Given that the events occurred not far from home, yet have become international news, I'll say a few words about the Trayvon Martin case.  Not many (by my standards), because, frankly, no one knows enough to say anything definitive, though that's not stopping everyone and his sisters and his cousins and his aunts from speaking out.

I won't say, "it's not about race," because it may very well have been—who knows what was going on in the mind of George Zimmerman.  Or Trayvon Martin, for that matter.  But from where I sit, it's about a lot more than race.  "Walking while black" was only one of three strikes against him, though it may have been the fatal one.  He was also walking while male, and walking while young.

I've written before of the frightening, and abusive, encounter that a young friend had with the police, a young man whose only "crime" was biking while young, and male, and (legitimately) in his own neighborhood at a time when the deputy thought he should have been sitting in a school classroom.  Certainly it was wrong of Zimmerman to consider Martin to be suspicious based on race, if those were indeed his thoughts, but it is equally wrong to suspect someone of ill intent based on sex or age, and I believe that happens frequently, insidiously, under the public radar, and without going viral on social media.

In Travon Martin's case—as in O.J. Simpson's, and Casey Anthony's—it's the public uproar that has me the most concerned, however.  We the People believe we know better than those who have seen the evidence and heard the arguments, and want "justice" done without any respect for or patience with the due process guaranteed every one of us.  Yes, the system sometimes fails, sometimes makes mistakes; I've seen it fail our own family.  But vigilante "justice" is a terrifying prospect.  Remember A Man for All Seasons?

What would you do? Cut a great road through the law to get after the Devil? ... And when the last law was down, and the Devil turned round on you—where would you hide ... the laws all being flat? This country is planted thick with laws from coast to coast ... and if you cut them down—and you're just the man to do it—do you really think you could stand upright in the winds that would blow then? Yes, I give the Devil benefit of law, for my own safety's sake!

Without implying comment one way or another on the Second Amendment issue, I'll end with a quotation from Robert Heinlein's science fiction book, Tunnel in the Sky, in which a seasoned military officer expounds on the dangers of guns in the hands of the untrained:

One time in a hundred a gun might save your life; the other ninety-nine it will just tempt you into folly. ... I know how good a gun feels.  It makes you bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, three meters tall and covered with hair.  You're ready for anything and kind of hoping you'll find it.  Which is exactly what is dangerous about it.

Such folly took away Trayvon Martin's life, and destroyed George Zimmerman's.  There's a reason police officers receive intensive training—and even so they occasionally make fatal mistakes when threatened.  That our young friend was merely abused, rather than shot, may have had less to do with his not being black than with being accosted by a real sheriff's deputy rather than a wannabe.

Posted by sursumcorda on Tuesday, March 27, 2012 at 1:26 pm | Edit
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Lest anyone question the validity of my fears of vigilantism, here's the story of an innocent, elderly couple who have received threats and been forced to leave home because their address has been passed around on Twitter as that of George Zimmerman.

And here are some facts to counter the falsehoods that abound on social media.

Lies do not promote justice. Lies passed along unwittingly and in ignorance are still lies, and can still do irreparable harm.

Posted by SursumCorda on Wednesday, March 28, 2012 at 7:32 am
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