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Gun Violence, Trayvon’s Lifeless Body, and American Cowardice

If Americans want to stop gun violence and legislation that goes beyond the Second Amendment Americans must see the results of expansive gun laws.

If Americans want to stop gun violence and legislation that goes beyond the Second Amendment Americans, we must see the results of our gun laws. [photo via Gawker]

OUR JUVENILE citizenry preens outrage at gun violence, but doesn’t want to show the reality of what happens when irresponsible citizens like George Zimmerman get the privilege of a concealed carry permit then think it’s a license to kill after inciting a confrontation that never had to happen. A new film debuting this month, “Fruitvale Station,” the story of and tragic killing of Oscar Grant III now plays like foreshadowing to Trayvon Martin’s murder. It should teach everyone what it means to be black in America. That will certainly be driven home if the jury sitting in the George Zimmerman trial comes back with a not guilty verdict, with justice once again shown to be blind, but not in any way she should.

Gawker was right to show the photo. What’s obscene is the column that appears in the Washington Times, as these hacks bemoan a DOJ staffer recognizing that the killing of Trayvon Martin was worthy of justice, with the case at its heart a civil rights issue.

To digress one moment so you understand the importance of showing the photo above, back when Nicholas Berg was abducted and then beheaded in Iraq, this site offered, at much expense, what had happened to him through a video. Traffic means nothing on something like that compared to doing my job as a publisher and editor on the web; huge hits one day diminish as quickly as they come, drive-by lookers only interested in the latest thrill, not the writing on this site that is its lifeblood. For me, it is my job as publisher and editor to show the truth. We’d be a different country if we’d quit lying to ourselves.

There was plenty of evidence against George Zimmerman to get the second degree murder conviction that is deserved in this crime. The reason I believe so many legal analysts and amateurs on gun issues don’t believe the jury will convict on this charge is because the prosecution, led by Bernie de la Rionda, didn’t want to try the case from the reality of race. Certainly Judge Nelson made it clear through her instructions that fanning racial flames wouldn’t be tolerated, which is right, enforcing “racial profiling” couldn’t be cited, while “profiling” could. However, as the testimony of Olivia Bertalan illustrated, there was opportunity to stress more completely that the profiling of Trayvon Martin by George Zimmerman, who had become frustrated long before he got out of his car on the night Martin was murdered, takes deeper root after the discussion Zimmerman had with Bertalan. She testified they talked maybe 20 times after two African American teenagers, as she described the robbers in the harrowing home invasion, which scared her into moving from the neighborhood.

A concealed carry permit doesn’t mean you can threaten unarmed citizens. For people like George Zimmerman it seems to give them the courage to do what they want without having to pay the price for their hatred. As you can imagine, my husband and I have talked about this case a lot. It’s Mark’s contention, a firearms expert who has had a concealed carry permit upon my urging, is that George Zimmerman had an obligation to warn Trayvon Martin, to tell him to get back, then clearly state he was armed. Now, people can disagree with that, but even reasonable gun owners like ourselves believe you don’t get to sneak and surprise someone you’ve profiled with a loaded weapon, especially when that person is unarmed.

With a concealed carry weapon you also, first of all, do not engage in the escalation of an event that training should tell you can only lead to a bad outcome. Anyone who does so is irresponsibly flaunting the privilege that has no roots in the Second Amendment, but is a modern political evolution of the lobbying of immoral capitalists.

There is a reason George Zimmerman spit out the words “Fucking punks. Those assholes, they always get away,” then made the fateful choice to leave his car with a concealed carry weapon. It begins with Trayvon Martin walking in the dark wearing a hoodie, which is shorthand for walking while black. It’s because he had hate in his heart, his mind and his intent, as John Guy elucidated in his rebuttal argument.

There is no way George Zimmerman could have gotten to his concealed carry with Trayvon Martin straddling him, which has been proven conclusively. If you were skeptical at first, watching Mark O’Mara dishonestly move the position of George Zimmerman’s holster from the back hip, inside his pants holster, emphasized the truth, as did O’Mara never addressing this fact in closing. The only way Martin and Zimmerman could have struggled to the point of the latter feeling threatened is if Zimmerman had long before pulled his gun on Martin, who then was afraid for his life and for good reasons. Zimmerman had gotten out of his car, which Martin knew, and he was alone as a man somewhere behind him, trailed him. What would you do if you thought you were about to lose your life? Zimmerman knew he had a gun. Trayvon Martin knew he didn’t. The exaggeration of the Zimmerman’s wounds, which even the defense finally had to acknowledge, showed blood after Martin was killed, but no DNA on him or under his fingernails. If blood washes off, it washes off of everyone.

George Zimmerman had called the police and also knew they were on their way.

The timeliness of “Fruitvale Station” is remarkable, which tells the story of a young man that is the picture of a black man that George Zimmerman had in his head when he went walking to see what Trayvon Martin was doing walking in the rain, in the dark. Unlike Trayvon Martin, Oscar Grant III had been to prison, couldn’t hold a job and continued to sell drugs, while vowing to change his life. The honesty is likely one reason it won a Sundance award in 2013. The film reportedly confronts what it’s like to be black in America, especially when being confronted by police.

In the early hours of Jan. 1, 2009, Oscar Grant III, unarmed and lying face down on a subway platform in Oakland, Calif., was shot in the back by a white Bay Area Rapid Transit police officer. The incident, captured on video by onlookers, incited protest, unrest and arguments similar to those that would swirl around the killing of Trayvon Martin in Florida a few years later. The deaths of these and other African-American young men (Mr. Grant was 22) touch some of the rawest nerves in the body politic and raise thorny and apparently intractable issues of law and order, violence and race.

And, in truth, Mr. Coogler has made that movie, even as he has also made one full of anger, grief and frustration. His main intention — and his great achievement, as well as Mr. Jordan’s — is to make Oscar a fully human presence, to pay him the respect of acknowledging his complexities and contradictions. The radicalism of “Fruitvale Station” lies precisely here, in its refusal to turn a man into a symbol. Nearly every black man, whether or not he is president, tends to be flattened out by popular culture and the psychopathology of everyday American life, rendered as an innocent victim, a noble warrior or a menace to society. There is a dehumanizing violence in this habit, a willed, toxic blindness that “Fruitvale Station” at once exposes and resists.

[New York Times review]

There are people that make us afraid, whether we want to admit it or not. That’s life in America, race always one moment away in urbran centers or places like Sanford, Florida where the police called African Americans “porch monkeys.”

The close of A.O. Scott’s Times review echoes all the way to Sanford, Florida.

.. The climactic encounter with BART police officers erupts in a mood of vertiginous uncertainty, defusing facile or inflammatory judgments and bending the audience’s reflexive emotional horror and moral outrage toward a necessary and difficult ethical inquiry. How could this have happened? How did we — meaning any one of us who might see faces like our own depicted on that screen — allow it?

American cowardice, which includes the whines about media saturation of the George Zimmerman trial, is why Trayvon Martin is dead. The George Zimmerman trial is about civil rights. Any serious news media outlet not covering this trial is part of the problem and encouraging further American cowardice on what’s going on in communities that so many whites don’t want to see.

Showing the lifeless body of Trayvon Martin requires no apology to Sybrian Fulton or Tracy Martin, because it is shown in the full transparency of what this crimes means. If people are repelled perhaps they will also choke on what’s happening in our country. That Americans see the results of our gun law expansion and witness the example of innocence gunned down through “self-defense” claims that have no basis in the U.S. Constitution, because people like George Zimmerman are taking away the ultimate rights of others.

MSNBC’s accidental showing of the real truth of this crime is illustrative of just how far journalism has fallen. It’s media’s job to be honest, transparent and report the news. Civil rights being crushed is news. Is it any wonder that some morning shows are making light of the importance of this trial, mocking coverage of the George Zimmerman trial? That’s because they are a faux news program with celebrity their beat, with such delicate sensibilities that they wouldn’t want to upset anyone drinking their morning brew.

The George Zimmerman trial isn’t equivalent to Casey Anthony, which has been said on cable in defense of coverage. That many in our media can’t lead viewers to discern the difference is leading this country into a deeper moral mess. Is it any wonder that the Voting Rights Act is seen as passé?

Gun violence is taking brown and black lives by the dozens, just as the Iraq war and Afghanistan took the lives of Americans of all colors, but also innocent civilians. Yet Americans aren’t allowed to see the result of our actions, which goes all the way down to our streets, whether it’s the death of Trayvon Martin or an even younger child in Chicago caught in the crossfire of gang violence.

News is entertainment. Gawker being accused of being a click whore. The risk to posting the picture is as great today as is the nonchalance about some in media refusing to cover the civil rights trial to get justice for Trayvon Martin.

America needs to look at Trayvon Martin’s lifeless body. A 17-year-old teen, what any parent would call a kid if he were your own, who was doing nothing but walking on the street, in the dark, wearing a hoodie to protect himself from the rain, when George Zimmerman got out of his car, fueled with the story of Olivia Bertalan and others in his neighborhood. Only this time that fucking punk wasn’t going to get away with it like these assholes always do.

The crime is worthy of a second-degree murder charge, even if the state didn’t have the backbone to wade into the race issue that threads through the crime. The witnesses and George Zimmerman’s own words tell the tale of race without having to play the race card.

Civil rights attorneys are involved on behalf of Sybrina Fulton and the Martin family, because there would be no justice if they weren’t.

If George Zimmerman gets away with murder it has wider ramifications for the gun violence in this country, but also the gun laws.

Laws are not static things. They breathe through the impact they have on the American citizenry. We have juries for a reason. To put humanity into the laws being tested in our courts. When you don’t bring the human and moral components to how laws are interpreted by citizens accused of a crime, you remove the beating heart of justice.

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11 Responses to Gun Violence, Trayvon’s Lifeless Body, and American Cowardice

  1. ladywalker68 July 13, 2013 at 12:52 pm #

    “For me, it is my job as publisher and editor to show the truth. We’d be a different country if we’d quit lying to ourselves.”


    You know, I thought long and hard about whether or not to click the link in the post of the other thread. But I had to because of the attempted character assassinations of Trayvon and his family by Zimmerman supporters.

    My first reaction is that he looked much like my own kid when he was 17. In other words, my reaction is, “My God, he was just a kid.”

    He was NOT a 6’2″ 200 pound hulking thug that turned the tables on wimpy kid wanna-be cop Zimmerman who could have avoided the entire situation if he had just minded his own business. Trayvon Martin was 5’11″ and weighed 158 pounds. Zimmerman is 5’7 and I have heard weights on him ranging from 185 to over 200. So at a minimum, he had at least a 27 pound advantage AND A GUN!

    And you know what? As a mother, to those and the defense who claim Martin should have just run home: a) my guess is that if he had tried to run, Zimmerman would have shot him in the back and b) 17-year-old boys don’t always use the best judgement or act or react in ways that make sense to someone who might be, say 28 or 29.

    But then again, I also know that age doesn’t matter as much as the individual. I have known 17-year-olds that do really dumb stuff and others that are wise beyond their years, certainly wiser than Zimmerman who behaved like an idiot and wound up cutting short the life of a kid. And I have also known people well into their 30′s who still behave like kids with no common sense.

    I also am close someone who is a police office and know what he had to go through to make the force. He has been in this position for 6 years and to my knowledge has yet to use his firearm. But here, if an officer uses his firearm and injures or kills someone, they are immediately placed on administrative leave and there is an investigation to make sure the use of deadly force is justified.

    There is a reason George Zimmerman tried to be a policeman and failed and the way the events unfolded that resulted in him murdering Martin demonstrate why. He didn’t know WTF he was doing and he handled the entire situation horribly. He didn’t have the psychological or physical aptitude to be in law enforcement, BUT he had a gun and boy, those guns give people like Zimmerman a grandiose sense of one’s self, when in fact, he is a coward and a liar.

    So at the very least, this incident deserved as much scrutiny as would any incident if it had been an officer-involved shooting. Zimmerman deserved to be tried for killing Martin, and in my opinion, manslaughter lets him off too easy.

    I have been on the fence thinking manslaughter would be the right call. But now, murder in the 2nd degree gets my vote.

    There was an effing punk on the loose that night and his name is George Zimmerman.

    • Taylor Marsh July 13, 2013 at 12:59 pm #

      Wow. There’s nothing to add except thanks so much for making such an impassioned comment for justice.

      On manslaughter, one note, which is if you look at what Mr. Zimmerman could be facing, especially with the hand gun added, he still could get 30 years, minimum of 10. That’s a serious penalty. Losing your liberty a harrowing result, no matter what might have been possible if the state would have simply used the testimony before them, starting with Zimmerman’s own words.

      • ladywalker68 July 13, 2013 at 1:46 pm #

        Taylor-Thanks for clarifying the penalty for the manslaughter charge.

        When I used the term “easy” it was more of a metaphor for “white-washing” what actually happened, as in, manslaughter has less of a stigma to it than murder.

        But yes, getting 10 to 30 years regardless of the charge would in my view be some justice in this case.

        I applaud you for calling people out who want to scream about their right to own a gun, or our right to wage war on foreign land and send drones that kill innocents and general population and our troops, but who would rather look the other way and not face the reality of the carnage that results from our actions.

  2. PeggySue July 13, 2013 at 1:53 pm #

    I think this photo says it all. The pro-Zimmerman forces would have you believe that Trayvon Martin was a thug in the making, a hulking menace with mayhem on his mind. This photo is of a kid, a dead kid, dressed the way any one of my own son’s would have dressed at the same age–the skinny jeans, the white sneakers, the sweatshirt.

    I’m not sure the prosecution ‘proved’ 2nd degree in this case but a determination of manslaughter is warranted at the very least. A kid is dead who shouldn’t be. Zimmerman would never have followed Martin if he hadn’t been armed and he was instructed by the police not to follow. The ‘stand your ground law’ is being used as a license to kill. It’s absolutely irresponsible and immoral. If Trayvon Martin had been white and Zimmerman black, I dare say there’d be no question of guilt in the matter.

    The photo says it all. I can’t imagine [as a parent myself] seeing this image of my son. Heartbreaking!

  3. secularhumanizinevoluter July 13, 2013 at 2:01 pm #

    Now, now…this is all just race hustling and race baiting by Obama, Holder and the LIBERAL media…this hulking, pot fired up menace to society just got what he had coming….didn’t you hear Heraldo…the Jurey would have shot him SOONER then ZimmeRAMBOn did! heck….look at some of the thoughtful, well informed comments made here?

    • ladywalker68 July 13, 2013 at 2:21 pm #

      Me thinks Has-Been-Heraldo has been feeling neglected lately and wants attention, so he makes this outrageous claim to get his mug front and center for a few news cycles to provoke negative responses for which he later apologizes except it appears as if few people really care. He just needs to go back under the rock he recently slithered from. My apologies in advance to the bugs and insects this creep will scare away….

  4. Jell-OH Schott July 13, 2013 at 3:09 pm #

    Where are the pro GZ commenters (calling you Whitepaw)? He was a person, not a cardboard cutout. Peace.

  5. Ga6thDem July 13, 2013 at 3:18 pm #

    Sure undercuts everything the pro-Zimmerman people have been saying.

  6. dafederalist July 13, 2013 at 4:54 pm #

    Well…I certainly agree with the posting of the picture. It adds a human face, it forces people to acknowledge the victim, Trayvon Martin. I think the prosecution did a shitty (Pardon my french) Job presenting 2nd Degree murder (In which there is an abundance of evidence to support),.What did Hannibal Lecter say in Silence of the Lambs….”We begin by coveting what we see every day”. Without this picture…Trayvon is a Thug according to many with arterial motives (Gun righters: who justify anything as long as it involves a gun and racist: who wouldnt see Trayvon as a human being let alone a kid)…He is a gansta wannabe, a thug according to the defense…that’s why the defense wanted to introduce those text messages so badly….to give the jury an easy out in justifying an acquittal. It is certainly a lot easier to justify killing someone who is unarmed if they are seen as a thug rather than a kid wearing khaki skinny jeans. (I have never, in my life seen a hoodlum wearing khaki skinny jeans). Posting this picture forces everyone to acknowledge that this could have been any kid….It just happened to be Sabrina Fulton’s.

  7. dafederalist July 13, 2013 at 4:56 pm #

    On a side note…did anyone else know that at the time Trayvon was suspended from school for possession of a marijuana bag, that he had a 3.6 GPA?

  8. Lake Lady July 13, 2013 at 8:24 pm #

    What a great piece Taylor. Thank you for this and for your exellent coverage of this trial.

    It is just gobsmacking to me the extent of racism alive our country. I don’t know why. I am not uninformed nor naive about it. I taught teens just like Trayvon and I knew how hard their everyday lives were because of it.They told me about it I saw it when we were in the community together. I have all my life been aware of the structural endemic racism in our country.

    But there is somthing different in the quality of it now. It is so out there and public and vicious.I know that historically that has been true through the ages so it must be just the amount of mass communication that makes it so obvious now. That and straight out fear in the white population. I think having the Obama family in the White House has just made a portion of our population lose their minds.Literally. Finally, they are shocked into the knowledge of our growing demographic change and the one thing that made them feel superior ( white dominance) is going to change.They cannot handle it. I am very worried that we will see more not fewer incidents like this. More not fewer ignorant people are armed to the teeth.They are financially insecure and are being driven by rightwing craven leaders / media who know better but gin it up constantly.

    One more observation, how anyone could criticize Trayvon’s parents is a mystery to me. Could they be anymore poised or graceful in their pain? They have not put one false foot forward. They should be praised as models.

.... a writer is someone who takes the universal whore of language
and turns her into a virgin again.  ~ erica jong