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All He Had To Do Was Stay In His Car

The George Zimmerman verdict upsets me, yes. I won’t argue points of law or reasonable doubt. Maybe the jury had no choice, and that’s frustrating. But condoning vigilantism, as too many are, well that is horrifying, as is the idea that it was okay this time because it was “that kid.” That’s pretty much the same mindset that hears about an inner city toddler caught by a drive-by bullet and says, “Oh well. One less future gangbanger, and one less kid on the welfare rolls.”

Every child has worth. Inner city or southern bayou or suburban privilege, it doesn’t matter. Inside every young person is a wealth of potential. When we lose a child, whether to violence or abuse or accident or illness, we lose a piece of the future. And no single piece can be dismissed as less worthy or important than the next. Who knows which child might have invented a viable solar car or envisioned an answer to the Middle East conflict or written a bestselling novel, or captivated the world with his violin?

No baby is born a gangbanger. Circumstance creates gangs. Kids join because that’s what they know, and where they feel safe and acknowledged. There are no easy answers to this problem, or the violence associated with it. But without hope for something better, and a real chance out of poverty and crime, it will only perpetuate itself. There must be solutions, but who cares enough to look for them? Dismissing an entire segment of our society as worthy of bullets accomplishes nothing. Just as a Harvard education can’t guarantee a stellar career, being born the ‘hood doesn’t necessarily deny one.

There is no place in a civilized society for vigilantism. It’s a byproduct of fear and anger, and neither emotion is conducive to rational thought. Zimmerman’s actions that night were irrational, and caused the death of “that kid,” who didn’t deserve to die. Maybe Trayvon Martin would have ended up a weed dealer. Or maybe he would have been a physicist or an engineer or a dancer or a dog whisperer. We’ll never know, will we? But he deserved the chance to find out. And so, maybe, did the rest of the world.

Addendum: I first posted the above on Facebook yesterday. Beyond the awful names people called me, I was forced to defend my use of the word "vigilante." According to Merriam-Webster, a vigilante is a "self-appointed doer of justice." Another definition says "operating outside of the law." The National Neighborhood Watch Institute handbook and website say
, "Always remember that your responsibility is to report crime. Do not take any risks to prevent a crime or try to make an arrest. The responsibility for apprehending criminals belongs to the police/sheriff. Neighborhood Watch participants act as additional eyes and ears for law enforcement. They do not take the law into their own hands."


( 1 comment — Leave a comment )
Jul. 19th, 2013 12:07 am (UTC)
Zimmerman was a Dirty Harry wannabe the didn't have the cred to manage a gangly 17 year old. He should have got manslaughter.
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