Friday, March 30, 2012

The crux of the Trayvon Martin case

Reader AB writes, quite correctly in my opinion:

"In my mind you can take race and victim’s history and attacker’s history out of the equation and it boils down simply to this.  Florida’s shoot first/ask questions later law allowed this travesty to happen.
The precedent set by this case is that I can stalk someone under the broad guise that he is “suspicious”, initiate a confrontation, and kill him, and the onus is on him (now deceased) to prove that I was doing anything other than acting in self defense.  If I’m mad at my boyfriend, I can invite him over, tell authorities he was stalking me, shoot and kill him and get away with it.  If I’m jealous of my boyfriend’s girlfriend, I can do the same.  I can use that excuse for a racially motivated attack or homophobic attack or an love triangle attack – an anti-Christian, anti-Athiest, anti-Muslim or anti-Jewish attack.  Had Zimmerman been arrested after shooting Martin, this uproar would have at least been somewhat muted.  However, Florida’s idiotically vague law had to be followed, meaning there was no evidence to prove that Zimmerman wasn’t acting in some broadly defined form of self-defense.
I agree there are racist components at play here.  Had Martin shot Zimmerman, I doubt the outcome would have been the same even he attempted to invoke the same privileges under the law.  But that’s speculation and I think distracts from the crux of the problem here.  I am absolutely outraged by this case, but I don’t like how politicized it has become.  It really doesn’t matter whether or not Trayvon Martin was black or white, an honor’s student or a juvenile delinquint.  No one should have the right to approach an innocent, unarmed person, initiate a confrontation and then murder them.  “Suspicious” activity should be reported to the police.  The one indisputable fact here is that Florida’s law puts us all in danger as it gives any killer a perfect alibi."

The scary thing is that several other states beside Florida have "Stand Your Ground" laws, and several dozen others are considering them -- with, you guessed it, strong NRA support. The impetus for these laws was to extend to public areas the widely-accepted Castle Doctrine, which asserts that one can use deadly force to defend your home from an invader, and are not required to attempt retreat first.

I believe that several kinds of people push for these laws. First, there are those who mistakenly believe that personal violent assault on public streets is a statistically legitimate fear. In any case, existing law provides for self-defense if one is threatened with personal violence. No one is presumed to be strong enough to ward off, bare-handed, a severe physical assault, and people are almost never arrested if they kill an assailant in a public place and can provide evidence that they were subjected to life-threatening force.

The second kind of people pushing for these laws are serious "romantic" vigilantes -- people who have watched too many Charles Bronson movies or played too many video games, and see themselves as courageous champions and saviors of the innocent.

Third are people who actually look forward to killing -- as a thrill or adventure. Although many NRA members are of the vigilante type, I think that many of them also belong to this sadistic group, and are very anxious to get some use from their guns that is not tame target-practice. Violent racists and homophobes are significant elements of this collection.

Unfortunately, state legislators -- especially in redneck states -- are prone to pass Stand Your Ground statutes because they don't understand the consequences of what they've enacted. Let's hope that the terrible killing in Florida leads to the elimination of "right to kill" legislation.

1 comment:

  1. You've written an excellent article and I agree with everything you have said, but you left out one very important aspect. It is the reason why so many people are angry...the historical aspect.

    There has always been a "right to kill" Black men by over-zealous police. Now everyday, garden variety citizens have been given that right. It goes without saying the law needs to be overturned.

    Few people are aware that the "stand your ground" laws were introduced after some became incensed that Congress apologized for never having outlawed lynching.

    The law may well protect Zimmerman, but he should have been arrested, charged and tried. If he had prevailed, so be it, but proper legal protocol should have been followed.