1201 Life in the Gate-o
Let’s rewrite the George Zimmerman/Trayvon Martin drama and see how it could have played out.
It’s nighttime in a gated community in Florida. Martin who is black and wearing a dark hoodie is walking along an that odd ghetto way that some call a swagger. He has a cellphone to his ear and he’s having a conversation.
There’s a neighborhood watch in this compound. Residents want more protection than the local police can adequately provide, and the watch patrollers drive, rather than walk as they might in an urban neighborhood.
One of these volunteers -- trained by local police and armed -- spots Martin and thinks he’s acting suspiciously. He uses his two way radio to alert the cops. The police duty officer says there’s a patrol car nearby and it has been dispatched. He then tells the neighborhood watch guy to keep back. The watcher, Zimmerman, has a complex mixed ethnic/racial background, but appears white. He wants to work in law enforcement and he knows copspeak and that he has just been issued an order.
A few minutes later, the patrol car arrives and spots Martin, rolls up to him with the window down and says “excuse me sir, please stop for a moment so we can talk.” (Cops usually address any male as “sir,” even if he’s a teen. But the way they say it makes it sound like a four letter word. And an order.)
Martin stops. The cop says there have been “some problems” in the area and asks where the kid is headed. Martin answers “home” and gives the address. The cop asks for and receives identification. He calls it in to see if there are outstanding warrants, which there aren’t.
The cop hands Martin back his license and says something like “sorry to bother you, but we’re stopping a lot of people in the area these days.”
End of story.
Don’t you love stories with happy endings? Think of the grief that would have been saved had the story played out this way. Think of the life that would have been spared and the lives that wouldn’t have been torn asunder.
Is George Zimmerman a racist? You could easily think so by his actions. But probably he’s just some doofus who has been dipped in the syrup of too many stories about gang violence and street violence and such and had an “uh-oh” moment. Maybe, if you’re charitable, write his real world response off as overreaction.
But racism or overreaction or just stupidity aside, he shot and killed Martin. Little doubt he didn’t start out intending to. But by provoking a confrontation -- which he did -- he took a potentially simple interaction and turned it into a dead child and a national incident, wrecked the lives of friends and family, both Martin’s and his own.
We can turn this into a rant about gun control, neighborhood watches, racism and racial profiling, Florida’s “stand your ground” law, prosecutorial incompetence, judicial incompetence, tainted evidence, weasel defense lawyers, and the media.
But it’s not really about any of that.
It’s about a chance meeting of two guys on a normally peaceful street and ended with the death of an innocent and caused a national uproar, neither of which had to happen or should have happened.
I’m Wes Richards. My opinions are my own but you’re welcome to them. ®
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© WJR 2013