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