Monday, July 15, 2013

Trial of the Century

I did not watch or read about every moment of the George Zimmerman trial and did not sit on the jury, so there is much I do not know about what evidence the jury actually possessed to come to their decision to acquit.  News reports suggest there was too much doubt to convict - a standard in our system of justice.  And even though George Zimmerman has been declared "not guilty" of 2nd degree murder or manslaughter, it would be a stretch to say he is completely innocent.

As a result of the acquittal (obviously the verdict they did not want), the NAACP has petitioned the US Department of Justice to consider civil rights charges against George Zimmerman because of the implications that Zimmerman's action against Trayvon Martin was racially motivated, that Zimmerman would not have followed a white kid in the same manner, all things being equal.  As much of a stretch as that accusation usually is, it is reported by Fox News that the FBI had already been involved in the investigation and had determined there were no racial factors evident.  The FBI determined the reason an "overzealous" Zimmerman "profiled" Martin not because of the color of his skin but because of what Martin was wearing.  Martin was "profiled" according to "previous burglary suspects in the community"; gang members who, according to Sanford police detective Chris Serino, typically dress in black attire and wear hoodies pulled over their heads (to hide their identities?).  Consider this hidden identity under a long-sleeved hoodie pulled over the head and wearing long pants, how could Zimmerman have identified a "black" person?  Again, there is much we do not know.

Frankly I am not sure how to feel about the outcome.  Martin was not caught in the commission of a crime.  I am a gun man and a former Marine rated as a rifle and pistol expert and I embrace the fundamentals of the 2nd Amendment, but I am extremely uncomfortable with too many armed citizens who lack appropriate respect for the destructive power of firearms, have not been sufficiently trained, or seriously vetted to carry a deadly weapon.  Case in point: the church I serve had a serious leak in the roof from which water cascaded down an interior wall during a rain.  A roof inspector found a bullet hole in the roof from the top side, indicating some fool fired a weapon into the air never considering that what goes up will soon come down.  Judging by the size of the hole in the roof, it was pretty close to a .45 caliber.  I am only thankful the bullet landed on the church's roof and not through the head of any of the young children who live right across the street!!

Extremely poor judgment absent any forethought, and this fool could likely qualify for a concealed carry permit in Arkansas to carry that same weapon!  This is the nature of the poor judgment that compelled George Zimmerman, as part of a neighborhood "watch" team, to get out of his car - armed - after the police dispatcher had advised him not to pursue.  Zimmerman did what he was expected to do initially: he reported a suspicious character wearing "gang attire" (according to the FBI's findings) to the local police, but his extreme misjudgment in his decision to follow the person (lack of forethought) led to this moment when the entire nation is actually "on trial".

Ancient wisdom proclaims that "an angry person stirs up strife, and a furious person abounds in transgression" (Book of Proverbs 29:22).  This concept has nothing to do with religion; it is a philosophy which recognizes that human emotions often compel us to act irrationally.  Such is the case with this whole Zimmerman trial and angry words from both "sides" before, during, and after the trial; words from across the nation from people who are not directly involved in this case but who have convinced themselves they have a stake in its outcome. 

Because the nation (both sides) seems so angry or sees some perverted need to be angry, "strife" and "transgression" are sure to come - not because the Zimmerman jury decided justly or unjustly but because this trial has come to reflect and represent a nation's frustrations.  Gangs run rampant through our streets and overtake entire neighborhoods leaving innocent citizens virtual prisoners in their own homes - and not safe even then as we recall reports of drive-by shootings that have left young children dead in their own beds due to bullets penetrating their once-believed "safe" walls.  The police cannot always be where we think they need when we think they need to be there because they cover a lot of ground with relatively few resources, and they can actually do very little until a crime has already been committed.

Of course we are angry, frustrated, and more than a little afraid for the safety and well-being of our loved ones!  We would like to be so bold as to take some decisive action to stem the apparent tide of lawlessness, and maybe we would not mind being hailed as a home-town hero for saving the day.  We watch a government seemingly more concerned with the civil rights of criminals while our civil rights to "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness" seem substantially stunted or outright shunned.  Make no mistake, however; George Zimmerman is no hero even as he is a reflection of our frustrations and fears.  He has become as much a victim as Trayvon Martin was.  George Zimmerman is us, and our anger and frustrations are still on trial and will be for years to come.    

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