I’ve kept out of the Trayvon Martin murder case until now because the court system is responsible for determining George Zimmerman’s innocence or guilt, and I am not.
I also refrained from using the slaughter of an unarmed teenager to advance a “liberal” or “conservative” political agenda. But I will use that incident to raise some questions so that maybe his death will help restore some sanity and more respect for human life.
It’s no news that prosecutors around the country have expressed concerns about abuse of “Stand Your Ground” laws that could enable the bad guys to get away with murder, literally.
From what I’ve heard, seen and read about the Martin killing, several facts are not in dispute:
1) Martin was not armed; he had only some candy and iced tea and no weapons of every kind.
2) Zimmerman initiated contact with Martin despite being advised by local police to leave the boy alone
3) There is no evidence Martin had engaged in any illegal activity; yet Zimmerman reportedly described the teen’s behavior as “suspicious.”
So, what’s suspicious about buying candy and iced tea, walking with no weapons whatsoever with no evidence of any law-breaking?
A pundit on the Fox Cable Channel said unequivocally Martin was wearing a hooded sweatshirt and the sweatshirt was responsible for the killing.
Funny, I thought “conservatives” believe in personal responsibility. After all, the National Rifle Association argues that “Guns don’t kill people; people kill people.” I would think NRA members would agree that sweatshirts don’t kill people; people kill people.
Or are we to believe that the hooded sweatshirt I am wearing while writing this is a lethal weapon? Does this mean some self-appointed vigilante can break into my house and “defend” himself from my sweatshirt?
Ridiculous? Yup. But no more ridiculous than the comment made by a local politician about the assassination of El Salvador Archbishop Oscar Romero: Catholic teaching allows people to defend themselves against homicidal archbishops. The politician had trouble explaining how an armed gunman needed to defend himself from a guy distributing communion to nuns in a hospital chapel.
One of the most trendy clichés these days is “bringing a knife to a gunfight,” an expression for getting into a hopelessly one-sided fight. Yet, a couple of years ago, we had an eerie parallel to the Martin case. Israeli gunships chased after a flotilla of boats bringing food to human rights victims in Gaza. One man reportedly was shot after trying to videotape the armed troops boarding one of the vessels without permission. Yet, we’ve been told armed troops in body armor were attacked by guys with kitchen knives, iron rods and video cameras. As far as we can tell, no flotilla passengers were “armed” with Skittles, iced tea or hooded sweatshirts.
No two events are exactly the same, of course. One major difference between the killings on the flotilla and on the Florida street is possible profiling. I think it’s reasonable to suggest that Mr. Zimmerman might not have suspected a 70-year-old white woman carrying Skittles and iced tea from a store was a violent criminal.
I challenge the assumption that arbitrary lumping individuals into a group of your own choosing is an effective method of fighting crime. Where do you draw the line and who gets to draw the line? Let me count the ways:
• Catholics with Irish surnames have a history of terrorism in Northern Ireland and in Oklahoma City. Does that justify kidnapping Bill O’Reilly and keeping him indefinitely as an “enemy combatant?”
• Anchorage cop Anthony Rollins has been sentenced to 44 years in the slammer for a number of rapes. Does that entitle Anchorage women to consider all cops potential rapists and shoot them in “self-defense?”
• Israel has been accused of a number of human rights violations against Muslims. Does that entitle my friend Hajj to profile Anchorage Jews as “suspicious,” stalk them and claim self-defense after shooting them?
• Does the recent alleged slaughter of five Tulsa-area blacks entitle African Americans to profile “suspicious” Native Americans and accompanying whites, stalk and shoot them in self-defense?
• Does shaving your head and driving around with a confederate flag and a shotgun in your pickup truck qualify your behavior as “suspicious” and entitle homosexuals, immigrants and Muslims to shoot you in “self-defense?”
• And are black teenagers with hooded sweatshirts entitled to shoot first and ask questions later if they encounter Hispanic-looking white guys with facial hair and shaved heads on Florida streets at night?
If we’re going to engage in profiling, maybe the first question to ask is which people are qualified to profile which people and which profiling method they’re allowed to use.