Monday, August 05, 2013

Florida Burning

Like Elián González, the 6 year old Cuban boy found floating off the Florida coast in 2000, Jesus of Nazereth, Obiwan Kenobe and certain Roman emperors, Trayvon Martin  undergoing a sort of  post traumatic apotheosis.  So far however, and unlike the bogus pieces of the González raft , eBay isn't filled with fake Trayvon relics like pieces of the true hoodie or sacred skittles and I'm not aware of shrines being built to worship the young man killed in a dubious nighttime struggle with a Neighborhood watch volunteer who had seen too many movies, but  the Smithsonian Institution is planning exhibits about his life and untimely end - maybe right up there with the 1963 March on Washington, the Woolworth lunch counter and the bus Rosa Parks made famous.  The recent beating and brutal murders of homeless black men by white teens in Missippi?  Sorry, no guns involved and this is about guns, not about  justice.

Although reports that his "hoodie" will be acquired for display may be inaccurate, that item of clothing popular with baggypants, backwardhat adolescent mall rats of all sorts trying to look mysterious and dangerous, was at least briefly celebrated as a symbol of solidarity with something that frankly escapes me and perhaps also escapes anyone who is not convinced that the kids in the street are really really cool these days in everything they do, face tattoos and all.

Certainly everything that happens is history, but the importance of events and the level of the emotion surrounding them, the importance given them at the time -- the semiotic significance, the sensationalist potential of things, depends heavily on political needs, the need of rightly pissed-off people to blow off steam and the needs of professional manipulators of  public sentiment.   Was a deeply sad and really unnecessary event truly the most egregious example of  racial violence in America?  Does it really mean that violent racism is a serious and growing threat, that anyone suspiciously dark complexioned can now be shot on sight with impunity and immunity from prosecution?  It's being said. Are we right back to Mississippi in the 50's and 60's?  It's being written. I'm hearing exactly that and that's exactly the kind of bullshit that made "reverend" Sharpton a millionaire many times over and causes a muffled rumbling in MLK's tomb.

I have a hard time thinking that  deliberate racist murders, with no suggestion of legitimate self defense haven't occurred in recent memory and  with far, far less sturm und drang.  Indeed real outrages seem to overwhelm the ability of the media to list, much less to expatiate on, but they don't all lend themselves to illustrating the talking points of professional zealots.

It's no strain to remember black men, young and old being gunned down while reaching for a wallet, a pack of cigarettes, whistling at a white girl or for nothing at all --  a black professor accosted by police while trying to open his own front door.  Driving a nice car while having African ancestors seems still to be reason enough for a traffic stop and my old home town near Chicago admitted after many years that they had long harassed black people who had the effrontery to shop in the business district and make the white store owners nervous.

It's not hard to understand the hunger for outrage in people rightly frustrated by the way we are in America.  Easier perhaps to understand the desperate need for a constant supply of outrages in people and organizations in need of funding, in need of  apparent relevance while the things they get paid to fight fade slowly away or just don't happen enough. I'm just cynical enough to think that this sad story was grabbed as it passed by because CNN and Fox need scandals like a vampire needs blood and because someone needed a case to make against a right to self defense and was sure he could make a fraudulent and ignorant argument that that right was the reason Zimmerman wasn't convicted of murder - and our knees would jerk in unison.

My growing cynicism isn't ameliorated when I read that an organization of angry black men are offering a $10,000 reward for the "capture" of George Zimmerman, or that his mother and father are in hiding because of the death threats.  I'm no more sympathetic with these subhuman bastards than I am with the Aryan Nation or the Klan or Al Qaeda. I'm as disgusted when any of these disgusting people are used as a stereotype for all people of color ( and they are) as I am when I have to read that white people can't be trusted and will always be suspect whether they deserve it or not, because mixed-race Zimmerman is now the stereotype for Whites. Turnabout is not fair play, it's just more of the same.

I'm disgusted that I can't stand up for a trial by jury and a trial based on law and rules of evidence with a presumption of innocence without being labelled as a racist; that I can't quote the letter of the law itself  without being branded  by people who should damned well know better than to try someone in the streets, to overturn a court decision because in their prejudiced minds they just know Zimmerman was a racist and therefore must have committed murder.

Trey Martin was wrongly shot in my opinion, wrongly accosted, but Zimmerman didn't get off because the court thought it was ok to commit murder. Martin wasn't Martin Luther King, nor Medgar Evers. He wasn't even Rodney King. He isn't a Civil Rights Martyr.  He wasn't shot simply because he was black or because he was a fighter for freedom and  the murder of black people isn't becoming legal or even more common or tolerated.  It wasn't a turning point or wake up call and the whole world wasn't watching or even giving a damn.  A lynch mob is a lynch mob, white sheets or not and the kind of idiot anger and extremist rhetoric and calls for violence are an insult to the many people who did so much without resorting to it, without becoming the monsters they fought against. 

No comments: