ELDER MUSIC: Drinking Songs Part 2
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The Trayvon/Zimmerman Verdict

Somewhere yesterday I read that approximately 11,000 black people have been murdered in the U.S. since young Trayvon Martin was shot by George Zimmerman in February 2012.

Throughout the Florida trial of Zimmerman, I'd been wondering about exactly that question – how many others? With such a large number of those deaths, why this one? What was different about this case that the country was subjected to 24/7 trial coverage? I still don't know.

Unanswered questions notwithstanding, if like me you gave up trying to find any other news over the past three or four weeks and followed the testimony in as much detail as any of the six jurors (hard to do otherwise), perhaps you too were flummoxed by the verdict.

Without going into the many reasons (believe me, they are all online in profusion), had I been a member of the jury I would have voted to convict on second-degree murder. But the real jury acquitted Zimmerman of that charge along with the lesser one of manslaughter.

You wouldn't know it from the gloating of the Zimmerman defense attorneys, but there is – yes, IS – a dead kid involved at the center of this case. Please let us not forget that in the euphoria from some quarters of the killer going free.

I could rant for pages about this but so many other people are supplying news and commentary - some quite eloquent - I'll mostly let them speak for me today.

First, here is a terrible irony: during the trial, Illinois became the 50th state to make it legal to carry a concealed weapon. By coincidence, there were some other frightening gun-related laws that went into effect in tandem with the Zimmerman trial:

”Indiana enacted a measure that allows people to carry handguns without a license in their vehicle and in certain other situations.

“Florida has eliminated its age limit for concealed carry permits for active service members and veterans, while Tennessee is allowing permitted handgun owners to store their arms and ammo in cars in nearly all private and public parking lots, as long as the items are locked out of view.

“Virginia is enacting a rule giving concealed permit holders the right to carry inside bars, clubs and restaurants on the condition they don’t drink any alcohol, and as long as the establishment doesn’t specifically prohibit firearms.”

“In Kansas, school employees may now carry concealed handguns.”

If the success of the widespread liberalization of gun control laws – even after 20 little babies were murdered by a gunman in Connecticut - doesn't scare the pants off you, it should. And after this verdict, put yourself in the place of a young black man now – someone like Cord Jeffers, a reporter, who writes,

“Tonight a Florida man’s acquittal for hunting and killing a black teenager who was armed with only a bag of candy serves as a Rorschach test for the American public.

“For conservatives, it’s a triumph of permissive gun laws and a victory over the liberal media, which had been unfairly rooting for the dead kid all along.

“For liberals, it's a tragic and glaring example of the gaps that plague our criminal justice system.

“For people of color, it’s a vivid reminder that we must always be deferential to white people, or face the very real chance of getting killed.

As digby at Hullabaloo pointed out yesterday – and I don't disagree - with this verdict, in addition to so many new, looser gun laws, we are all at risk of winding up as dead as young Trayvon Martin:

”If a young black man is stalked by a stranger, he is not free to confront him. He must keep his head down, be obsequious, be prepared to be questioned not just by police, but by anyone...

”But it's not just him. In various parts of the country someone like George Zimmerman, a wannabe cop, a wannabe macho dude, is legally allowed to carry a concealed gun loaded with hollow point bullets.

“What if I did something to startle or frighten someone like him? Indeed, how can any of us know who's carrying a loaded gun and who isn't?

“So, I'll keep my head down too and be obsequious and subservient to every person I come across in public. I won't make any smart remarks. I won't express myself at all. I'll just hurry along in the hopes that I haven't drawn any undue attention.

“It's less likely that a white woman like me will be shot than it is a young black male, but it's foolish to take any chances in a world like this. Standing up for your principles or the constitution is really hard to do when you're dead.”

I thought it would be useful, even though this is (aside from the national interest of everyone) not directly related to aging, for us to talk about this today.


At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Carl Hansen: My Last Softball Game


Comments

I would have voted for manslaughter and the fact that he got off is a travesty.

digby at Hullabaloo got it right for my money: This isn't, to me, a racial issue; it's about being shot by a fellow American who, for any reason or no reason, thinks he or she has a reason to shoot me. It turns the country into a wild west where the guys in the white hats lose.

Ronni:
The decision was surreal, but not unexpected. This is a violent country; it always has been.

I have no doubt that the murderer's decision to kill the boy was greatly affected by the skin tone of his victim.

This is just one more example of adherence to the letter of the law in contemporary America;justice is another matter.

Paragraph two should read: "the defendant's" decision to shoot the boy; he was, after all, found innocent.

I have been reading that the insurance companies that cover Kansas are starting to raise rates or dropping coverage on schools that allow guns on their property. Good first step.

I thought the whole damned thing was a travesty from the get-go. In my diverse urban neighbor, young men of all colors walk down the street listening to their tunes & talking to their girlfriends and no one gets excited. Usually they wave to me. I have a rep as the "nice old lady on the corner" and I cherish that.

Marc...
I don't agree. Zimmerman is a confessed killer - the verdict doesn't change that.

Maybe you didn't mean "murderer" as opposed to killer, but some people continue to see it that way no matter the verdict. We are allowed, I think, to disagree with juries on that point.

I certainly do not want to trivialize the Martin/Zimmerman court case, but it seems that the news media has us "watch the birdy over here" while there are lots of other things more serious to the planet and our nation as a whole that should be addressed and presented to bring on the public action. I definitely feel that we are distracted for a reason while the wool is being pulled over our eyes on the real issues. For the first time in millions of years the CO2 reached it's highest levels in millions of years and our environment is in serious danger. We are rapidly (if we haven't already) reached the tipping point environmentally. Immigration is another issue that needs to be solved once and for all and the sequestration issue also needs to be ended. It is hardest on the people that need help the most - Meals on Wheels, Food Stamps, etc. These things take a back seat to a trial so the news media can have their day. What ever happened to responsible journalism? I do feel that we need to be optimistic, but on an individual level it is just so immobilizing and seems so hopeless.

I could not agree more with your comments today, Ronni -- and as to your quoting digby, I was reminded of the self-satisfied letter in our local paper this morning, to wit:
"The lesson of the tragedy of the Trayvon Martin case is that we as parents must teach our children respect for authority. To my generation, authority meant parents, adults, schoolteachers and law enforcement. We as youths were taught to respect them and to act politely and deferentially with them.

Any adult could question our behavior, and often did so. We were taught to politely explain what we were doing — but above all, not to get into a confrontation with authority."

I can only hope this letter-writer is trying to be ironic. I feel absolutely helpless in light of this verdict. So, I guess we are all supposed to walk and speak cautiously, not to offend those with guns [which in many cases we may not even see]? It feels as if this country is reaching some point of no return, and it is terrifying. In light of that, I also recommend reading Paul Krugman's column in today's NY Times--it is about the farm bill, but it is a much larger commentary.

Not for the first time, I'm glad not to live in the USA. In fact, although there are places I would very much like to visit, like New England in the Fall or the Pacific North West, I won't be coming back. The behaviour of organisations like the TSA, intrusive X-Ray screening, the sort of firearms legislation Ronni describes and a host of other changes make the US appear a much less welcoming place than it was when I last visited.

I may be wrong of course, but on the evidence of what I see, I'm voting with my feet and going elsewhere.

@Ian: yesterday we entered Europe from the US, transited through Switzerland, and on to Spain for three weeks. Customs in Zurich took 30 seconds, one stamp in the passport; nothing additional in Barcelona ... none of the intrusive nonsense US customs puts everyone through. And it is not as if Spain didn't have to worry about violence.

But this is civilization of a different, chastened sort.

@All: yes, the people (mostly men) with the guns have been told by a jury that they can kill at will so long as they claim to have been afraid. And so the rest of us should be afraid.

Since 9/11, all aspects of our lives are more and more designed to teach people in the United States to live in fear and so to be dependent on authorities for protection.

It makes me sad, I don't understand how that verdict could have happened. And a boy is dead. Sad, violent country.

There is always someone who disagrees no matter which way a court case goes. Zimmerman was tried by a jury of his peers and they rendered their verdict. Case over! (or at least it should be)

This affects us all Ronni wether or not people realize it. Thanks for raising it today.

Someone left a comment somewhere saying, "What if George Zimmerman had been shot and killed by a white man? We would be having a whole different conversation."
In the eyes of many, George Zimmerman is not white, but for the purposes of enforcing the race system in the U.S. he is white. If he had been the victim, he would be a person of color and therefore a suspicious character.
He also has been accused of child molestation and had a restraining order put on him. I wonder if the jury knew about that.

This story isn't about seniors, however there is a parallel.

Some people think seniors should tiptoe round, keep a low profile, heads down, don't say anything controversial, show no opinion.

Be invisible.

Get off the stage.

Move aside.

This TM story is an example of how some individuals believe they are an army of one.

There is that link between what role society tries to bestow on certain individuals, for trivial reasons like skin color, religious affiliation, body, height, hair color, school from which they graduated, side of town they live on, economic standing.

Some people get away with murder because they think they're better than the next person.

We are all equal, no matter what jack in the box society tries to shove us into and slam the lid shut.

A young black boy is dead. The shooter will have the rest of his life to contemplate his deed and watch over his shoulder.

Sleep tight, shooter.

I think you got it entirely. The case was about Florida's "stand your ground" law, gun rights, and racism.

"It ain't over til it's over," as the saying goes, and this case ain't over yet.

I foresee civil suits filed by Trayvon Martin's mother, father, and/or stepmother. The rules for such suits are quite different from those in criminal cases.

Of all the things that made me angry at the verdict, I was most appalled at the statement made by State Attorney Angela Corey after the trial. She actually stated that they promised justice and justice was done, all the while she had this asinine grin on her face like the prosecution had actually won! Who knows, maybe they did; this is the same women that prosecuted and won a case against a black women for firing a warning shot into the wall trying to defend herself against a violent husband. The court refused to let her use the stand your ground law and sentenced her to 20 years!!! There is no justice in our criminal system unless you are white and wealthy.

As a member of a multi-racial family, I would counsel our adult children and especially our grandchildren to be cautious--not "deferential to white people" but certainly cautious. I also agree with readers who state that since almost anyone, regardless of mental status, is permitted to carry a gun these days, we are all at risk. The NRA and its minions have, at least for now, ensured that it could become High Noon in the U.S. for virtually any of us.

I would have convicted George Zimmerman of manslaughter, at minimum. He had no badge, vest or cap identifying him as a Block Watch "authority". Even if he had, he had no reason to confront Trayvon Martin, who had every right to be where he was and was not armed. Zimmerman completely disregarded verbal direction from the police NOT to confront Martin.

Although I don't understand their reasoning, the jury has spoken and we need to move forward. I hope that in the end public opinion will defeat the NRA and make the country safer for all of us. Still, I would urge my multi-racial family to be very, very careful--even though that's SO wrong in "the land of the free".

The verdict is a travesty of justice. Zimmerman pursued Martin, even when instructed not to do so, then found that he had bitten off more than he could chew, and then murdered the young man. He should have been found guilty of manslaughter at the least.

Our country is reverting in moral standards and in civil rights.

We get what we deserve--we have elected morons to our state (and national) legislatures where all this nonsense gets put into law. (Just look at the idiots in the legislature in my home state of Texas.) I hope everyone who is outraged by this travesty will get busy with the business of getting these yahoos out of the legislatures and replacing them with people who have some common sense.

The pundits are now saying that the verdict is the fault of poor prosecution. I just couldn't follow this trial like some have. It was too painful so I don't know all of the testimony given, but what I could not avoid reading and hearing were the facts that Zimmerman disobeyed the police and stalked Martin, confronted him without reason and a fight ensued. Zimmerman told repeated lies about what happened and testimony from an expert said his injuries were not serious and he was not in danger of losing his life. There was no justification for any of his actions. No matter how badly the Prosecution handled this case common sense should tell any thinking person that he was guilty and he should have been found so.

Along with Zimmerman, the "Stand Your Ground" law should be on trial. Our country has become one of injustice and one ruled by the power of the very wealthy and/or by gun toting imbeciles.

One fact that I read today was that the police ran a test on Martin for drugs, but did none on the killer. The police should be held accountable for this travesty.

As a resident of Illinois, the last state to pass concealed carry, and living in a city of about 150,000 where twelve people have been shot, seven of them now dead, since July 5, I don't even know what to think about this topic any more. The violence in my city of Rockford, Illinois, is not new. It has been going on for close to two decades now. In fact, the past few years have seen fewer incidents of violence annually than there were in the early to mid 1990's. I was thinking recently about the fact that I know (not well, but they all did live within a block of my home) three people who have committed murder. I live in a lower socio-economic area, but even so, this seems extraordinary. At least one other commenter noted that we live in a violence country. Indeed we do, but oddly enough, the present still may be less violent than many other times.

What if Martin had been white? That answers it all. What shred of hope I had left in our system of justice evaporated with this absurd verdict.

I believe what was different about this case was the 911 tape. Without it, no one would have ever heard about it. Reminded me of the Rodney King tape, only went to trial because of the video. And, in both trials the defendants were acquitted despite what seemed to the public that there was evidence to the contrary.

No justice No peace
The only thing this verdict succeeded in doing is making every young man of color in America want to go out and get a gun... and who could blame them?

The NRA speak of rights and freedoms as part of their mantra, but we have less freedom in this country than just about any of the other Western societies. There is no freedom when there is constant fear. You can hide in a small town, or think because you are living in an upper crusty enclave (like Newtown) you will escape this violence but it will eventually be everywhere.

We are becoming more unstable as a nation due to unfair economics. The well-to-do can separate themselves in gated communities. Most of the police in NYC live in the burbs and have no interaction with people unlike them except at work where they continue to misread the body language of urban youth (and off duty cops of color) and shoot them dead.

Why six women could let him off is beyond me. They said yesterday that one was from Chicago and moved to Florida with her kids to get away from the violence. I wonder how she voted??

I, too, was gravely disappointed in this verdict.

To me, it's obvious that any angry man packing heat now feels even more empowered to gun down any of us who are different in any way that annoys him.

Whether we're young and black, old and slow, disabled or female or ... whatever, Mr. Neighborhood Watch can now pick a fight with us and execute us when we fight back, with apparent impunity.

Evidently it's "their" world, and the rest of us are only allowed to live in it when we "know our place."

I regret to say that I see a big difference in civility these days (at the risk of sounding like a 'fogey')- en route to work in heavy traffic the other morning, a pickup truck jammed in front of me, got out of his truck, slammed his fist on my window and called me a "dirty old bitch" for not letting him in (I didnt see him!) What a world of violence and anger it seems we live in now!!

When you began your post by wondering about why the Trayvon Martin case had received such coverage when others had not, I thought that wonderment was going to be the subject of your column. A recent Bill Moyers show took up just that topic:

"Distracted from Democracy

"Across the world — Greece, Spain, Brazil, Egypt — citizens are turning angrily to their governments to demand economic fair play and equality. But here in America, with few exceptions, the streets and airwaves remain relatively silent. In a country as rich and powerful as America, why is there so little outcry about the ever-increasing, deliberate divide between the very wealthy and everyone else?

"Media scholar Marty Kaplan points to a number of forces keeping these issues and affected citizens in the dark — especially our well-fed appetite for media distraction."

Kaplan talks about how such matters as the Martin trial are covered ad nauseum because of the inherent drama, while matters such as global warming and the destruction of the middle class are ignored because they are complex and have no easy answers. I think Moyers is one of the few journalists who continues to cover things that matter with indepth interviews, and I recommend his show, which can be seen online (billmoyers.com).

As to the Trayvon Martin verdict, I hardly know what to say, except that, despite what the NRA likes to say, guns DO kill people.

How can we call this the United States? It's never been LESS united. Old think versus new.
Everybody's angry...half of us carrying guns. Scary.

You don't have to be a Mom to support "Moms Demand an End to Gun Violence." Or to question why your state, like mine (Oregon), has a concealed carry law. Or admire that Kansas insurers will not insure schools that allow concealed weapons.

Late post to call attention to last night's Daily Show. John Oliver's opening feature, after a few minutes, was about the trial. It was awesome! Check it out http://www.thedailyshow.com/

Where did you read "approximately 11,000 black people have been murdered in the U.S. since young Trayvon Martin was shot by George Zimmerman in February 2012." Can you site your source? I been researching on the web and the only sites I found stating that claim were rightwing blogs. Nothing for a legitimate news source. that is why I would like to know where you read that so I can see for myself and not pass on information that is not true.

Honey...
You're right, I forgot to include the link to that statistic. I've tried to find it but am out of time to spend on it now.

I'm going to cut myself some slack on this because I almost never omit links to sources - maybe once or twice a year it happens.

So I'll assume I did this as well as I usually do and just missed providing the link this time.

I could be wrong, but I'm going with a decade of my history here.

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