Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Trayvon Martin Need Not Have Died

Here I am again, adding my voice to the general voice of outrage spreading through the country.  I wrote about the Trayvon Martin/George Zimmerman case 13 months ago, approaching it from the viewpoint of life and death decisions.  Who gets to decide who lives or who dies? 

Over at Daughter Number Three, she responds to letters to the editor in the Minneapolis Star Tribune this past Monday.  One letter approached the case from the angle of respecting authority.  I agree with Daughter Number Three on that one -- respect authority that respects you, I say.  Someone following me at night and acting suspiciously, as George Zimmerman must have appeared to Trayvon Martin, would not warrant my respect.  Who's Zimmerman anyway?  He didn't have the authority to begin with to try to stop Martin.  On the "Stand Your Ground" law I also agree with Daughter Number Three.  If anyone needed to stand his ground that night a year ago in February, it was Trayvon Martin.  No one has ever tried to look at George Zimmerman's behavior from that kid's point of view, in my opinion.

George Zimmerman, March 2012
That's the crux of the matter for me: point of view.  In George Zimmerman's rather narrow point of view, as shown on the 911 call he made and through his behavior, he believed he had the authority to do what he did that night.  Despite the fact that the 911 operator told him NOT to get out of his car, NOT to follow Martin, but to let the cops deal with it.  He made a grievous mistake because of his point of view, i.e. he could deal with the situation without the cops.  Has Zimmerman learned from his mistake?  I doubt it.  The trial ended up not being the justice that quite a few people, including Martin's family, wanted, and it certainly didn't really help Zimmerman see the error of his beliefs.

Trayvon Martin need not have died.

To say that Zimmerman had not "profiled" Martin is disingenuous, I believe.  He had profiled him to a certain extent, making assumptions about Martin's character and motivations based on what he was wearing -- the hoodie.  Had he done an extensive behavioral profile?  No.  But he acted based on what he believed a hoodie signified.

Why did Zimmerman leave his car?  He certainly had flouted the authority of the 911 operator when he did so.  Maybe he thought he needed more information about what he was observing, but I doubt that was his only reason.  He was afraid of losing sight of Martin, to see what he was going to do.  So he followed him.

From Martin's point of view, Zimmerman's behavior -- he's a stranger to Martin -- is threatening.  He followed Martin in the car, then left the car to follow Martin on foot.  A complete stranger.  Put yourself in Martin's shoes.  What would you think?  I know that I'd be alarmed and probably sprint for home, or call 911.  Martin was very close to where he was living.  Why Martin didn't run for home, I don't know.  He chose to "stand his ground" when Zimmerman confronted him.  He chose to defend himself against a stranger who was behaving in a threatening manner, from his point of view.

Let's stop here for a moment, take a step back.  Up until this point, either man could have stopped the forward momentum of this confrontation by making a different choice.  Zimmerman could have changed his mind and returned to his car (or not gotten out of his car to begin with).  Martin could have high-tailed it home instead of choosing to stand his ground.  What truly boggles my mind is how stupid Zimmerman was, and how totally ignorant of the fact that his actions have an effect on other people.

The real tragedy of this case is just that: Zimmerman's stupidity.  The choices he made because he thought he had the authority to make them as a Neighborhood Watch volunteer created the outcome, not Trayvon Martin's response to his behavior.  Now tell me, are Neighborhood Watch volunteers around the country paying attention to this?  I don't know.  I think the first thing their organizers need to do is make certain none of their volunteers are taking guns with them.

George Zimmerman clearly didn't understand the parameters of his job as a Neighborhood Watch volunteer.  I think Florida needs to ban him from ever being able to own a gun again, and also from holding any kind of a law enforcement position.  He took a life.  If he'd really been smart, Trayvon Martin would still be alive and we wouldn't be mourning his loss.....

Trayvon Martin


Daughter Number Three said...

I read a piece by a national Neighborhood Watch organizer who said there is no official N.W. in that neighborhood, and that Zimmerman's behavior was completely inappropriate.

Now every time I hear/read media use of the term "neighborhood watch volunteer" when they're referring to Zimmerman, I yell at them, "self-appointed"!

Gina said...

I hear you! His true status makes his behavior inexcusable. He needs to be held accountable. I hope the Feds decide to prosecute him for denying Martin his civil rights.

Martin's parents were on the Today Show this morning. No surprise that they're disappointed with the verdict, and had hoped that the justice system would hold Zimmerman accountable. I find it interesting that the jurors are speaking out so soon. It's almost like they don't want to be blamed for their verdict.