Thursday, March 29, 2012

Trayvon Martin: License to Kill


A FoxNews article today begins with this provocative title:

Taking Liberties: Arrested for reading the Bible?

The title and the article give the intentional impression that Christian Fundamentalist Mark Mackey was arrested for simply reading the Christian bible.

As if he was dragged from his home and thrown into prison for reading a religious book.

As you might guess, there’s a bit more to it than that, for example Mackey wasn’t quietly reading the bible to himself at home, he was engaged in the obnoxious asshatery of “witnessing” to folks waiting in line outside of a California State DMV office. He was asked by both security and police to cease and desist, he refused and continued to annoy the hell out of people who had the choice of either listening to his unsolicited proselytizing or giving up their position in line (I suppose they also had the choice of punching him in the mouth repeatedly, which would have been my first impulse, but I digress). 

Despite Fox’s deliberately misleading and alarmist headline, Mackey was not arrested for “reading the bible,” he was arrested for being an irritating asshole.

The editors at FoxNews know this, of course, that’s why they used the yellow journalism technique of casting the title of the article as a question.  Arrested for being a Christian? Are they arresting Christians now?  You can’t even read the bible? Well, what do you think, poor persecuted Christians? Wink, wink. One has to wonder how the folks at Fox would have written this story if it had been a brown skinned man in a turban shouting Suras from the Quran.

However, be that as it may, a rather large number of the faithful regard this arrest as just one more example of the ongoing bigotry against Christians in America, on par with being burned at the stake or thrown to the lions in the Coliseum. Commenters on Fox Nation lament this supposed “war on Christians” and rage against the abuse and bigotry that poor persecuted followers of Jesus have to endure every day as a repressed and harassed minority in America. You can read the story in much more detail for yourself, it’s been widely repeated on numerous Christian conservative websites and a video of the incident is, of course, on YouTube. With a little GoogleFu, You should have no trouble finding numerous examples.

Now, here’s what I find interesting, if you read the various articles on those same sites, articles about this incident and the recent killing of a young black man in Sanford, Florida, and if you read the articles and comments under various faith blogs and the mainstream media reports of the aforementioned shooting you’ll notice a few things:

1. There is no racism in America anymore, because a black man is president, Q.E.D. However, despite the fact that an overwhelming majority of American presidents have been openly Christian, including the current one, there is an ongoing American bias against Christians.

2. A white man cannot harbor racist prejudice against people of color if his mother is Hispanic.  However, a president whose mother was white and father was black clearly hates white people.

3. A man who pursues another man lawfully minding his own business on a public street and then provokes a confrontation resulting in death, is not guilty of either murder nor manslaughter, but is, in fact, a patriot defending the constitutional freedoms of all Americans. However, an American citizen lawfully minding his own business on a public street who is confronted by an armed man has no right to either stand his ground, defend himself, or meet force with like force.  He is, by the simple nature of his appearance, a thug who deserves what he gets.

4. Conservatives, gun owners, police, neighborhood watchers, and Christians should not be judged by a few extremists in their ranks.  However, all black teenage males wearing hoodies may, in point of fact, be labeled thugs and criminals until proven otherwise.

I suppose this form of doublethink isn’t particularly surprising, coming as it does from a group of people who seem to think that a country steeped in Christian tradition up to and including national icons, official mottos, symbols, phrases, traditions, oaths, federal holidays and composed of an overwhelming majority of Christians who have unashamedly declared this a Christian nation at the exclusion of other beliefs, and whose government, military, and law enforcement agencies are in fact composed almost entirely of Christians, is engaged in a war on Christians.



A number of you wrote to ask my opinion of the Trayvon Martin shooting, or to ask why I had not already posted something – do I not care?

Of course I care.

But one thing we should all know by now is that the nature of 24-hour news media and social networking will inevitably lead to an evolving story in high profile situations like this one. Passion, rage, outrage, and hysteria are high on both sides and plenty of folks have their stock kneejerk responses all ready to go. The gun nuts and the anti-gun nuts are out in force, so are the racists and anti-racists, so are the law enforcement defenders and the cop-haters, so are the liberals and the conservatives, and so are the usual talking heads, agitators, deniers, haters, sympathizers, conspiracy theorists, flacks, hacks, loons, goons, and poltroons - on both sides. 

What does that have to do with the first few paragraphs of this article? Well, for one thing the cognitive dissonance of those particular observations is indicative of a far, far larger issue – one that led almost inevitably to Trayvon Martin’s death.

A young man not much older than my own son is dead. 

He’s dead because another young man shot him down. 

He’s dead, and there’s no good reason why he should be.

He’s dead, and his family is devastated.

This incident and the circus surrounding it should serve as a clarion call to all Americans, every single goddamned one of us, because the shooting of Trayvon Martin by George Zimmerman is a stark and abject example of everything that is wrong with this country.

This incident is a harbinger of what will one day bring down the United States of America if we stay on the path we are on.

Is Zimmerman a racist?

Is Zimmerman a racist, did he target Marin because Martin was black? Would this incident have ended differently if Martin had been white, or Hispanic, or Asian, or Native American?

I don’t know.

I don’t know. I wasn’t there. I don’t know George Zimmerman. And so, I don’t know if Zimmerman is a racist. 

But here’s what I see, America immediately and predictably divided itself into camps over this incident, kneejerk opinions based not on evidence but on race, on stereotypes, on preconceived ideas of what really happened - and there’s no better indicator that racism is alive and well in America than that, right there. 

Should people of color automatically assume that Zimmerman is a racist?

In different world, no, of course not.

But in America, this America, this one right here, the one we actually live in, the real question is this: Is there any reason whatsoever why people, of any color, should not automatically assume that Zimmerman is indeed a racist?

black people are the most disgusting race on earth , the parents making hoodies . what are they gonna do when the truth comes out and the punks guilty? they better take the money and go hide . they are very sick people . selling their sons soul, and probably for crack.[sic]

Yo, idiots. Its OBVIOUS, that the kid thought Zimmerman was unarmed. Typical black youth behavior of CONFRONTATION, led to Zimmerman pulling out his gun. [sic]

It certainly adds to the problems poised by this case, that the response of millions of black males to the fact that they are stereotyped as criminals, is that they dress and act like criminals!! Of course, no one deserves to be shot for dressing or acting like a criminal, but on the other hand, no one should be suprised that those who dress and act like criminals, get treated like criminals. If a group of people is being stereotyped as criminals, the last thing in the world they should do, is ACT LIKE CRIMINALS!. Meaning, in this case, wear "gangsta" attire, go about in public with their faces concealed like criminals who are trying to hide their identity, behave in an insolent and hostile way. If you behave exactly in accordance with people's stereotypes about you, you are simply giving them reason to believe the stereotypes are true. Stop confirming the stereotypes and things will go better. [sic]

Trayvon Martin was no longer the cute little 12 year old from all of the photos the Media has been showing... He was a 6'3" football player who apparently had a taste for doing burglaries. I would bet that is what he was doing in that gated community parking lot, looking for something to steal. He attacked Zimmerman from a concealed position and severely injured him. This justifies self defense. Case Closed! [sic]

If some 17 year gorilla in a hoodie stalks me to my car, jumps me, breaks my nose and then punds my head on the cement sidewalk... I'm going to shoot the rotten S.O.B. So would anyone else who wants to stay alive. You want to know who's at fault here? The parents of the dead boy. It's their fault for raising him to be a thug. [sic]

Those comments, and thousands more like them come from those aforementioned Christian and conservative news websites.  Go look for yourself, you’ll have no trouble finding a whole bunch more just exactly like them, or worse. Note that I’m not saying racist garbage like that quoted above is the exclusive purview of either Christians or conservatives, there’s plenty of this horseshit to go around, across all strata of America, in all directions.  I simply used the examples from the sites I did, because they are easy to find and readily available.

Was the Trayvon Martin shooting racism?

Is the fact that the shooter has not been arrested racism? 

Well? Is it racism? Look around. Be honest. Give me one, just one, good reason why people of color, or any person for that matter, should assume that it isn’t.

Was the shooter racist? I have no idea.

Is Trayvon Martin dead because of racism? 

Yes. Absolutely.

A black youth. Hooded sweatshirt. Saggy pants. Gold tooth. He comes into your store, your bank, approaches your car, gets in an elevator with you. What do you think? Black, white, brown, yellow, red, what do you think? Be honest, what do you think?  Thug. You think he’s a thug, don’t you? A gansta from the hood. You can’t help it. He looks like a thug. He wants you to think he’s a thug. Is that his fault? For dressing like a thug?  Yes. Just like it’s your own fault when people assume you’re an ignorant gun-toting sister-humping Klan-lovin’ redneck because you drive a big truck with a Confederate flag plastered across the back window. Is it your fault when people assume you’re a terrorist if you’re sitting on an airplane wearing a headscarf and speaking to your seatmate in Arabic? No, but they do, don’t they? My son is about the same age as Trayvon Martin. My son is white. My son listens to music that makes my teeth ache. My son wears hoodies.  But you wouldn’t automatically assume he was a thug if you met him on the street, would you?  Welcome to racism. It comes in all forms and it’s all around us, isn’t it?

A black youth in a hooded sweatshirt, is it his fault you think he’s a thug? Perhaps. But it’s your fault too. It’s all our faults. 

And yes, some black men in hoodies are real thugs and you have every reason to be afraid of them.

But here’s the thing, many folks, black and white, glorify that thug life. It’s in the music, it’s on popular TV shows, it’s in the movies, it’s in advertising, and on the web and at the mall.

Why the hell shouldn’t our children, black, white, brown, yellow, red, want to look like that?

Terrible, right?

Terrible, this glorification by popular media and culture of criminals, of thugs and gangsters. Almost as terrible as when previous generations glorified outlaw biker gangs and made popular movies about them and adopted their style of dress and transportation, or idolized the mobsters of the Roaring Twenties and dressed up in fedoras and double-breasted Zootsuits, or turned the bandit gangs and gunslingers who once terrorized the Old West into popular heroes of song and silver screen. Then there is our ongoing love affair with pirates, who in reality were, and are, some pretty terrible sons of bitches.  Oh, yes, how terrible that the youth of today should glorify outlaws and violence and gangsters, because Americans don’t have a long, long history of doing exactly that.

This culture of thuggery didn’t happen in a vacuum you know, no more so than it did in the biker bars of Southern California or on the streets of Chicago during the 1920’s or streets of Laredo during the 1880’s. What changed it back then was law enforcement, education, government, and citizens who cared enough to do something about it.  If you’re tired of being afraid of a thug in a hoodie, then the root causes that gave rise to that image have to be addressed.  The solution isn’t a law that lets you shoot down people in the fucking street, the solution is education, healthcare, development, access, opportunity, rule of law, and citizens who give a good goddamn about each other.

The solution is inclusion instead of exclusion. 

The solution is long and difficult and it requires sustained effort and organization and resources.

If it could be solved by killing people, well we wouldn’t be having this problem, would we?

Here’s the thing, so pay attention: You can not leave the root causes of this situation behind, sooner or later they will catch up to you – even if you move into a gated community.

Liberal, Conservative, Black, White, Left, Right, do you really, really, want to live in a community where the law allows a man to shoot another down in the street with impunity? Really? Do you really want to live in an armed camp? Hemmed in by armed patrols? Do you really want your kids to have to answer to armed civilian militia? Really? 

If you do, if you think armed patrols and gunning people down in the street is the answer, then you’re insane.

And where do you go when that isn’t enough? A castle? A fortress? Where?

And after that, what?

I’ll tell you what comes after that, because I’ve been in countries where it all finally hit the wall.

What comes next?


Trayvon Martin was just a kid in a hooded sweatshirt who went to the store to buy a drink and a bag of candy. He wasn’t a saint, he got in his share of trouble. But he wasn’t a thug either. He was just an average kid, a football player, a guy with a girlfriend, an American just exactly like my own son, no more, no less. 

Trayvon Martin was just a kid who should have been able walk down any street in America without fearing for his life – no matter how he looked or what he was wearing.

Trayvon Martin died because he committed the fatal sin of being a black youth in America.

His death and all those things that led directly to it are a blot upon all our souls.

Like the folks at the beginning of this article, there are far too many Americans who falsely proclaim themselves the targets of bigotry and prejudice and unjust persecution, who would gleefully pretend to martyrdom, and turn a blind eye to real injustice. 

If they want to know what real bigotry is, they should put on blackface and a hoodie and walk the streets of America.


  1. There's no real way to know if someone is a racist, there is no way to know what's their heart.

    What we can know if an act is racist. If you call someone a "coon" then the act of calling that person that is racist. Are you a racist? Don't know, don't care just stop acting racist.

  2. you. are. freaking. awesome. Thanks for writing.

  3. The problem with 'putting on blackface', is that doing so is... well... kinda disrespectful and racist too.

    The main issue I have right now is that there does not appear to be an investigation OR any charges on Mr. Zimmerman. He killed Trayvon Martin. That does not seem to be in doubt. That would potentially be enough for a manslaughter charge... or am I mistaken?

    1. kinda disrespectful and racist too

      That's the point. Think about it within the overall context of the article.

      That would potentially be enough for a manslaughter charge... or am I mistaken?

      Under sane gun laws? No.

      According to the press, the district attorney looked at pressing manslaughter charges against Zimmerman, but based on the Stand Your Ground law and precedent, decided that he didn't have a case. Previous examples would seem to back him up. I'm not sure the cops or the district attorney are to blame, the law is basically a license to provoke a confrontation and then kill your adversary and claim self defense. As long as this isn't contested by witnesses, you can apparently kill somebody with impunity. Trayvon Martin is but the latest example.

      Hence the title of the post.

    2. Something I should note here before the inevitable 2nd Amendment nuts show up, I'm a gun owner. I'm professionally trained, and far more experienced in small arms than any other thousand gun owners you are likely to meet. I have an extensive background in all types of weapons. I am a professional instructor of small arms and I've been in situations where I've been forced to draw a weapon to defend myself.

      So, please, save the "you liberals are just trying to take our guuuuuuuuuns" for somebody else. Thanks.

    3. I think there is something strange going on in Sanford, FL.

      I have heard reports that the initial investigation concluded that they wanted Mr. Zimmerman arrested for manslaughter.

      And then the police wanted him released.

      I am attempting not to jump to any conclusions here, but what I really want is a thorough investigation on this.

    4. The claims of a lack of investigation are simply false. There is not only an ongoing investigation on this incident by local authorities, because of the charged political nature of the situation, a Federal Investigation has been ordered (though there is likely to be some jurisdictional considerations to a Federal investigation if the local authorities are uncomfortable with it).

      I have read Florida's "Stand your ground" law and would have to agree - it is FAR too open ended. It basically does allow for exactly the situation Jim describes (though I am NOT saying that was the situation in the Martin incident. The fact is, we DON'T KNOW what the situation is in this incident - the investigation is ongoing and they are NOT going to share all the details with the public as that violates at least half a dozen laws. Therein lies my point with this..

    5. If I may point it out, when one of our local law enforcement--the kind who carry a badge, wear a uniform, and have All the responsibilities and worries of policing our streets--is involved in a shooting, it's pretty much a "given" that he'll be on administrative leave for at least a month while they investigate everything about the event. Many of them must go to counseling, especially if there was a death. I agree that I wasn't there, I didn't see, but the lack of investigation is damning.

      For myself, I have attempted not to act as a racist. I don't want to be a racist, but it's probably hiding in here somewhere. When our current president was elected, my kids asked me why it was such a big deal--the color of his skin shouldn't affect his abilities, right? I hope that means that I'm moving in the right direction.

      On the subject of persecuted evangelicals, I wonder if I'd get in trouble for sending a box of homemade cookies to the station house of the police who made the arrest?

      Gretchen in KS

    6. Jim, I like this piece, a lot. I would say that the 'Stand Your Ground' law is more to blame for Martin's death than racism. But I also agree that racism is still all around us. And I agree with Gretchen that we are moving (ever so slowly) in the right direction.

      Rock on!

    7. To all of you, blackface is not just darkening of your skin to a shade of brown. Blackface is blackening your skin, while painting your lips white, as white people did in the minstrel days. Google Al Jolson. That is blackface.

    8. I don't use words or phrases by mistake. I'm well aware of what "blackface" means and the entire racist context it implies. The sentence it was used in has multiple layers of meaning beyond just the obvious one. Read it in the context of the entire article and note that I said "any" street in America.

    9. Excellent commentary, good sir, as always. Levelheaded, to the point, and unforgiving of the things that are unforgivable.

      I don't have a particular issue with a "Stand Your Ground" in THEORY. If someone comes into my home with the intent of attacking me and mine, I want, and believe I have, the right to defend myself without retreating.

      I do not think that means I can chase someone down the street, instigate a confrontation, beat the everloving shit out of them, shoot & kill them, and then claim it was "in self defense".

    10. I know of no state that requires you to retreat in your home, the Stand Your Ground deals with situations off of your property (owned or rented)

  4. You should write for CNN or some other news org. The most sensible commentary on these events I have read. Your words are inspiring because you don't calim to know why. You just point out the inequities and the disasterous consequences we face if we do not recognize and act on them. You push society forward instead of dragging it down. You have reinvigorated me. Thank you.

  5. To add to your point at the end. Take a look at your neighborhood. Take a look at your kid's school. How diverse is it? Even if you never utter a single racist word, if you refuse to talk about race and if you demonstrate a discomfort with race, you're imparting a tacit opinion to your kids. I don't think my parents were racist, per se, but they chose to raise their kids in a place where we were completely cut off from race, because they were uncomfortable with it (I guess). I got to the big city for college, and realized for the very first time that I was not the "majority" anymore. Since then, I have tried every way I can think of to make sure my kids are surrounded by diverse races, cultures, thought. Are my kids colorblind? No. But they just don't particularly care about race, and they certainly have no sense of racial superiority. We are lucky to live in what has just be reported as the most diverse suburb of the most diverse city in America. My son's school has students from over thirty countries - and not one single races is in the majority. These kids are working it out, and it is thanks to parents who are empowered to live (perhaps) out of their comfort zone. And this is happening in one of the more "redneck" and conservative states in the nation. There is hope.

  6. Ah yes, racism is alive and well in America. Just last Saturday in tiny, rural, mostly white Mount Victory,Ohio ten robed Ku Klux Klan members moved along a street where,according to news reports, mainly elderly black people and children live. When a black man challenged them one Klan member pulled a gun. http://www.reuters.com/article/2012/03/28/us-crime-klan-ohio-idUSBRE82R16920120328

  7. "he was arrested for being an irritating asshole"

    You have the most wonderful skill of writing exactly the right thing in exactly the right place. ... Back to reading

  8. I was trying to make a point along these lines to someone today and lacked the "brain words" to get it across. By brain words, I mean that my brain had images, ideas, and emotions that it wanted to convey, but it just couldn't quite meet up with the word-bearing part of my gray matter to get it across in a very elegant or cohesive manner.

    So, my heartfelt thank you. :D

  9. Black, white, brown, 'yellow', we are all racists. Somewhere, at some time we have all thought something racist. When I was young I would have been shocked if someone told me I was racist because I didn't WANT to be racist. I think back on some of the condescending remarks I made to the black students in my class I shiver now. At the time I didn't mean them to sound racist, but they did in afterthought. To all those people I apologize. Racist comments were never made in my home and my parents never acted racist, though my grandmother was. But her 'racism' was towards Italians. She hated Italians but that's another story. During the race riots in the late 1960s the black community in my town gathered together and walked down the main street chanting and holding signs. It was just after Dr. King had been assassinated and everyone was scared, especially me. Unfortunately some of these folks threw rocks through windows as they passed businesses downtown. I got stuck downtown at the time and was cowered in a doorway shaking in my shoes. A number of the young men gave me the 'hairy eye-ball' and that scared me even more. They knew they had the upper hand at the time and took advantage of that. Fortunately nothing else happened but the rock throwing but I was terrified. At that particular time I was racist because I wished that 'those' people would all go home and leave me alone. And I was mad at Dr. King for getting killed because now we white folks had to deal with this type of thing. After the fact, of course, I was asking myself what would I do if I never had the chance to get a good job, if people constantly acted as if they were somehow better than me, if I was kept in poverty by lack of education, etc, etc. I decided I would do the same thing they were. In fact I have participated in a number of Occupy protests here in Michigan. I remember that passed time with confusion. I guess it was easier to justify feeling afraid of someone just because of their race and thinking nasty names, if you really feel threatened which I did. Now, with age and a bit of wisdom, I don't feel threatened, of course the situation now is quite different from being in the middle of a protest movement that was becoming violent.

  10. After reading all of your post - I wonder if there is a silver lining to the death of Trayvon (recognizing that will be of NO benefit to his family and loved ones).

    If Mr Zimmerman had been arrested and charged - with murder or a lesser offense - most of America would never have heard of the boy, his parents, the accused or the crime. Surely having heard, there will be some that at last realize the depths to which bigotry and hatred have taken their world?

  11. Racists are everywhere, even on Facebook over a t-shirt -

    I pray that Q wasn't right that all hope for humanity is lost.

    1. There's some serious Whatthefuckery on the other end of that link, Caroline. Whoa.

    2. By any chance did you hear of some of the tweets regarding The Hunger Games when people found out some of the characters were black? I Googled "hunger games racist" and the first news link returned was a blog in the Wall Street Journal -


      It quoted a tweet - "One tweet, collected by the Hunger Game Tweets tumblr, reads “why does Rue have to be black not gonna lie kinda ruined the movie.”"

      With all of the real problems facing this country and planet why are people still so focused on race, religion, sexual origin, nationality, etc, there are far more things we all have in common than that which separates us?

    3. I saw that article yesterday.

      I figured it would be a big hit, the whole why did they make some of the characters black bit, given the WSJ target audience. The commenters there aren't any better than the racist tweeters, likely they're the same folks. The days of WSJ being a credible news source ended with the current owner.

    4. I'd add that you should see some of the search phrases for Trayvon Martin hitting my website right now, but on second thought, you really shouldn't.


    5. I too am a fellow former Michigander/Michiganian who migrated. I now live in Orlando so you can imagine what my news cycles are like.

      It saddens me how far we have devolved as a people in the last decade. People had such potential if only it was used for good....

  12. Another kick-ass post, Chief.


  13. The people who NEED to read this won't. And I can't mandate that they do. Damnit. If only to be queen.

  14. Well written, thought out piece . One can only wonder why Zimmerman continued his pursuit after he was repeatedly told not to. also gota wonder what the fuck Spike Lee was thinking when he tweeted an address saying it was Zimmerman’s. The irony there is that Lee could face criminal charges (maybe even federal) and Zimmerman never see the inside of a court over this tragedy. Spike's already lost the civil case that the old couple (whose house address was given by "mistake") will, undoubtedly, file. I know that maybe these ponderings are at best trivial compared to the bigger picture you paint here but honestly they were the main questions in my mind and not whether this was racially motivated.

    Much respect to you.

    1. Didn't spike lee already reach a settlement with that couple ?

  15. It's almost amusing to watch Zimmerman's friends, attorney and family skip from one bullshit excuse attempt to another to make this somehow Trayvon's fault or at the very least not Zimmerman's responsibility -- Trayvon was confrontational, assaulted Zimmerman, wrestled him to the ground and beat him bloody (police surveillance recordings show Zimmerman arriving without so much as dirt on him, let alone blood); Zimmerman was suffering from PTSD and flashbacks (and in what sociopathic crazypants universe is it considered a good idea to let someone suffering from those to walk around in the dark with a loaded gun?); Zimmerman was a 'good man without a racist bone in his body' and when he said 'damn coons' what he meant was 'damn goons' which is a term of endearment and not a racist slur at all, Trayvon wasn't nearly as black as all these race-baiting liberals claim he was (usually accompanied by badly photoshopped images); Trayvon wasn't nearly as innocent as all these anti-second-amendment liberals claim he was (accompanied by carefully selected and taken-out-of-context tweets that still don't manage to convey anything more than an averagely rambunctious college student, and carefully sidestepping the point that it's still not okay to shoot someone for carrying skittles while black even if he's got a record for troublemaking)...

    I can almost understand the family and friends trying desperately to avoid thinking ill of Zimmerman. But the large majority of the people advocating for him are quietly outraged at the presumption of Trayvon's parents in daring to suggest that accidentally shooting an unarmed black kid is something to get upset about beyond "Oops."...

    1. My first thought when I saw mention of what audio records do or do not show was audio pareidolia: http://skeptoid.com/episodes/4105 -- of special interest is the bit slightly down about meaningless sounds suddenly sounding like words when we're told what to expect. Aside from that, and especially considering the audio that clearly indicates Zimmerman may have chased the kid down, I agree completely with your main point, about the people defending Zimmerman having change their story repeatedly.

  16. Despite Fox’s deliberately misleading and alarmist headline, Mackey was not arrested for “reading the bible,” he was arrested for being an irritating asshole.

    Ahh, but you see, the Bible told him that unless he witnessed to all those poor souls they'd go to Hell, and once it became obvious that they wouldn't listen to him unless he forced them his only choice was to start preaching somewhere they couldn't leave and couldn't ignore him.

    So clearly he was just exercising his freedom of religion -- it's just that his religion required him to be an obnoxious asshole.

    This is the usual problem with fundamentalists of all stripes; whenever what they perceive as their religiously mandated duties conflicts with the law of the land, the spiritual good trumps the secular good and the laws are casually ignored -- and then when the police and/or courts and/or government tells them they're not allowed to do that, it's religious persecution and first amendment rights and commie atheist muslim space-kenyan wah wah america wah rhubarb christian nation blah blah...

  17. I live in a quiet little burb outside of Boston near Salem MA...you know where "witches" were actually hung and America first practiced religious nuttery. Every Fall the City does it up with lots of events, schlock, and general partying around Halloween. Every year some idiots show up with a bullhorn and "witness for Christ" screaming at the crowds how we're all celebrating Satan's day and we're going to hell. Seriously. Among all the make-believe. Lecturing to people who are trying to have some fun by dressing up in costume and celebrating the stupidity of hanging people for imaginary crimes. To me it crystallizes the entire mindset of these people. Frankly I think it's a legitimate form of insanity and should be treated as such. The funniest, and most apt, thing I saw last year was a college student dressed up as Aladin holding a sign with an arrow pointing to the guy on the bullhorn that said "Repressed Homosexual".

    So Jim how far have we come since the 1700's in killing people for imaginary crimes or because they're not part of the "in" crowd? Or just because they're different? How about on the religion front when, then, everyone moved and establish new towns and even States because they thought they were going to heaven and everyone else was going to hell? As I walk by the memorial for those hung, I think to myself "not very far huh?", especially in light of this case. And as much as I hear people scream about The President and question his birth or scream the word "socialist" without knowing what it means, I know deep inside what's bothering them...there's a black man in the white house. And here I truly believe in my heart that this kid was killed for exactly the reasons you state. No different,really, from the women that were hung (and one man pressed to death, such a novel way of torturing someone) because they weren't part of the accepted majority. these people are always out there lurking, waiting for a chance to get back into power. And we should all be vigilant and keep them out. That's our responsibility as more enlightened humans. Or else it's the Visigoths sacking Rome all over again.

  18. Great piece, Jim. Thanks.

  19. Thank you for getting to the root of this terrible event. We all have likes and dislikes and some of the things we dislike may be reflected in a specific racial or ethnic group. Sometimes the media portrays to the extent they become accepted as truth - ie. most young black men wearing hoodies are robbers. Sometimes we need a wake up call to make us realize that our perceptions are false.

    There was NO investigation following the initial investigation the night Mr. Matin died. Not until his parents went public seeking the truth and only after people began expressing their outrage did various government agencies opened investigations.

    Similar incidents are happening across this country - but most do not have parents able to take the battle to the media like Trayvon Martin's parents.

    Maybe some good will come out of this tragedy.

  20. Re: the evangelical Christian: One has to wonder how the folks at Fox would have written this story if it had been a brown skinned man in a turban shouting Suras from the Quran.

    "Muslim Terrorist Calls for Sharia Law in the US"

  21. This has made me question my identity. I, too, have been known to walk the streets of my neighborhood wearing a hoodie. It's a plain unmarked one, sure, but we can't all be fashionable. Sometimes I even pull the hood over my head when it's chilly, or when it will keep the sun out of my eyes, and when I do it hides my face. Am I acting like a criminal? Should I expect to be stalked by the neighborhood watch, or asked for ID by a cop on patrol? Probably not, although I suspect there's at least one cop living in the neighborhood. Lucky for me, they don't call that acting like a thug if you're a fat middle-aged white guy. I get the benefit of the doubt. Also, it probably doesn't hurt that I have a corgi on a leash in one hand and a poop scoop in the other.

  22. You mentioned the phrase "yellow journalism" and I was just wondering if you had heard of the cartoonist that was recently fired from The Daily Texan, a student run newspaper, at the University of Texas. The cartoonist drew an illustration which was, unfortunately, poorly executed. After much public outrage, she has been fired from the newspaper. The newspaper also pulled the cartoon from its website, but you can still find an image of it here: http://gawker.com/5896863/university-of-texas-student-paper-wins-most-racist-trayvon-martin-cartoon-contest

  23. I continue to rage against the entire concept of "RACISM". I grew up in the deep south in the 1960's and 70's, there was the Klan, there was both casual and vicious bigotry in plain sight everywhere you went. I wanted to escape that environment so badly I shipped out in the Navy. I go back now and I see that the OBVIOUS symptoms of that bigotry are gone, but the CULTURE is still alive and well. I'm black and in North Carolina I walk softly. I am not a young kid, I am 55 years old. But I am still a target, bald, fat and well dressed, I am STILL a target.

    But to address my original point, racism (the term) has become so ingrained in our social discourse that we continue to ignore the simple biological facts that we whethere black, white, brown, whatever are members of the Human RACE. We continue to accept this inaccurate packaging as some sort of immutable truth. It isn't. The things that make us a RACE are genetic. End of line. We can't even have the discussion in this country to eliminate this basic, stupid, made up and false narrative.

    We can never overcome this problem if we can't even address the fact that the BASIS for all of this is a complete falsehood.

    1. I was thinking similar things and usualy do whn race is mentioned. We are all HUMAN, one race! But people have to devide and find fault and make others something less than human!

  24. I'm not very well acquainted with this case - there are many allegations, but very little hard evidence at this point, outside of the 911 call (to which I've not listened), the names of the people involved, and one dead body.

    However, there are a few interesting bits I've come across. From what I can tell, Florida's "Stand your ground" law had little impact on this case other than that he wasn't taken into custody (that is, there is no aspect of the law which would have made him not guilty - it just prevents the police from taking into custody people they know would be covered by a general self-defense statute):


    The other interesting thing is that, even if Treyvon was walking slowly and looking at different houses, it could simply be that he was trying to figure out what he was going to say about being out of school, and couldn't remember which house it was (walking up to a house to check the house number every now and then). Possible. Reasonable. Related to what happened? Who knows? We certainly don't know that there was no reason to shoot him. We don't know that there was. Everything is based on incomplete information at this point.

    Finally, I don't think necessarily that racism is always the right word. Humans are naturally xenophobic (fear of those different from us). This manifests itself as fear or assumptions about others based upon their skin color, certainly, but also their religion, political affiliation, culture, language, food preferences, clan membership, national or regional origins, or species ("Snakes - why does it always have to be snakes?"). This has good survival value when we cannot talk to each other easily, but limited value in the modern world. It is unreasonable to assume that everybody will be able to overcome all of their biological programming in all manners. However, we should keep striving to do so.

  25. I was just recently informed that a friend of mine who works in Charlotte, NC business district thinks that fully a third of the business men he knows carry firearms full time everyday. I asked him why and he answered cause I'm exposed to them (punks and thugs)if I stop at a 7-eleven or whatever. Yikes! And of course he let slip in some other answer blacks, Mexicans they don't give a shit about my life and they are out to take what he has. He's afraid! Maybe not racist, but afraid. But racist is the same thing yes?

    Today on the dock I was talking to an elderly gentleman about this conversation I was having and that I was shocked to know how many people really are carrying guns around here full time. He's afraid too. He actually said...you know, black men are really strong. Yikes! The demographics of this county are about 2.9% black, a little less Asian and a few more Hispanic.
    I prefer to not be afraid.

    1. Oh, great. That's my hometown. Nothing quite like wondering if some jackass is going to shoot me while I'm shopping at his place of business now.


    2. Careful Eric, these guys are all wearing suits and ties just like you.

    3. Here in Northern VA there's always some knucklehead walking around with a firearm on his hip to demonstrate his right to bear arms. Obama is always about to tear their guns from their cold dead fingers, or tax ammo through the roof (federal VAT on ammo?? good idea). Or their trip to the market is always fraught with danger that some hoodie wearin youth is gonna reach for that last bottle of Extenze.

      These guys spend a fortune on guns, accessories, implements and expendables that they will (almost) never use for real. Sort of like the bozos who invest thousands on hopping up 4x4s and SUVs with oversize tires, lift kits and winch bumpers "just in case" they need to...you know, actually go offroad. But their midlife crises never see the dirt because they are only posers. Gun wearers like so many big rig drivers are so self satisfied with their self actualized penis extensions (or replacements) that they just don't realize how sad and silly they really are.

      Until they make the irrevocable mistake of drawing that deadly tool and firing a round into a fellow citizen for some reason that they may never fully understand or remember in hindsight. As Jim says, one young American is dead at the hands of another young American. What happened that night is distilled down to the moment and the bad fortune that brought these two together.

      Most Americans have never seen what happens when bullets hit humans. Hit something vital and they fall like a sack without histrionics. Hit something painful and slow to kill, and then they have the leisure time to call for their mother, or perhaps writhe in pain, or maybe lay quietly while they die. A high power bullet will empty a skull or eject abdominal organs, blood, meat and bone.

      If every gun purchase required that the applicant provide 12 hours of volunteer service in a VA hospital, or mandated 6 hours of continuous viewing of footage and images from warfare or police forensic gunshot studies, then they may not be so quick to the trigger. But, who knows?

    4. Thanks for that anonymous, now I'll see it for what it really is, the boys are tweaking their manhood with iron and lead and it makes them feel just "fine".

  26. We had a name in the Navy for people who are afraid of everything.
    We call them pussies

  27. Please be aware that Stand Your Ground laws are being proposed right now in Alaska.

  28. This 64 year old, hoodie wearing, tea drinking, Skittles dependent grandma thanks you for so eloquently expressing what I have been feeling.

  29. Couple of random thoughts:

    re: the Christian preacher at the DMV. Well, I suppose that's one way of trying to edge your way to the front of the line. You preach, they leave, boom, next in line.

    re: Stand your Ground. The thing that makes me wonder is: SYG laws are supposed to defend people who are defending themselves. Consider the reverse: If Martin was still standing after being confronted and attacked by a neighborhood vigilante (Zimmerman appointed himself neighborhood watch) and Zimmerman was cooling on the sidewalk. Do you think that Martin would not be arrested because /he/ stood /his/ ground? Didn't think so. Turn the tables and Martin would be behind bars, tried as an adult, and well on his way to being another Florida death row inmate.

    Damn find article, as always, Jim.

    1. So true on all counts.

      Many of the comments from the right that I've been reading have claimed that we should give Zimmerman the benefit of the doubt, that he was just defending himself and that he had every right to shoot Trayvon dead because he felt threatened. However, HE was the one who chose to follow Trayvon when the 911 dispatcher instructed him not to, confront Trayvon, pull and discharge his weapon.

      As a teenager armed only with a bag of Skittles and some tea, Trayvon had much more reason to fear for his life, and had no choice about being followed. Somehow, those narrow-minded bigots don't want to give Trayvon the same right to defend himself that they are so eager to give Zimmerman.

      If, in a struggle, the gun had discharged into Zimmerman instead of Trayvon, I have no doubt that he would have been arrested and prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.

      Apparently, protection through SYG law is reserved ONLY for those whose skin color is of an 'appropriate' shade.

    2. "Benefit of the doubt" only extends to until and unless the investigation is completed.

      His side of the story is wildly inconsistent and seems to change every time someone else who supports him pipes up, and even the most credible version of it requires us to believe that a 110-pound teenager armed with a bag of Skittles and a can of soda attacked a man more than a decade older and 100 pounds heavier to the point where the older man feared for his life and had no recourse but to shoot him twice.

      ... Frankly, I'm very interested in what the coroner has to say about Trayvon's body. Especially in which direction the bullets went through him, and from what range.

    3. 110# teenager? I think you have bought into the media re-write on this incident. I am not discounting that the gun was a force multiplier, but don't buy into the hype. Martin was physically intimidating just by virtue of his size. I don't believe this is cause to shoot anyone, but please look at the situation rationally, not through the lens we are meant to have - given to us by others in the media.

  30. Well said!! Sadly, America is neither willing or ready to hear this.

  31. There's a slideshow of Trayvon pix at CBS News that may serve as a sort of Rohrschach test:


    People who view it and see a conspiracy in which his family HELD BACK all the pix that show Trayvon robbing houses, shooting smack and viciously attacking poor, defenseless, self-appointed Neighborhood Watchdogs -- even though no such photos actually exist ... ?

    Those people are MOST likely to Google up a "thug" pic and post it on Facebook, CLAIMING it's Trayvon.

    People who view it and see a young, happy, adorable kid who enjoyed football, was very loved by his parents, and looked like he had a long, happy life ahead of him ... ?

    Those people are MOST likely to bust out crying about halfway through because that young, happy kid's life was cut short ... and the guy who's ADMITTED putting a bullet in his chest may get off scot-free -- all because of a minor genetic difference in skin pigmentation.

    I must be very strongly in the latter group ... can't seem to stop crying.

    1. He looks like many of the young boys who are students or former students of mine. And they will grow up to be...?

      College graduates, soldiers, working men, addicts, fathers, husbands, grandfathers, fools, heroes, criminals, ministers, teachers, athletes, Presidents...

      Maybe Trayvon would have someday become a criminal and ended up in prison. Sadly, it happens to far too many young black men in our country.

      But maybe he would have become a firefighter, EMT, doctor or scientist and saved hundreds of lives. He certainly would have been a cherished member of his family.

      But now we'll never know and he'll never get the chance to see what he could have accomplished...and that is a crime.

  32. I grew up in a culturally diverse big city the northern U.S. While exposed to racists, I consciously tried to avoid taking it in, though I realize now that some did. I grew up after the Civil Rights Act, and being white, I thought racism wasn't a huge issue for me or most people my age. (Yeah I know, naive.) By chance, I moved to a state below the Mason-Dixon line. I live in a rural majority Republican part of an otherwise Democratic and mixed-race state, so there was some culture shock, but I never felt like I was in the "South". At least not until I learned a few years ago that there are chapters (clubs?) (gangs?) of the Ku Klux Klan in my region. Not were- are- here today. I was shocked, utterly dumbfounded. Not only is that fear-based irrational insanity still active, it's spreading, growing even more. I ask myself "how can people in my country be so stupid?". Then I remember that these are the same people who hate "elitists" (a.k.a. educated folks like doctors and scientists), vote against paying for schools and school books (perpetuating their own), for abstinence instead of sex ed (ibid), against raises for teachers, against clean air laws, against taxes in general ('cause the Tooth Fairy will pay for roads and bridges and Social Security and Medicare, uh huh, or the Lawd will provide) and then it all makes sense. They're ignorant and proud of it. I blend in around here from a distance, being a short chubby balding white middle-aged guy, but they keep reminding me that I don't really fit in. My parents were immigrants, so I have a "funny name". I have a college degree and use long words. I'm not a good old boy with the right connections ('only' lived here 20 years). I'm a veteran and a patriot, but I must somehow hate my country because I won't vote for a straight GOP ticket, no matter how whackaloon the candidates are... *sigh* When the right-wing-nuts talk, in the recent past I felt like I should shut up, be "polite", not cause trouble, but I don't think I should do that any more. They need to be confronted, talked down from their fantasy world of fear and privilege (really fear of lost privilege). It's a lot more than just race, but race is a big factor in the problems of our country. Too many people never took a math or science class, and never learned that taxes pay for civilization, it's okay for to skin come in many colors, and "human" is all the race we really need.

  33. Best post I've read about the state of racism and the factors which led to bigots justifying the murder of a young man. [Linked]

  34. Wow, Jim, this is really good. Your posts are always thought provoking, but this one is exceptional. Thanks for putting it out there.

  35. I'm a 51-year-old white woman. I wore a hoodie to work today because it keeps the back of my neck warm, and because it's one of my favorite shirts. For me, it's like the apparrel version of comfort food, maybe because I bought it on a weekend away with my husband for our 11th anniversary.

    25-some years ago, I taught music to mostly-black inner-city high school kids in a "black" neighborhood. I grew up in the country and had black friends, but this was the city and I'd been told it was "different." So it was with some trepidation that I started teaching there.

    It was a neighborhood I hadn't been to before, not really any better or worse than many other neighborhoods. The major differences was, the faces I saw on the street were mostly black faces. Yet I never had a problem there.

    My students were mostly all black as well - I'd say 90 percent black. As I grew to know them, I found that they had the same hopes, fears, dreams as any other teenagers. They got into pretty much the same amount and same kind of trouble - usually for doing stupid stuff, which is what teenagers do. They were good kids, andI really enjoyed teaching them.

    I was eventually let go due to budget cuts. I told my students myself, because I didn't think it was fair for me to just not be there one day; I wasn't that much more than a kid myself, and I understood abandonment. I vividly remember my biggest boy, a junior - he had to be 6'4" or so, and big like a football player. I told him I'd been let go, and he hugged me and cried. He told me he didn't want me to go. I didn't want to go, either, but I had no choice.

    Now I read of black parents who have to tell their kids how to be to avoid being killed. Not commonsense things like lock your doors at night or don't leave your purse unattended. Other things, like don't run, people will think you did something. Don't run with something in your hands; people will think you stole something. Don't touch things in stores. It's not fair, but you can't do what "they" do. No white mother or father ever had to tell their child things like that, and it breaks my heart to know that the parents of my students probably did as well. These are the things white people don't know, that I didn't know, that I am ashamed to know that any parent has to say.

    I read about Trayvon Martin, and the faces of my long-ago students came to mind. This could have happened to any one of them, and it hurts to think that. I can't stop crying either, for all of them.

    I will not be satisfied nor happy until no child has to be told the things I now know black children are told.

    Thank you for your beautiful words

    1. Thank you for that, slavicdiva.

    2. "Is Trayvon Martin dead because of racism?

      Yes. Absolutely."

      Yes. Absolutely.

      While we declare ourselves post-racial, implement colorblind social polices, and point to all the rest of the baby steps we've managed to squeak out of ourselves, we remain a country deeply divided by race, culture, and class.
      Recognizing the default as white while living within it makes for hard work understanding how it works outside the default for so many folks.
      I appear white to most people but am mixed race. The privileges accorded me wherever I go far exceed those accorded my relatives , male or female, educated or not, middle-class incomes or poor, young or old, with brown skin.

      My peculiar vantage point is often uncomfortable for me and I am guessing yours can be too.

      I hope we can spread the discomfort enough to shake up a lot of the un-inspected assumptions folks hold close to themselves
      which play out in everyday life such that black parents have a need to teach their children to be ever alert to dangers so many cannot even fathom.
      Alaska Pi

    3. oh, pfft.

      NOT recognizing the default as white... blah, blah, blah.

      I should pay less atention to spelling and more to reading for sense. Apologies
      Alaska Pi

  36. First, I know you already have 1000 responses, but Thank You anyway! Well written and good points as always.

    Second, one thing we do know about Zimmerman, is he LIED! He says he was beat up and had a gash on his head and a broken nose...the vid from the Police station proves this to be a lie. No sign of any injury and no blood at all on his clothing! And I still don't undestand how someone who is following someone else can be "attacked from behind"/ suprised by the person they are following? So, I am sorry, if it had been any other situation, he would be in jail and there would be a trial!

    Third, while my son is now 27, he is biracial and wears hoodies! This could have been him easily! Now, I hope that the fact he is an Iraq and Afganistan war vet would mean he would have a slightly better chace to defend himself than a 17 year old, but you can never tell when armed people who disobey the law are involved. (I mean Zimmerman was NOT supposted to have a gun as a Neighborhood Watch person! He was told by the police NOT to follow the kid! So he was looking for trouble and broke laws!)

  37. Excellent, excellent commentary Mr. Wright, on this awful event that I think will become a landmark event in our history. Electing a black President and now this. Too many people can't imagine that this could happen, just four years after that historic election. Surprise- racism is not dead; in fact it is feeling quite brave enough to come crawling out of every dark corner of our country.

    Thank you

  38. What patent bullsh*t You too say..."The most sensible commentary on these events I have read"...This guy makes just as many extrapolations as those he critiques!

    As such I can only extrapolate that Your "Civil Society" -- where You portend "Observe and Report" amounts to "Provocation" by that person being observed and reported upon, thus Their vitrolistic protest does NOT amount to any level of provocation -- is NOT one I'd rather have to exist in! "Duty-to-Retreat" had a LOT to do with My relocation from California to Georgia, where it's otherwise encouraged to shoot-back, thus People here are -- out of neccessity at least! -- not inclined get aggressive enough to put their ass-on-their-shoulder when someone is simply observing them within a community they aren't usually seen within. The Police will tell you they can't be everywhere -- that They need Us to be their "Eyes 'n Ears", hence anyone finding themselves subject to "Observe and Report" should embrace that "Watchman" with an attitude of alliance vs. adversary...not doing THAT is more-likley cause of why Martin got shot than any degree of "Vigilante-ism"...period.

    1. Anonymous- Could you please get someone to translate your comment into English? You should take an "English as a second language" class. Thanks.

    2. Anonymous-
      Could you get someone to translate that comment into English? You should also take an "English as a second language" class. Thanks.

    3. The only way capitalizing all of those nouns is o.k., is if German is your first language. I'm
      crossing my fingers, but not holding my breath.

  39. From one Anonymous to another....WTF?

  40. Well written. And well understood. Yet I must say that when one chooses any form of violence to try and instill his version of the world on another, he must understand that he is not the rule maker in a world that has yet to accept a standard set of rules. It really is too bad the young boy was not able to take in what you have written on the subject. He may have chose a different path for himself that evening - no pun intended.
    Ted - Washington

    1. Seriously, Ted, what the fuck did you just say? Different path? Different how? Please explain

    2. The teen chose to confront a situation by using violence. That is the path he chose, whether he was justified or not, whether he was being wrongly profiled or not, or whether he was provoked or not. Sorry if you disagree Jim, I just don't see the need to engage in violent behavior because someone is following/bothering me. He had at least two other choices an he elected to use neither.


    3. Ted,

      The teen and the adult interacted.
      Let me re-phrase correctly: The walking unarmed teen and the driving armed adult interacted. Both of them had every right to be in that neighborhood. That much we know for a fact. Most of the rest of the news is conjecture and speculation. So far, we only have the recording before the fact and the word of the survivor for what happened face to face.

      What we do know is this: The armed adult was supposed to report suspicious activity to the police, and _do_nothing_else_. The armed adult willfully chose to disregard the rules for Citizen's Watch by being armed with a deadly weapon, chose to disregard the instructions of a police officer (dispatcher) by confronting a reported person, chose to get out of his _safe_ vehicle to confront someone he himself reported as allegedly dangerous, whom the police were already on their way to investigate.

      Even if the teen did not die; even if the worst that happened is that two people got into a fight before the police arrived, the adult would still be in the wrong for at least 3 reasons noted above. [I have a teenager at home. Even if this was just a chance meeting on the street, I would expect an adult to have better self-control than a teenager, so that makes 4 reasons.] My community has a Citizen's Watch, and I know that Zimmerman willfully broke several major rules (noted above). Yet you blame the teenager, not the adult, for "picking the wrong path"? Seriously?

    4. I've been away from my keyboard for the last two days, Jerry beat me to it.

      Here's the thing, Ted, blame the victim arguments piss me off.

      And that's what Martin is here, the victim.

      You've now implied twice that Martin is to blame for his own death. Wrong. Fucking wrong. What you're saying is that if Martin was walking along the road and Zimmerman was a drunk driver who hit and killed him, well, it was Martin's fault for not walking on the sidewalk, or staying home, or existing in the first place.

      Zimmerman is responsible for Martin's death. Zimmerman is responsible for Zimmerman's actions. Zimmerman and nobody else.

      I am a highly experienced and professionally trained small arms instructor. I've got nearly 30 years direct experience in the rules of engagement both in war and in civilian law enforcement and specifically the use of deadly force, including the legalities at both the state and federal levels. I've spent nearly all of my adult life under arms. I have a federal pistol permit. I'm licensed to carry concealed. I own weapons and I've had to use them. Here's how it is: Zimmerman had a gun, he was licensed to carry it, and by law, both state and federal, he was legally responsible for the proper use of that firearm, everything from ensuring that it was properly secured to ensuring his field of fire and backstop to discharge in the vicinity of occupied dwellings right on up to the use of deadly force. Zimmerman, nobody else. Zimmerman. Period.

      Zimmerman was in a position of authority, as neighborhood watch on duty. This confers certain legal protections - or would if his neighborhood watch was legally registered and properly trained and insured, which it wasn't - but it also confers certain responsibilities up to and including being responsible for compliance with laws and regulations and again and most especially the use of deadly force - which no, repeat no, neighborhood watch is authorized anywhere in the United States including backward assed gun nut states like Texas and Arizona. Vigilantism is illegal and has been since the late 1800's.

      Zimmerman was also an adult, legally responsible for his own actions, up to and including instigating an unnecessary confrontation and allowing it to escalate to the use of force. Zimmerman choose confrontation. Zimmerman. Zimmerman, nobody else. Zimmerman made a personal choice not to heed the advice of the police/911 operator. In accordance with Florida law, Zimmerman was not legally bound to follow the advice of the 911 operator, but he then assumes all responsibility for the consequences. In this case, those consequences are a dead human being, which is the historic and likely outcome of such confrontations and why the 911 operators told him to stop following the suspicious person and not to confront him.

    5. Martin, whatever his size, skin color, or choice of clothing was a juvenile and did not have the same level of personal responsibility that Zimmerman had. If Martin had killed Zimmerman, we would have to decide whether or not to try him as an adult.

      And finally and most importantly and what everybody seems to be missing here: Martin was a lawful citizen on a public thoroughfare going about his own private business in accordance with his constitutional rights. I remind you that there is no evidence in any way shape or form that Martin was engaged in any unlawful activity in any fashion at the time of his death. He was a kid walking on a sidewalk, nothing more. He was not engaged in a crime. He was not engaged in any activity that would have required Zimmerman to confront him because life or property was in imminent danger. He was just a kid walking on a sidewalk. The fact that Zimmerman found him suspicious, for whatever reason, does not automatically make him guilty of anything other than being a black kid on a sidewalk. Period.

      So again, I'll ask you, what different path should Martin have chosen? Not to be black? Not to visit his father? Not to go to the store? Not to dress like half the other kids in America? Not to stand his ground, which as I remind you he was legally entitled to do under Florida law. What?

      Here's an idea, rather than blame the dead kid, how about we say that Zimmerman could have chosen any number of different paths that night? Because he's the one that put himself in a position to pull the trigger. Him and nobody else.

    6. Brovo Jim!
      And if Zimmerman is so sure he was in the right, why is he not saying "fine, arrest me, let the law show the facts and prove I am right!" Personally I want him on trial, I think the facts may well prove him a lier and a murderer..but leaving him in hiding and letting others spread lies and excuses for his actions proves nothing!

      I could be wrong, but I don;t think it is EVER right to do what he did!

    7. Tristan - was Zimmerman not detained and taken into custody and then released? You want him on trial based on media exploitation of the facts?
      Jim - I recognize your argument. Sadly you don't recognize my point of view, and that's your right. I never said he had ot dress differently, take a different route home, not go to the store , and most of all - I never said he could choose not to be black. The very sense that you would write as such shows your view is not open minded enough to make an informed opinion.
      I feel the dead teen could have made two choices that would have allowed him to be here to tell his side of the story in a world where choices are sometimes ours, and sometimes not.
      1. he could have gotten on his own cell phone, and called the police to say he was a. being followed, or b. being harassed.
      2. he could have kept on walking, instead of turning around and following someone he didn't care for back to his car and attempting to teach him a lesson(to which clearly was not going to work)
      The teen chose to confront someone. He wound up dead, whether it was a justifiable shooting or not, he wound up dead because he made a poor choice. Not to be black, not to go out of his house, not to dress in a certain way. No, he made a choice to confront someone.
      Clearly, a poor choice considering the fact that he had at least two other choices to make.
      We don't have to agree Jim. But that doesn't make either of us wrong no matter who can write the most words. It just means I don't believe in confronting someone I know nothing about. You never know what lurks in the shadows.
      Ted Hartman

    8. Ted - we only have Zimmerman's dad's word that Martin confronted him. Not even Zimmerman's own word. Zimmerman has killed an unarmed person; I view any statements made by him and/or his surrogates as nothing more than self-serving statements.

      I am no more inclined to believe Zimmerman than I am to believe anyone else who makes self-serving statements. Or do you not believe that people who have gotten themselves in trouble will lie to try to get themselves out of it? Already, Zimmerman's story has changed several times; first, he was following Martin, then he merely exited his vehicle to look for an address, then he was on his way back to his vehicle when Martin attacked him. What will be his next change of story?

      In addition to having been a teacher, I was later a litigator. One of the earliest and scariest lessons I learned in the practice of my profession is that people lie. People lie under oath. People lie to try to save their azzes, or to try to get a friend out of trouble. And people lie on the witness stand, all the time.

      On more than one occasion, I refused to put witnesses on the stand whom I knew were going to lie. That was one of my obligations as an officer of the court - not to promulgate perjured testimony. Knowing that people will lie, I am very skeptical of statements, especially when they're made by the sole survivor of a violent confrontation.

    9. He could have called the police and said he was being harassed?

      I have heard at least one report that indicates that there is a phone record that he DID call 911 and say he was being followed.

      He could have kept walking and not turned around to confront the guy?

      17 years old. Does not matter whether he was "bigger and taller" than Zimmerman. Zimmerman is 28. By virtue of age, and the fact that Zimmerman WAS IN A VEHICLE, he did not have to get out of the vehicle.

      And am I the only one who ever got the advice of "If you are being followed, DO NOT GO HOME"?

  41. Hi Jim:

    In America and the rest of the world we have forgotten one thing. It should be taught in all homes, schools, and businesses. "Treat others how you want to be treated." We are all so busy defending our turf, whatever that may be, that we forget to treat others with the respect they deserve. Heck, even John Adams and Thomas Jefferson forgot that for a time in their later years. A great example of how to overcome is how Abraham Lincoln supported his good friend Frederick Douglas. I would recommend the book "Giants" which details their friendship. I also remember reading a story about the settlement of Amish , who a few years ago had several children murdered by a gunman. The Amish community rallied around the family of the gunman and offered their forgiveness, love, and support. As you can see with my examples, all the "interested" parties in the Martin and Zimmerman camp have failed miserably. They have all exploited Mr.Martin for their own particular purposes. We are all going to need to remember that one simple rule for the upcoming turbulence we have set ourselves up for.

  42. But, but, but, we know Zimmerman was following in a vehicle, we know he got out of that vehicle and we know they had a confrontation which left a kid dead. What if Trayvon had the guts or balls to approach Zimmerman in an aggressive manner to ask WTF are you doing following me? It's still possible that Trayvon punched Zimmerman and started the fight. Doesn't make what happened right but it lets Zimmerman claim self defense according to the law. Am I wrong?

    1. No, you're not wrong. And I suspect that's exactly what Zimmerman's defense will be should this come to trial. And in accordance with the Stand Your Ground Law, he'll probably get off on exactly that argument - which is exactly why he's not in jail right now.

      But we're arguing semantics here. Legally Zimmerman may be within the letter of the law, but if he hadn't gotten out of his car Martin would likely still be alive. Zimmerman is responsible for provoking the situation and taking a life even if that wasn't his intention, in a state with sane gun laws we'd call that manslaughter at the very least.

    2. Thanks Jim, I wasn't sure that after your last few answers you might be in a mood to ream me a new asshole!
      Just to be clear, I HATE what this whole thing is about. I lived a couple towns over from Sanford for a few years and it's easy to see racism is NOT gone. Not by a long shot.

  43. This all happened just a few miles down the road from me, inasmuch as I live in Sanford, in Seminole County, Florida. Some folks might not know much about our town/county. Sanford was long ago a sleep port (yes port) town on Lake Monroe (a wide spot in the St. John's River). Steamboats could navigate here from Jacksonville, and then travellers could seek transport further south if they wanted to. Lot of vegetable growing here back in the day, particularly asparagus for some reason. A big farmer imported some Swedish folks to work, and we still have a few remnants from that, like Uppsala Road. It is a county of contrasts. Very poor predominates, or did. Lots of upscale gated developments. At one time one of them, and its general area, was the highest earned-income demographic in Florida. For unearned income, think Palm Beach. The poor here are predominately African-American. There are so many homeless here, including homeless children, that 60 Minutes featured Sanford several weeks ago in a story about homeless school children.

    Enough for now. I think Zimmerman needs to be charged and arrested. Convicted? I don't have all the facts, that's up to a jury.

  44. I typed a whole comment which seems to have disappeared. I live in Sanford, Florida, and this whole thing is appalling. The press coverage is crap. The police are crap. The prosecutors are crap. For those who don't know, Seminole County is a stark contrast of prosperity and poverty. The poverty is mostly Black. There are so many homeless here 60 Minutes featured Sanford in a story on homeless school children.

    My limited understanding of the facts of the case cause me to believe, and I'm a lawyer, that Zimmerman should be arrested and charged with manslaughter, if not murder.

  45. Jim,

    You make some excellent points and I'll be sharing your thoughts on my FB wall. But, I do want to say I'm dismayed by the automatic assumption that the killing of Trayvon was racially motivated. Certainly the community responded as though it were, and certainly the media has treated is a a racial story. And if I were black, and lived in the South (or even parts of LA), I might well make the same assumption because historically there have been far too many racially motivated killings in this country. Indeed, there seem to have been several more in the news over the last month.

    There is no doubt in my mind that Zimmerman went over the line and provoked the events that resulted in Trayvon's death. He should never have gotten out of his vehicle to hunt Trayvon down. He blatantly disregarded the dispatcher and went hunting. I don't know Florida law, but it seems to me that step should negate any possible claim of self defense.

    Now, back to the issue of guilt by appearance. People, being what they are, often make assumptions based on appearances. That's reality. If you walk into a biker bar wearing leathers and sunglasses, you're just another dude; if you walk in wearing a business suit you're going to attract undesired attention. Ditto if you walk into a bank lobby with your head and face covered. But walking down the street at night with a soda and candy in your hands? That's not unusual anywhere.

    Most of my life I've been fortunate to live in comfortable safe areas. I try hard to keep it that way. But I also know there are predators on the streets of downtown Anchorage. I try to retain situational awareness and avoid potential confrontations, but I'm also prepared to defend myself if necessary. And this brings up the issue of responsibility.

    I'm completely in favor of people being able to defend themselves when they are going about their lawful business. But I want them to be properly trained and prepared to do so when they choose to carry a firearm for that purpose.

    Here in Alaska citizens can carry a weapon without a permit. I find that unfortunate because there is no requirement that people who choose to carry know and understand the laws pertaining to the use of deadly force, nor do they even need to demonstrate any kind of proficiency with their weapon of choice.

    There used to be a requirement for training in order to get a concealed carry permit. That requirement still exists, but since getting a permit became unnecessary, people pretty much don't bother to get the training they need. And that's frightening.

    Criminals aren't going to worry about laws and are going to carry and use whatever weapon will help them get what they want. Remember Samantha Koenig? If that young woman had been armed, she might well be alive today. Instead, she's dead.

    Should everyone walking the streets be carrying a weapon? Clearly not. Should law abiding citizens have the right to use deadly force to protect their own lives? Absolutely, but only if they are capable of accepting the responsibilities that go with carrying a gun. Zimmerman apparently lacked the sense of responsibility needed and a young life was snuffed out as a result.

    With rights come responsibilities, a fact far too often ignored in America.

  46. Charges pending against Zimmerman. He's gone missing. His lawyers have bailed. He's called Fox Noise for advice?

    If it walks like a duck, and talks like a duck....it's a 1) A scared and confused person who knows he has made a horrible error but does not know how to calm down and face the music. 2) A bigoted racist who went neighborhood watching one night hunting to bag a hoodie wearing baddie 3) An idiot.

    1. You forgot 4) all of the above.
      I say 4

    2. fng - Damn ur correct! I wish I was a product of NCLB, then I would know all about test questions and stuff. Of course I offered up the multiple choice question just as Zimmerman turned himself in, was charge with 2d deg murder and lawyered up again. So my quiz was inoperative as soon as published.

      But yes, 4 was the right answer.

  47. It is amazing to see just how many people cannot seem to admit that racism exists unless it is either in the remote past, or they can attach the prefix "reverse-"


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