Self-appointed neighborhood watchman George Zimmerman was acquitted in the wrongful death of 17 year-old Trayvon Martin. In response, Zimmerman’s brother Robert Jr. tweeted, “Today… I’m proud to be an American.”
I am proud to be an American every day. The knowledge that it is apparently possible to get away with killing kids with no fear of consequences is not a contributing factor to my love of country, however.
Since the verdict was read, numerous websites have published a running string of reactions from well-known personalities and the general public alike.
On NPR’s website, the top-rated comment as of the time of this writing is:
“…what was the young man supposed to do when approached by an armed guy on the side of he (sic) road? Black, white, whatever, if a guy with no obvious authority stops anybody on the side of the road in an accusatory manner…?” (emphasis added)
The most salient point of this question is the part highlighted above. As the prosecution stated in its summation, this scenario was any child’s worst nightmare, any person’s really: walking home alone, in the dark, and being followed…
How many TV shows, movies, novels, etc. begin this way? The creepy music starts. The tension becomes palpable and the reader or viewer knows something bad is about to happen.
As first described by American physiologist Walter Cannon in the 1920s, under such conditions, the human body will undergo a series of physiological reactions to help mobilize its resources in order to help it deal with threatening circumstances. This set of responses is better known as the flight or fight syndrome.
We know from witness Rachel Jeantel’s testimony that Martin tried the former, flight. That didn’t work. Zimmerman was not to be eluded.
The two individuals – civilian adult and minor — came face to face. What then, was Trayvon Martin to do?
Seemingly, according to Florida law, the Zimmerman family and their attorneys, a successful defense of self on Martin’s part was apparently out of the question.
That the Zimmerman family would rather have their loved one come out with his life and well-being intact is understandable. Nothing less from George Zimmerman who, for those few minutes got to live his dream, is to be expected.
We know from Zimmerman’s 2012 interview on the Hannity show that he has no remorse about setting off the chain of events that culminated with him killing a child. He does not regret getting out of his car. He does not regret taking his gun. He does not regret pulling the trigger. He believes it was all part of God’s plan. Perhaps that’s why he didn’t call 911 and ask for medical assistance as 17 years of life bled out at his feet…for up to ten minutes.
According to defense attorney Mark O’Mara, Zimmerman will spend the rest of his life looking over his shoulder. If true, being so occupied, he should at least have no further time or opportunity to act as an angel of the god he believes wanted him to take the life of a teenager.
Zimmerman’s delusions aside, it is difficult to believe that Florida’s various defense laws are intended to afford so little protection to potential crime victims. The precedent established by the referenced verdict is concerning. How this will play out for other young people deemed out of place while blithely going about their own business in the future is worrisome.
Kids should be able to go to convenience stores, walk in the rain, talk on the phone with long-lost friends and wear hooded sweatshirts as long as doing so is ok with their parents. They should be able to return home from such excursions alive.
They should also be able to flee from creepy men who follow them in the dark, or, that failing, have leave to effectively protect themselves when so accosted.
What is more, grown men who kill kids through the consequences own their own actions should be held accountable. Under no circumstances should they be hailed as model citizens or examples of what is best about America.
As Tina Turner sang in the theme song for Mad Max 2, “We don’t need another hero.” We certainly don’t need any more George Zimmermans. Let this be an opportunity for Florida to re-examine and correct its self-defense laws before these patterns of behavior get out of hand.
Otherwise, this country may find itself too closely resembling the post-apocalyptic one of Thunderdome; in which case America will be undeserving of anyone’s pride on any day.