Sunday, July 14, 2013

Trayvon Martin and the Eternal Present

You've surely heard by now that George Zimmerman has been found not guilty of any crime in the death of Trayvon Martin. The Martin/Zimmerman case seems to assume that we all exist in an "eternal present" -- I can menace and threaten you all I want, but the second you get scared and fight back, none of my prior behavior matters -- only that one second in the present, where I feel endangered, is worth considering.

I support the personal right to gun ownership, the right to self-defense, but "self-defense" does not entail stalking and shooting unarmed kids on the street. No, not even if those kids are black.

I will freely admit I sympathized with Martin from the get-go because I often do the exact same thing he did on the night he died -- leave my house after dark, buy something innocuous at the corner store and then return home. And the idea that my doing so gives any random gun-toting stranger the right to assume (sans evidence) that I am a dangerous threat, stalk me through the streets and then kill me if I get defensive ... holy crap.

Except that's not true. No gun-toting stranger (unless he's a cop with a badge) has the legal right to assume the mere sight of me is a threat -- when an unarmed middle-class white woman is shot dead in the street, the cops will immediately investigate with the assumption "A crime has been committed."  But when an unarmed black man (or teenager on the cusp of becoming one) is shot dead, the cops won't even bother collecting evidence from the scene--just take the word of the shooter when he says "Oh, yeah, he was totally a threat."

I have a friend who takes a different view; she said "I think if my head had been scraped against the concrete and my nose had been broken I'd want to defend myself too by any means necessary." Which is true IF you focus on the eternal present -- ignore completely the fact that YOU initially decided the guy was a threat, YOU called 911 to growl about those "fucking asshole punks" who "always get away," YOU followed the guy first in your car and then on foot ... and YOU have the legal right to be afraid of him and behave accordingly, but HE, apparently, does not have the legal right to be afraid of you.

It's similar to how YOU have no right to take umbrage if TSA wants to give you a freedom fingerbang, but the TSAgent is justified in having you arrested for assault if you slap her filthy paw away from your genitalia -- the only thing that matters is what the TSAhole is thinking, NOT anything he or she did leading up to that. Except the TSAhole can at least cite the crappy Nuremberg defense "I was just following orders." George Zimmerman can't even claim that.

I remember once, when I was a kid, reading a book of Family Circus cartoons -- the cover showed one of the cute little FC boys crying and pointing his finger accusingly, and saying "Jeffy [or Billy or Dolly, one of his siblings] hit me back!" That's the attitude I get from Zimmerman and his defenders -- of course I had to shoot and kill the unarmed kid, because Trayvon threatened me back!


Anonymous Enyap said...

The prosecutions own star witness said that Trayvon told her that he had gotten to his house. This incident only happened because Trayvon went back to confront Zimmerman. The fact that Zimmerman had previously followed Martin is irelavent, since it's was Martin doing the following prior to his death.

2:18 PM  
Anonymous Enyap said...

and do you actually support Zimmerman's prosecution or just personally disapprove of his actions, exactly how does the case against him pass the reasonable doubt threshold?

2:24 PM  
Blogger Jennifer Abel said...

Enyap, I completely reject any suggestion that the right to self-defense should include the right to instigate a fight and then kill your opponent once you start losing.

2:51 PM  
Anonymous Enyap said...

Zimmerman did not instigate the fight, Martin had already made it home and went back to confront Zimmerman.

3:06 PM  
Blogger Jess Austin said...

Enyap, the reason you and thousands of old-scared-dude comment-page fellow travelers believe Zimm's bullshit story (to which he wasn't even brave enough to testify, something about "not being able to withstand cross-ex" or whatever), is that you look at Zimms and see yourself, and you look at Martin and see the devil. You see this even though Zimms is a grown-ass man with a decade of life, 50 lbs. (well during the trial, 120 lbs.: he's been on Dr. Nick's Diet), numerous arrests for violence, and six months of MMA training over Martin. (I remember being 5-11/158, in high school: the vast majority of my male classmates and even many of my female classmates could kick my ass.)

It was the same for the jury of six middle-aged white women. That this jury even passed the laugh test tells us all we need to know about our "justice" system, and the supine groveling news media.

I am CCW, and I know if I bring a gun to a fistfight I'll probably end up a murderer, just like Zimms the Impunious. Even if we stipulate to the bullshit story, it means Martin was only guilty of assault, as he allegedly escalated force from an argument to a brawl. Martin wasn't the one who escalated to lethal force. I've had numerous concussions, ruptured organs, and other actual injuries, and I don't classify bloody scrapes on the back of a shaved head (why do people shave their heads? we evolved head hair for a reason!) as such. I'll grant that his nose qualified as an injury, but it didn't threaten his life, and when you incite a brawl you should be prepared to take the ass-kicking you deserve. If you wouldn't stalk a kid without carrying a gun, you shouldn't stalk the kid, period.

What would a mature, wise, courageous, armed citizen have done? He wouldn't have stalked Martin, but rather would have walked right up to him and talked with him: "Hi I'm George from the neighborhood association I haven't seen you around where are you staying are you lost would you like a ride in my truck out of the rain?" Martin might well have been rude in response, but no way in hell would he have felt threatened enough to punch anyone in the nose. It is actually possible to talk to black dudes you don't know; I've done it and both me and the dudes in question survived.

11:54 AM  
Anonymous Enyap said...

Jess, my story comes from the prosecutions own fucking star witness, not Zimmerman.

8:35 PM  
Blogger Monkey said...

This is NOT just an "in the moment" case, it is a "what is legal" case.

Zimmerman followed Martin, that is true. Being followed can be really REALLY annoying, so I understand why Martin was pissed off.

However just as Martin has the right to travel where he wants, so does Zimmerman, and that includes following Martin. Marin was also within his rights to ask Zimmerman why he was following him.

The question remains; who initiated physical contact. Zimmerman had less reason, Martin was the one pissed off about being followed.

We both agree that Zimmerman was annoying, my point is you are not allowed to assault someone engaged in a legal activity just because it's annoying you.

"I've had numerous concussions, ruptured organs, and other actual injuries, and I don't classify bloody scrapes on the back of a shaved head (why do people shave their heads? we evolved head hair for a reason!) as such. I'll grant that his nose qualified as an injury, but it didn't threaten his life, and when you incite a brawl you should be prepared to take the ass-kicking you deserve."

As stated above, Zimmerman broke no law by following Martin.

By these accounts Zimmerman WAS on the bottom, held down, with no means of escape.

"A man who said he witnessed George Zimmerman's shooting of Trayvon Martin told a court today that what he saw indicated that Martin was on top of Zimmerman moments before Zimmerman shot and killed Martin."

"Vincent Di Maio, a former chief medical examiner from Texas, told the jury that the evidence was consistent with Zimmerman's account. The powder burns found on Martin's shirt show that the shirt was two to four inches from his body, indicating he was leaning over Zimmerman when he was shot, Di Maio said.

"If you are lying on your back your clothing is going to be against your chest," Di Maio said, according to ABC News. "The clothing is consistent with someone leaning over the person doing the shooting.""

People don't have some built in injury meter that tells them how much of a beating they can take before it becomes traumatic/fatal. Usually the self defense law reads something like "believed was about to receive great bodily harm", NOT "has to be already mortally injured"

Zimmerman had violated no laws so was under no legal obligation to take a continuous beating hoping that Martin would tire himself out before Zimmerman DID receive serious injury.

Your argument is based on emotionalism and what you think is morally right. The jury had to go by the law, and legally Zimmerman did have a right to shoot Martin. Not just "in the moment", but because Zimmerman broke no laws in anything that preceded it too.

Was Zimmerman an annoying dick? Most likely, but under current law being a dickhead doesn't justify assault.

8:57 AM  

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