by Benjamin J. Kirby
The speed with which the tragic Trayvon Martin story has gained critical mass has been stunning. Good.
Just yesterday I was driving home and listening to the 911 call replayed on WMNF, thinking maybe I was the subject of a War of the Worlds Orson Welles-ian radio hoax. Surely no one can shoot a kid -- a kid with nothing more than Skittles in his pocket and an iced tea in his hand -- shoot him dead in the street and remain free after only a perfunctory questioning by a woefully dismissive police force. That's not America. That's not who we are.
Sadly, that's exactly what happened over in Sanford.
An African American youth going to 7-11. A neighborhood watch captain (not African American), ostensibly acting under Florida's pathetic -- and now tragic -- "Stand Your Ground" law. In a gated community in Sanford, Florida, those two met and now you have a dead 17 year-old kid and a neighborhood watch captain only briefly taken into custody and questioned by police. That's just not America. It's not who we are.
There are still more questions than answers. But we're learning more all the time. Turns out Trayvon called a friend just before he was shot and killed. The excuse made up by the shooter, George Zimmerman -- a guy with a 2005 arrest for battery, a guy with a history of 911 calls and over-reactions -- was that Martin attacked him.
It's nice that Governor Scott has asked the Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE) to investigate. It should be noted that only happened after the DOJ and the FBI announed their own investigation.
I'm guessing FBI forensic evidence will prove that it was unarmed Trayvon Martin yelling for help, picked up on his cell phone call, and not George Zimmerman, as he has claimed. That'll be nice, too, and it may even be enough to bring Zimmerman to some kind of justice, but it won't bring Trayvon Martin back.
How many times did I walk neighborhoods in Little Rock, going from my house to friend's house, going to the store to get candy or a Coke. More than could be counted. Never once did I fear for my life. Sure, I'm a white male. But that shouldn't matter. It shouldn't have mattered for me, it should not have mattered that Trayvon Martin was black, and it should not matter that my daughter is white. She ought to be able to walk through the neighborhoods of Gulfport -- or Sanford, for that matter -- without fear.
Maybe she can because she's white, but that's not America. That is not who we are.
Let me close by saying this: the Florida NRA, and especially the former head honcho there, Marion Hammer, ought to feel a sense of overwhelming shame and incredible guilt for fobbing this ridiculous law which allows Florida residents to “meet force with force, including deadly force if he or she reasonably believes it is necessary to do so to prevent death or great bodily harm,” onto our state.
I am quite certain Ms. Hammer and her NRA colleagues don't care one bit. The only people who ought to feel more shame is the Florida Legislature, for passing this abomination of a law. Sadly, I'm not sure they are capable of feeling shame.
George Zimmerman -- again, a battery charge and a history of 911 abuse -- had no business being around a gun. Florida has no business operating under a "Stand Your Ground" law.
This is America. This is about the life of a young person, gone, robbed. An injustice. But it is also about politics and public policy. It is about the way we run our country, the way we run our state.
And every one of us ought to remember the folks complicit in the passage of this ridiculous gun-fetish law. Everyone.