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Out of the Fraying Pan and into the Fray

...if our thoughts had thought-bubbles...

…if our thoughts had thought-bubbles…

If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men.”  Romans 12:18 NASB

The topic is wearisome, I know.  Not wearisome because of its message.  It is wearisome because everybody and their step-sister have an opinion on this topic.  Some are useful.  Most are tired tropes that have already proven themselves to be ineffective.  The Zimmerman Trial, it was decided for us, would be about race.  But it isn’t really about that, or gun control, or neighborhood watches peopled by the mentally unstable with fantastical ideations of joining law-enforcement…badges make great accessories…I read that in Sociopath Weekly.  This story is about two people who were failed by their legislators when the state of Florida passed, what is commonly referred to as, “Stand Your Ground” legislation in 2005.  I prefer its more telling name “No Duty to Retreat”…Stand Your Ground sounds tough and heroic; No Duty to Retreat is more honest, it essentially says: “Retreat? That’s not my job.” which is a hollow sentiment when you have a dead unarmed teenager laying at your feet…

Making this case about racial tension is a brilliant move (brilliant for revenue-hungry media-outlets)…it’s a sociological slight-of-hand where-in an overly-complex narrative is used to usher in a conclusion that is woefully over-simplified.  It works thusly: we are fed the racial tension narrative which leads us to think about all of the vast complexities involved with racial-relations in this society.  Just about the time we’re completely over-whelmed by a trillion different lessons on history and sociology and psychology, the 24hr. news cycle roars to life with countless pundits vapidly bantering to one another about: “What can be done to improve race-relations in America?”.  Because race is such a multifarious issue it gives the countless pundits countless avenues down which they can speed-walk as they furiously “look” for the answer that has thus far alluded humanity.  Once the trial slows down and comes to its natural conclusion (or some limey princess has a baby) the pundits are there to assure us that, while race is complicated, we can all rest easy knowing that we’re doing all that we can, and offer us the hope that we will improve.  And it’s true…we will improve…or at least we should…we’ve left ourselves ample room for just this sort of thing…

No, this story is about clumsily written legislation that offers massive responsibility without the requisite repercussions needed in the event a mistake is made; repercussions that would keep the responsibility in check.  I’m not saying that “Stand Your Ground” played a key role in the trial of Zimmerman, I’m saying a “No Duty to Retreat” culture insures that there will be other cases just like this one…which isn’t much of a stretch, there are a great deal of these cases being argued all over the country.  Hell, Zimmerman’s lawyers didn’t need to argue that case in the court-room; legislators gave Zimmerman everything he needed to argue that case on the streets of Florida, save the pistol.  That’s another side-effect caused by this type of lazy legislation: when the smoke clears it is, often times, the person with the most to hide who gets to tell his (mostly his) side of the story.  Self-defense is much easier to prove when the one from whom you were defending yourself is dead.  I’m also not saying that race played no role in what happened that day…I don’t know if it did or didn’t.  I do know well-written laws offer victims much better protection in these types of situations regardless of any party’s views on race.  I do know that we don’t learn much about race-relations by studying how two individuals interact with one another in a highly-volatile situation…

But there-in lies the nut…the situation wasn’t volatile when George Zimmerman was encouraged by a 911 dispatcher to break-off the pursuit of Trayvon Martin and let the police handle it.  At that point Zimmerman made a choice to handle it himself.  At that moment he either under-estimated the situation or over-estimated his ability to handle it, because–if he is to be believed–the situation turned into a real cluster-fuck that ended in the death of an unarmed teenager.  Would it have ended better if the cops could’ve interceded?  I don’t know…this is Florida we’re talking about.  I know there wasn’t much room to make it worse.  I know that if Zimmerman had to prove that he had no ability to retreat, the 911 dispatcher’s advice to end his pursuit of Trayvon would’ve been more important to the case.  But Zimmerman didn’t have to worry about proving his inability to retreat, and with that piece of information he continued his pursuit, knowing he had an Ace in the hole…two, actually: Florida’s lax attitude toward homicide and a pistol…

Stand Your Ground is bad law making.  It creates a situation in which an armed neighborhood watchman is allowed to make snap decisions that have life-long repercussions.  It has the power to exacerbate racial tensions.  It has seen the rate of self-defense claims increase dramatically, the victims of said claims being predominantly white and predominantly male.  It has no clear evidentiary support for lowering the crime rates in effected jurisdictions.  It can be fixed.  I know that killing is much more masculine than running, but don’t worry so much…people think you’re tough…no really, they do…I wouldn’t say it unless it was true…awwww come on, chin up buttercup.  Not only did that law, and the culture it has helped to shape, fail Trayvon Martin as he lay dead in the rain.  It failed George Zimmerman.  It assumed that Zimmerman was a competent man capable of handling the stress that confrontation often brings.  It is clear to me that that assumption was not well-founded.  Some would like to imagine a universe where George Zimmerman serves jail-time for his choices; I count myself among them.  Moreover, I’d like to live in a universe where this type of thing isn’t all but encouraged by elected officials…a universe where-in Trayvon Martin is still alive, and George Zimmerman is only secretly a dick…


About pats0

Pats0 is a writer who is informed by a punk-rock ethos, and a hatred for group-think. He is the founding member of The Pirate-Clown Guild of Free-Thinkers, an aegis from under which he soils the internet with his thoughts. Welcome.

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