... a deadly mix.
I find it encouraging to see the outrage--now nation-wide--caused by the shooting death of the young Trayvon Martin. I can barely imagine the anguish of his family, but is it possible that his death will prove to be one of those pivotal moments in our history that leads to change? I hope so. The incident pushes so many of our hot buttons--racism, vigilantism, the possession of guns, the right to carry them the laws that govern their use.
Obviously, the man who shot Trayvon has not yet been tried and convicted, so he is protected by the presumption of innocence. Still, given the bare bones of the story, it's virtually impossible to construct the events in any light that's favorable to him. To argue "self-defense" would be a stretch in the case of a man who makes a judgment on the basis of a hoodie and a black face, who pursues the victim despite the instruction of the police dispatcher not to do so, who chooses to get out of his vehicle with a loaded gun and provokes a dispute. None of this was necessary for his defense.
Again, I do not know all the facts surrounding the subsequent events, but the outrage is provoked by the fact that the assailant in the case has not been arrested or charged. The suggestion is that he was handled in a friendly manner by police and favored by a new Florida "Stand Your Ground" gun law that allows greater latitude for the definition of self-defense. The aggressive language of the law's title is, to my mind, in itself provocative to the mind already prone to aggressive action.
The question posed by Ed Schultz on his television talk show last night is a telling one: Would the police have been more aggressive, he asked, had the victim been white and the shooter black? I don't think there could be any doubt about this. I can't help but think that a black assailant in an otherwise identical circumstance would have been quickly arrested and thrown in jail.
Will this prove one of those watershed events that change hearts and minds and raise the level of consciousness in the matter of gun possession? Given the insane laxity of our current laws, the apparently iron grip of the gun lobby on our legislature and the almost daily news reports of senseless gun violence, I can only hope so. There seem to be serious efforts under way not to let the racist aspect of this incident go unnoticed. Could it be that mass demonstrations will result, across the country? It's the kind of trigger that could release a great deal of barely suppressed anger, the kind that was provoked by the murder of Dr. Martin Luther King. These days, however, it seems likely to me that any mass protest would be peaceful--and I for one would welcome such a show of solidarity.