The forest for the trees

objectionMost of the time, I don’t say anything – there are a mixture of reasons.  I don’t want to seem like a know-it-all.  I don’t feel like getting into it with a partisan of one side or another (i.e. the majority of people) when all I want to do is have a beer in peace.  Sometimes it’s just too depressing to talk about.  And a good part of the time, I just genuinely forget that not everybody sees what I see.

The verdict in the George Zimmerman murder case was announced a few hours ago to a cascade of disbelief and rage across the Internet and the MSM.  My Facebook feed turned into a solid mass of disheartened replies, almost all of them filled with outrage – except of course for the conservatives who followed their own script.  Neither the verdict nor this part of the reaction surprised me…what left me blinking my eyes at the screen was that those who were outraged were also caught completely off-guard.  Hadn’t they been paying attention?  Had anyone?  Granted, the wall-to-wall coverage of the trial, thanks to its easily salable tabloid aspects, tends to focus attention on obsessive details at the loss of a full and overall understanding of the event that one might receive by, say, examining a historical record.  Folks tuned in on CNN and similar tabloid outlets knew all about each tree, down to the position of its branches and the crags of its bark…but didn’t have a single idea that they were in a forest.

To give a quick review:  let’s say that the events of the night of Trayvon Martin’s death went pretty much exactly as described, up to the point of the physical confrontation.  Martin has reacted to his pursuit by jumping Zimmerman and wounding him in the head.  Now…instead of pulling a gun and firing, let’s say that Zimmerman instead pulls back his fist and hits Martin in the nose, breaking it.  The fight continues.  Police are summoned and separate the two, dragging them singly to medical care.  Arrests are made, and the case comes to trial.

At that point, you should realize that we would never know the names of George Zimmerman and Trayvon Martin.  There would be no CNN, no Nancy Grace, no headlines, no shoving of the Egyptian coup off to a small side window while we ponder the obsessive details of our favorite daytime drama.  It would be yet another tale of a couple of knuckleheads beating each other up, as it happens multiple times a day, all over the country.  The trial would probably last for a day, it would result in fines or some light sentence being handed out, a restraining order or two, and that would be that.

But that didn’t happen.  Zimmerman pulled the gun and killed Martin.  That’s the point that caused this to diverge into a murder trial, a media circus, and a social flashpoint.

That point had to be explained away by the defense, which left them with only one clear strategy: saying it was self-defense.  To “prove” it was self-defense, they had to turn Trayvon Martin from a young shooting victim to a Scary Black Man.  And they had to say this, convincingly, to a group of six women from a county that’s 10% black, one of which came from a gun-owning family and said she would not be able to send anyone to prison, and a second of which asked why Trayvon Martin was out walking around at night.  (The state attempted to dismiss both and was denied by the judge; the defense’s one pre-trial attempted dismissal was upheld.)  Only one of the jury was non-white.

At that point, you could have pretty much packed up the cameras.  Zimmerman played his part, saying he wasn’t aware of the Stand-Your-Ground Law in Florida, which is a lie.  The defense started showing pictures of a shirtless Martin to the jury – kinda like this.  Things unfolded as expected from there.

For those still wondering what will happen: we have a racially-charged trial made more so by a racist defense with a controversial acquittal.  Perhaps the name “Rodney King” might mean something to you?  Zimmerman now needs to worry about staying alive.  Relocating and changing his name might work for a little while, but he’ll probably need to fall back on some of his donors (ever wonder how a murderer gets donors?) to get him and his family somewhere quite secure and quite far away.  (Wonder if O.J. has a mother-in-law-apartment available?)  It’s still an open question as to whether or not he’ll make it.

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