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Relearning the ugliness of tribalism - John [entries|archive|friends|userinfo]

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Relearning the ugliness of tribalism [Apr. 27th, 2012|01:21 pm]
So, cut tag for those who don't want to read/think about the killing of Trayvon Martin.

So, George Zimmerman's story goes like this. He was walking back to his SUV (leaving the confrontation) and about to call 911 when suddenly, he was attacked - and he defended himself when the assailant tried to go for Zimmerman's gun.

It's a good story. It establishes self defense by the letter and spirit of the law. There are two problems from my perspective.

One, it's *awfully* neat. That's not a problem per se... how's the old joke go? "You have an clever answer for every question!" "What, so it would be *less* suspicious if I couldn't answer your questions?" But it is *so* neat, so "wow, not my fault at *all*" that it makes me want to check it out more carefully. A young man is dead, the guy giving us this story is the killer, and we need to make sure justice is done.

The second huge (hugely huge) problem is that it assumes that a young man out on a candy-for-a-kid, and a cold drink, run would suddenly assault a guy for no reason.

Why? It makes no sense.

Now, it *does* make sense from the perspective of someone like Zimmerman, who was sure he was chasing a criminal. A criminal might well want to be sure a neighborhood watch doesn't call the cops on him. But it makes absolutely zero sense from the perspective of what we know about Trayvon Martin.

Of course, 18-year-olds are sometimes stupid, and sometimes overly aggressive, and we know that Travyon's girlfriend says he was concerned about the guy who was following him. Is it *possible* that Trayvon felt he could get the drop on this guy, and attacked? In the sense that it wouldn't violate the laws of physics, sure, it's *possible*. But it doesn't seem likely. A guy who's willing to rabbit on the advice of his girlfriend is the kind of guy who is trying to *avoid* trouble.

And of the two people involved, only one - Zimmerman - has a history of being too pushy (literally - he was diverted to anger management classes after shoving a plain-clothes cop) when upset.

Now, this strikes me as clear-cut. Two men had an encounter; one died. The guy who did the killing is in the wrong, unless and until we're convinced he had no reasonable choice.

But there are many people trying to insist that the killer had to be in the right.


Well, part of it is probably motive. Zimmerman was on the neighborhood watch! Yeah, that's a good thing. And I'm glad that he, hypothetically, wanted to identify Trayvon Martin and make sure he wasn't up to any harm. Hey, when I was looking at houses, a neighbor wanted to know why I was prowling around a house; I told them I was going to be coming back with my real estate agent later. I was glad that I was called out, and glad that the guy turned friendly when I said why I was there. That's neighborliness, in a place where vandalism and burglaries occur.

But we're asked to assume that the guy who was upset that those "fucking goons always get away" was just minding his own business and in no way aggressive, and suddenly, from out of nowhere, a young man already in dutch for getting suspended is going to start a fight?

It doesn't add up. Trayvon Martin had everything to lose; his parents are already dumping down on him for a suspension, and he thinks an arrest for assault and battery - or even being picked up for fighting, with no proof that he started it - is going to make 'em happier? No.

The information is all there. It's accessible. There's a lot of false information, too, but it's all out there.

But too many people seem to be willing to disregard what we know, and push the idea that George Zimmerman is being treated unfairly. And a lot of it seems to be tribalism.

Part of it, I'm sure, is the tribalism against black people demanding simple justice. Those uppity divisive people playing the race card and making a big deal out of a case of self defense!

I'm starting to understand the battle for civil rights a bit better. And I'm starting to understand just how utterly fucked up the murder of Dr. King was. The guy who called for aggressive peaceful protest was murdered - see how much peaceful protest helps?

And part of it is the tribalism of gun rights supporters. There was a time when the people I knew who supported gun rights would solemnly warn you to remember that it's better to be "judged by 12 than carried by 6" and that using lethal force to save your life might save your life so it can be spent in jail. They used to make sure that people understood that even the cleanest shooting for self defense was likely to cost many thousands of dollars just to exonerate you.

That attitude is gone. So is the last shred of respect I have for gun rights organizations. Any responsible, conservative gun owner would find it perfectly reasonable for Zimmerman to be facing charges. This situation is exactly why those old warnings were made. There were no witnesses to collaborate Zimmerman's story, and we should not take a self-serving statement without collaboration.

This situation is one where there can be strong feelings. I do have some sympathy for George Zimmerman. He was, at least initially, trying to do something right. I don't know how things got so screwed up that Trayvon Martin ended up dead, but I don't believe Zimmerman's story. It's too neat, and it completely disregards what we know about Martin. But that said, wow, there were times when I was younger and much less wise and could have done something stupid that cascaded down around me until I ended up facing criminal charges. Just as I feel sympathy for my hypothetical younger-stupider self, I can feel sympathy for Zimmerman. That doesn't mean I don't want him to face the consequences of his actions.

But for all of that, for any sympathy I can feel, the one over-riding issue, the one that should cut through *all* of the tribalism bullshit is this: George Zimmerman killed Trayvon Martin. And without air-tight evidence that it was self defense, it's simple justice that he be forced to answer for this act before a jury.

[User Picture]From: erin_c_1978
2012-04-28 06:57 pm (UTC)
A very thorough, insightful analysis, I think. And I agree 100%.
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