George Zimmerman recently helped to pull a family from their overturned SUV on the side of the road. As with all things Zimmerman, some people called him a Good Samaritan, while others claimed it was a story invented by the white media to make him look good. These days there isn't much neutral ground when it comes to this subject. (considering the atmosphere in Washington and in some states perhaps neutral or middle ground is as rare a commodity as gold will ever be.)
Two people who have introduced some sanity, humanity and comity into this maelstrom are the parents of Trayvon Martin. They lost their teenage son. They believe he was hunted and killed. They are one of the primary reasons George Zimmerman was arrested after police initially let him go, as they refused to be quiet or intimidated by law enforcement or the stand your ground law. They wanted their day in court. They were connived a jury would conclude their son was murdered and they would see justice done. They were wrong.
They lost. Zimmerman was freed. The jury refused to convict him for either murder or manslaughter. They were shocked, chagrined and disgusted. There would be no justice for their son. Their supporters were outraged...the system was racist...if it had been a 17 year old white boy killed by a black neighborhood vigilante, the jury would have locked him up and thrown away the key. It was now open season on black, hoody-wearing teens in Florida and other stand-your-ground states. They took to the streets and violence broke out and the rhetoric heated up with verbal logs being thrown on the fire by everyone from Jesse Jackson to Al Sharpton and the N.A.A.C.P. Not participating, or piling on were Trayvon's parents.
They took a breath...receded from the public view for a moment...swallowed their grief and sadness and then spoke out. They spoke of God and prayer and how both will help them through this. They spoke of their disappointment in the verdict, but not the system. They defended their son but didn't demonize Zimmerman's lawyers or defenders. They said how much this decision hurt, but their remarks were measured and thoughtful and could not be used to fuel the continuing media fire. They acted exactly the opposite of the way people are supposed to act these days. They were examples of class, faith and groundedness. HUZZAH to them !!!
At the end of the day, what did we have? Zimmerman saw a black teen and made assumptions. He confronted him. A scuffle broke out. (one of the key questions never answered was who started it) Trayvon was kicking his ass and Zimmerman could not defend himself physically so he pulled the gun. In all the debate and shouting about this case, almost no one even talks about the gun.
I have said it in the past. With over 300 million guns in this country, we are like people in a room up to our armpits in gasoline and groups like the N.R.A. (National Rifle Association), and state legislatures and Hanbaugh and company, keep giving out books of matches to everyone in the room claiming it will make them safer. Zimmerman is living proof of what the matches will cause. If he isn't armed, he gets beaten up and that's that. Martin goes away. Zimmerman can still report him to the police...swear out a complaint...get Martin arrested...prevent any ancillary crime he thought Martin might instigate in his neighborhood. Martin gets to his father's house, but still might be held accountable.
Once you add a gun to the mix, all bets are off. Zimmerman can't defend himself physically, a fact which might have deterred him initially if he wasn't armed, so he has to go for his gun. The great state of Florida made this a no-brainer. Zimmerman was invoking the stand your ground law from the moment the police arrived. If this law did not exist, he would have been far less enthusiastic about being armed or using the gun.
The jury followed the law. It didn't help how poorly the prosecution's case turned out to be, but they followed the law. We should be heartened by this. The jury refused to be stampeded or give deference to the government. That is good news. We want juries who will tell the government to take a hike. We want the government to lose more than they win in situations like this. Unfortunately, the presence of a gun turned a fistfight into the end of a young man's life and no one can be pleased about it.
Trayvon Martin's parents did not fuel a racial fire. Their reasoned response expressed their sorrow and disappointment while they also called for calm and reason. Good for them. Shame on Florida for the stand your ground law. They are accessories to Trayvon's death. Shame on those who want more concealed weapons permits...guns in schools and churches and bars...those who exploited this tragedy for political gain...those who are quiet while children in Chicago, Washington, Oakland et.al. are being gunned down daily and they do not take to the streets across the land.
Trayvon's parent's deep religious faith caused them to react to tragedy with dignity and care. Imitating them would improve the divisive conditions we find ourselves in locally and nationally. I take hope in their example.