosening up our gun laws?

My heart is once again sickened by this senseless loss of life. School children today learn of Emmett Till and we tsk, tsk, as if his brutal murder in Mississippi was the result of aberrant behavior from bygone days, before the Civil Rights Act, before the first black president, before we entered the supposed post racial world. In fact, Emmett Till and Trayvon Martin had eerily similar situations. One grew up in Chicago, the other in Miami, cities where races mix freely and profiling would be less likely to happen. Each was visiting an area they were unfamiliar with, Till in Mississippi with family, Martin in Sanford, also with family. Till "flirted" with a white woman, Martin walked home from a 7-11, neither dreamed that his life would end so soon.

Emmett Till                                                          Trayvon_Martin_46

Now, some might say that George Zimmerman will have to live with his conscience for the rest of his life. I say no, I don't believe that a man who could go on a nationwide talk show and actually say with a straight face that it was "God's will" that Trayvon Martin died could be thought to have a fully-formed conscience. This is a man who will be aided and abetted in his crime, he'll be relocated, maybe to a country where he isn't known. He'll write a book about his "ordeal" and never give a thought to Trayvon's parents and their anguish. My only hope is that George Zimmerman spends every day of the rest of his life looking over his shoulder. Is that punishment enough? Of course not. But it must be a horrific way to live.

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