Dead Men’s Dirt

Sunday, 11pm

I hadn’t intended to write about Trayvon Martin or George Zimmerman, but tonight as I sit a block away from Hollywood Blvd, police helicopters are noisily hovering overhead less than a mile west of here as a crowd protesting the verdict makes its way east along the street. The case hit a nerve in America. You can’t escape it.

Earlier today, on the other side of town, in South Central L.A., the Los Angeles Coalition for Community Control Over the Police and Occupy L.A. held a demonstration at Crenshaw and Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevards. Protesters are still there. The LAPD is on tactical alert and they’ve blocked off the exits and entrances to the 10 Freeway leading to Crenshaw and the surrounding area.

So far, the protests have been peaceful.

Like many, I was disappointed with the verdict, however it seemed to me that the prosecution failed to make a strong enough case. Either that, or they were simply outclassed by the courtroom skills of the defense team.

It seems clear that at some point Trayvon Martin was on top of Zimmerman. If I was in that situation, I might be in fear of my life, too. But I wouldn’t be carrying a gun. George Zimmerman created the situation that led to young Martin’s death. Zimmerman profiled. He followed. Perhaps Martin confronted him. I don’t think that matters. Zimmerman started it and should take responsibility for his actions, or be held accountable for them.

I have mixed feelings about self-defense or “Stand Your Ground” laws. You should have a right to defend yourself when threatened. However, the weakness in these laws is that they indemnify those who provoke violent confrontations, and in a society where bullying remains on the rise, this lack of consideration for cause and effect is a very serious defect. Just because I can legally carry a gun, does that mean I should stalk someone I am suspicious of, and then when they don’t like it, shoot them dead and get away with it? I don’t think so.

It’s a good thing people are outraged. If it continues the debate over racial profiling, gun and self-defense laws then Trayvon Martin’s legacy will be a positive one.

I didn’t intend to write about the case . . .

Trayvon Martin didn’t intend to be another Emmett Till, who was 14 years old in 1955 when he was unjustly accused of suspicious activity (allegedly whistling at a white woman), rousted out of his great-uncle’s house, beat up with one of his eyes gouged out, shot in the head, and then dumped in a river.

Trayvon Martin didn’t intend to get into a confrontation with George Zimmerman when he stopped at the 7/11 and then began to walk home. He didn’t intend to get himself killed that night.

What George Zimmerman intended seems pretty obvious, and yet, he was found not guilty.

Fifty years ago, another Zimmerman wrote these words about Emmett Till:

If you can’t speak out against this kind of thing, a crime that’s so unjust
Your eyes are filled with dead men’s dirt, your mind is filled with dust
Your arms and legs they must be in shackles and chains, and your blood
it must refuse to flow
For you let this human race fall down so God-awful low!

–  Bob Dylan

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