Sunday, July 14, 2013

George Zimmerman verdict: my reaction

For months I've spared you, but here are my thoughts on the case. If they are not the most vacuous such you read today, then it won't be a total waste, I suppose.

I believe the verdict was just. Trayvon Martin was committing no crime and had a right to be in the neighborhood. But if I or any of my family gets assaulted by a hotheaded young man who is in a fury for being "dissed", then yeah: self-defense is a basic human right, open and shut. I like to think that I would feel the same way no matter the races of the parties involved.

At the same time, I do suspect that things would have developed differently had Zimmerman ended up dead, and Martin left to explain himself to the police. (Assuming he didn't run away & his family & friends shield him with omerta) Trayvon would have been arrested immediately & charged with murder, later knocked down to manslaughter or some such. A conviction would have been almost certain. And the whole thing would have been a two-day story in the Orlando Sentinel.

Thomas Sowell once posited a distinction between justice and "cosmic justice". This trial could not have righted the historic wrongs suffered by American blacks, nor could have any other trial. It was a mistake to have expected such a thing, to have freighted the case with so much baggage--so much irrelevant baggage. But popular passions have a way of washing away such nice sharp distinctions of the law. That's why we have a rule of law, and jury trials.

Tough case! I can see all sides. I can see the resentment of the young man being profiled. I can see the resentment of the citizen fed up with crime plaguing his neighborhood. I can see the fear of the parents, worried that one slip by their teen children will result in jail or worse. And I can see the fear of people imagining themselves attacked by feral street thugs--especially after last summer's highly publicized rash of black flash mob violence ("White Girl Bleed A Lot"). If I'm held to it, though, I would have to find for the defendant and the principle of self defense.

Most every commentator I've seen has been citing other cases, to make points of cheap parallelism or inconsistency. I'm no better so here's mine: This is a case from the end of the 19th Century. A church-going, law-abiding black farmer was escorting his elderly parents home from church on Christmas Eve. He was beset by three drunk young white men, possibly dressed up as KKK. They had been making trouble in town, until sent away by the police. They followed him home, shot off fireworks in front of his house, and threatened to shoot his dog. He came out of his house into the road and knifed two of them, killing one. Verdict: guilty of murder, mostly based on the testimony of the surviving stabbing victim, sustained on appeal. Make of it what you will...

Sidebar: the expectations of riots was an insult to the black community--no matter who was predicting them.