Sunday, April 1, 2012

What Troubles me about the Treyvon Martin Case

Last November I was visiting my sister at her condo in Florida, and one day we were at the pool sharing the Tampa Tribune. Being old people, we had purchased the print version or the newspaper. At one point she hands me the local news section of the paper, and I said "I'm not all that interested in local news here". "Oh, you should read this. You are in Florida, and there is always something really crazy in the local news" she replied.

The killing of Treyvon Martin has now become another out of control news story, with the usual bloviators from the right and left trying to convict either Zimmerman for murder or Martin for....well, I guess the argument is that he was no angel because he's been in trouble at school, and therefore it was OK for him to get stalked and killed.

There are 2 things about this case that really trouble me. The first is the "Stand Your Ground" law that Florida passed in 2005 making this entire controversy possible. No surprise that the NRA, whose motto is "America is safer when we all shoot each other", was behind getting this law passed. It states that you needn't retreat before using force if you feel your life is threatened. It was sold as allowing victims of domestic violence to fight back, or shoot, when they are threatened, instead of having to run.

Now, I am all for shooting anyone engaged in domestic violence, but the Martin case shows the unintended consequences of this law. And, it raises the question "Where is the line for feeling threatened?". Can you shoot someone who looks at you funny on the street? How about if they look scary and they cross the street and are now on your side of the street walking towards you? Surely, you might feel your life is in danger, so fire away! And say you are frightened of people of other races. Can you just hunt one down and kill him for being in your neighborhood? The Sanford police say yes. Just open fire, say self defense, and the cops will buy it, and you won't even have to stand trial. That bothers me.

Which brings me to the other problem with this, more specific to this case. Even if Zimmerman's story is true, which may not be the case, he still caused this altercation. Martin was walking down the street. There is no indication he was looking for any trouble until he became upset at Zimmerman following him. And Zimmerman did exactly the opposite of what the 911 people told him to do. Yet, the police just buy his self-defense story? Seems he should have received a lot more scrutiny, considering he had ignored police orders.

Which brings me to this question: What if Martin had also had a gun, and he had decided his life was in danger because this white guy was stalking him? He is in the south, where white guys have been known to kill black guys for being black, so not really a stretch. So, if Martin had shot Zimmerman and said "this white guy was following me and I thought he would tie me to his car and drag me to death", would he have gotten the same free pass from the cops? I am guessing not.

The real crime in this case is the Florida law, and the NRA is the criminal. My guess is the right wing nuts are so desperate to make Martin look like some kind of evildoer to divert attention from their beloved promotion of gun violence. These are, after all, the same people who think having guns in bars is a good policy.


Anonymous said...

My guess is a lot like your guess. Hard on the heels of the Trevon Martin shooting is the killing of unarmed (and yes, also black) college student Kendrick McDade by officers who "thought" he was a robber and "thought" he might have a gun. Less than 4 years ago, when Americans elected an African-American to the presidency, I thought this kind of horror would end. Was I ever wrong!

Anonymous said...

Speaking of bloviating, "...but the Martin case shows the unintended consequences of this law. "

What if Zimmerman did act in self-defense?

Anonymous said...

Uncharacteristically, I agree with most everything you said. The only disagreement is the statement, "My guess is the right wing nuts are so desperate to make Martin look like some kind of evildoer to divert attention from their beloved promotion of gun violence."

Being from the south and being raised by grandparents, I believe it is much more of the older generation who "are so desperate to make Martin look like some kind of evildoer [because he's black] to divert attention from their beloved promotion of gun violence;" not so much right wing or left wing. I say this because I have seen SOME right and left wings down there who have the same opinion about "dem darkies - dey no good fo nuthin'." It is more of the much older generation who can't seem to get over the fact that someone's skin doesn't match theirs and that this is 2012 NOT CIVIL WAR TIMES! Unfortunately, racial discrimination will always be alive down there, but there are some areas where is dieing a little with the death of those generations. It is sad and disgusting how if something evil happens they look for the first black man to blame.