Here’s the scenario:
I’m in a nightclub I frequent regularly and I see I guy whose look I don’t like. Mind you, this guy is with other people doing other things and I haven’t seen him do anything untoward as of yet—I just don’t like his look. I tell the bouncer at the club that I see this guy who just doesn’t look right to me. The bouncer, who is somewhat acquainted with me, tells me, “Thanks for letting me know. I’ll go check it out.” I say, “Let me!” The bouncer says, “I got this. Just give me a minute.” I don’t listen.
I go over, confront the guy. Words are exchanged and things get physical when I tell him I’m not ready for him to leave. Well, seems I’ve bitten off a bit more than I can chew and he starts getting the best of me in a fist fight. I pull out my gun and kill him. Is that self-defense, when I was the one who initiated the incident in the first place?
That’s the real question that should be before the jury in the trial of neighborhood watch member George Zimmerman in the killing of Trayvon Martin. Sure, there are other truly germane issues involved—some of them dealing with race—but that shouldn’t be the determination in the outcome. Did George Zimmerman kill Trayvon Martin? Yes, he did. Did he initially follow Martin through that Florida neighborhood because of Martin’s “look” (i.e., race and mode of dress)? Possibly. Does that make George Zimmerman a racist? Possibly, but not necessarily. (More on that at a later date.) But, this isn’t about thinking. It’s about what someone did and George Zimmerman did at least two things that for me—one of the “great unwashed” when it comes to legal matters—are problematic:
1. He followed and confronted Martin, even after police told him not to do so, and
2. He killed Martin, possibly after Martin got the best of Zimmerman in a confrontation Zimmerman initiated.
Of course, we don’t have all the facts the jury is hearing at the moment, but think of the case in those terms. When you do, the problem transcends race.
America is a violent nation. We like violent sports, violent entertainment and we make heroes of those who are exceptionally adept at killing and destroying human life. I’m not going to get into the gun debate, nor a debate of the justness of any particular war because that’s not the real issue. It’s how we deal with each other and confrontation. In other words, our love affair with violence seeps into our daily dealings with each other. Seems, as of late, we’ve more and more become a nation of folks quick to take matters into our own hands. Let’s get real here, folks. A lot of us hear the talk on the streets about the killings happening in this city. Many times, it’s folks taking “the law” into their own hands for problems—real or imagined—they have with other folks. A guy gets angry because someone steps on his shoes in a crowded nightclub. A heated argument ensues and security breaks it up, tells folks to chill that stuff out and let it go. But, that’s not enough for one guy. He has to get his own satisfaction, so he waits outside the club, confronts the other party and someone gets killed. Over some—hell, screw political correctness, let’s call it what it is—over some bullshit! Someone loses a son, a husband, a father in the process; and when it’s all said and done and the other person ends up in the penitentiary, another family loses a son, a husband, a father.
No, it’s not just a “black” thing. It happens in nightspots on the south end of town; it happens in barrooms on State Street. It happens all too often in too many places. Folks get it in their head that someone doesn’t “look right,” or “he’s looking at my woman funny” or just “looking,” and the have to get up to confront someone. “Hey, man! Don’t be looking at me all funny!” The bartender tells folks they’ve had enough to drink and tells them to go home. They don’t. Next thing you know, someone gets killed.
And, we justify it all as just standing up for ourselves—or “standing my ground.” But, am I standing my ground when I’m the person who got in someone’s face in the first place? As they say, I’m just asking and that’s the real question the jury should be asking in the George Zimmerman case. I’ll even grant that he probably didn’t mean to kill Trayvon Martin, but he got in over his head when he decided to take matters into his own hands as far too many do these days.
Life is a beautiful thing, though it has enough problem by its very nature. Why go looking for trouble when it isn’t necessary? When Jesus was in the wilderness being tempted, Satan told him: “if you are the Son of God, throw yourself down; for it is written, ‘He will command his angels concerning you,’ and ‘On their hands they will bear you up, so that you will not dash your foot against a stone.'” Jesus had a simple answer for the challenge: “Again it is written, ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.'”
Perhaps if we do a little less “putting God to the test” and not seeking out confrontational places and situations, we’ll have at least a tiny bit fewer problems as a society—fewer people dying from senseless street confrontations, fewer mothers crying at funerals of children, fewer children with parents in the penitentiary and fewer sensational “self-defense” trials that fan even more flames of potential violent confrontation.