It’s old news now, the verdict is in, George Zimmerman is far from free but he’s not in jail in Florida anymore. Now descend the poverty pimps and race baiters, our own Preezie among them, hoping to gin up a secondary wave of fury that induces a reaction from the Justice Department to pursue charges of civil rights violations against a man who is experiencing a good bit of official discrimination himself. If there was any justice to be had, it has slipped away. Even those who might still be of a mind to bang the drum for some further prosecution or retribution are – quite frankly – worn out. We’re all tired and tired of it. It’s hot, and vehemence, and certainly violence, requires an expenditure of energy that even the hostile fringe of American society are loathe to spare. If there’s no food in it, forget it. We are currently all out of outrage. It is a luxury we can no longer afford.
I have my own opinions on the whole Martin/Zimmerman altercation, and they go a bit contrary to the narrative around these parts of the internet, different than those in my own home even. George Zimmerman is no doubt not guilty of murder, which is all that matters in the end. The events of that night, though, linger as a reminder of what a community has lost – a young man coming in to his prime, the idea that a neighborhood is best suited to manage itself, the precept that children operate under their parents authority, the notion that a kid can walk to the corner store without finding trouble. This loss is the net result of the dissolution of the patriarchy.
In a patriarchal dynamic, Trayvon Martin would have been a most valuable asset. To his family, he would represent the up and coming next generation of men to lead and serve and carry on his fathers name. To his community, he would fulfill the role of student or soldier or apprentice, learning what it takes to contribute meaningfully to society, and assume a vocation. To his friends, he would be part of the organic sorting out of the hierarchy of young people, establishing lifelong friendships (and rivalries, to be accurate) and wondering which young women might be suitable for courting, and if their fathers would let him get that close. As it happened, none of those things were true for Trayvon. His parents were divorced and his home broken, he was enough of a trouble maker at school that he found himself suspended for two weeks at a time*, and his social aspirations appeared to have consisted of thug-light/gang persona and the company of a very strange woman who could barely form a sentence. He appeared on the precipice of a life of less than savory pursuits, and no one seemed to much care. This would suggest that Trayvon Martin’s troubles weren’t the outcome of some Vast White Conspiracy to keep colored people down, nor “open season” on black teenagers, but rather that no one could be bothered to care that a young man was simply being dismissed as unimportant, long before he found himself face to face with George Zimmerman.
Had the patriarchal system been in place that fateful night, the likelihood is that George Zimmerman would have never had to wonder who Trayvon Martin was or what he was doing, because they would have been known to each other. As an appointed representative of his community, Zimmerman would have introduced himself to his neighbors, if he didn’t know them already, because in order to hold such a position he would have to be highly regarded. He would have known that Trayvon was Mr. Martin’s boy – he would know whether or not he’d been in trouble, whether or not he needed to be watched, whether or not Mr. Martin needed to know his son was perhaps somewhere he shouldn’t be. Needed to know, because a son, a young man in community, would be too valuable an asset to allow to fall into bad behavior or even be perceived as a potential problem. Zimmerman would have knocked on Martin’s door, advised him of the situation, and Martin would have acknowledged whether or not Trayvon had his permission to be out, and handled his own son accordingly.
Trayvon Martin may not be anyone’s idea of a premium specimen of American youth, but he does not bear the entire responsibility for that. He acted merely as he was instructed to act – not only like a young man with nothing to lose, but as a young man who was nothing to lose.
And no matter what you think of the person who was Trayvon Martin, that is a tragedy.
*that he was suspended from public school isn’t something I take seriously as one of the character flaws assigned him. Kindergardeners who bring plastic knives to cut their apples get expelled, because stupid