Driving fast with guns

I don’t get a lot of satisfaction in seeing people fall, even people who I think deserve to fall. For some reason, I’d rather see people redeem themselves in some small way, but almost always I am let down. One person who I was certain was NOT going to redeem himself in any way was George Zimmerman. Mr. Zimmerman seems to have taken his place as Florida celebrity du-jour when it comes to extending his middle finger to the world after beating a murder rap in an Orlando courtroom last July. Believe me, I use the word celebrity loosely here. A man whose only claim to fame is shooting an unarmed teenager to death is hardly a celebrity, but as our own adopted O.J. Simpson cools his heels in a Nevada pen, and Casey Anthony seems to have faded into deserved obscurity, all eyes are on faux-celebrity Mr. Zimmerman, and apparently there is much to watch.

Since being found innocent back on July 17th, Mr. Zimmerman has assisted at a traffic accident (a good thing, if we believe it really went down the way it was reported, although it seemed as if he went from ‘assisting’ as first reported, to  ‘rescuing’ people as later reported), and he has been stopped for speeding twice – once in Texas while on a cross-country trip, and once in his home state of Florida (doing 60 in a 45 – okay, not death penalty stuff, but you’d think he’d show more respect for the law) .  More recently, he has been accused of attacking his father in law (although evidence seems to say otherwise), and threatening his estranged wife, ostensibly with a gun.  So, does the man brandish a pistol at the slightest provocation? Is he as trigger happy as he seems to be? Is he a lose cannon waiting to go off when it’s least expected? The answers to such questions appear murky at best. Even the police seem to be at odds with initial reports from his wife.

I’m certainly not an expert on marital discord. Within any marriage, my own included, there are only two people who know exactly what is going on. But when a person seems to have repeated contact with the law, one has to look toward a common denominator. I see guns.

I am thinking of the days immediately after Mr. Zimmerman’s acquittal when an absurd call went out for money to help Mr. Zimmerman purchase replacement weapons. Insanity once again trumping prudence.

This is all I can say today on this important topic. I will close here by saying that I am certain that we have not heard the last of Mr. Zimmerman. I only hope that I am not describing the fate of an innocent victim the next time I mention his name.

Mahalo,

–Ed

Not much sun in the Sunshine State

For many of us, life is a set of mundane daily activities that distract us from world events. We trudge through our days, thinking that in the end our efforts will be rewarded. We think that our good deeds will bear fruit. Similarly, we believe that misdeeds will result in some sort of punishment. I’d like to think that the terrible person in the white Nissan that cut me off yesterday on I-95 will somehow suffer for this affront by having something bad happen to him, or her (nothing really bad, like an accident or anything, but something sort of bad like getting stuck in the drive-up at the bank for 45 minutes). But then something will happen that reminds me that this may not happen, because the world is not a fair place to live. The driver of the white Nissan may be, at this very moment, cashing in a winning lottery ticket

Saturday was one of those days for me – a day that something happened to remind me of how unfair the world can be. Here in South Florida the weather was miserable. Tropical storm Chantral had fizzled off of the coast, and was crawling northward. By mid morning, heavy storm clouds had gathered, as if to foretell events unfolding in a courtroom in Central Florida (okay, so now you know where this blog post is going). By mid-morning I had cancelled my outdoor activities, as lightning crackled across the sky in one menacing bolt after another. The Weather Channel said that the front would pass by 1 PM, but that didn’t happen, and by 3 the rain was coming down in torrents. Around 4, an explosion not unlike an artillery round being fired went off behind my house, and the power for half of the neighborhood went down as lightning struck a nearby transformer.

By six, after my wife finished her workday, we sloshed off to the bar at Cafe Med, a little place near the Deerfield Beach fishing pier, a block off of the water. Yup, you guessed it, not lots of people at the beach. The place was nearly empty. A few tourists (don’t ask me who vacations in Florida in July) were at the bar, and from the sounds of things they had been there for quite some time. A couple of locals sat at the bar staring grimly at the TV, which was tuned to live coverage of the George Zimmerman trial going on up in Orlando. The volume was muted so everyone was carefully monitoring the closed captions scrolling past.

At that time, the jury of six (Florida felony trials require only a jury of six), had asked for clarification of what constituted ‘manslaughter’.

“They are going to find him guilty of manslaughter,” said my wife. “That’s all he’s going to get, I just feel it.”

“I dunno,” I said. “I think he’ll walk.”

“No,” said my wife. “He killed that kid…that unarmed kid…he can’t just walk away free…can he?”

By the time we got home later in the evening, the rain had subsided, although sheet lightning flashed in skies over Miami forty miles to the south. Eventually, a Florida Power and Light crew arrived to fix the power problem, so for a bit we were distracted from the Zimmerman trial, as we watched a power company worker reset a giant transformer fuse while standing on the ground using a 35 foot pole – ah modern technology.

Sometime around 11, my wife received a text message from her sister in Philadelphia.

“Oh no,” she said. “It can’t be true – he’s been found innocent!”

And so it goes here in the Sunshine State. The predicted riots that would erupt in the wake of an acquittal did not occur, although today there are some reports of riots in Los Angeles. Locally though, there were protests, and lots of tears, but they were peaceful protests, as the reality of what had happened began to sink in.

Today, conservative rock star, gun advocate Ted Nugent has weighed in with a predictable comment, calling Zimmerman’s action “the purest form of self-defense there is“.  Really Ted? Shooting an unarmed man is pure now?

The talking heads on the morning shows still speculate on the verdict, and today the first juror has spoken. There will probably be an upcoming civil trial, and George Zimmerman will undoubtedly wish that he were somewhere else that night of February 26, 2012. Trayvon Martin would certainly wish the same – if he only could.

As time goes on, we will discover more about the jury’s reasoning in finding Zimmerman not guilty. I imagine that Florida’s controversial ‘stand your ground law’, which pretty much makes it possible to gun down anyone whenever you feel threatened, is to blame. That, a six member jury, and some very good lawyering on the part of the defense probably were responsible for Zimmerman’s leaving the courthouse a free man.

To all, stay safe, and to my fellow Floridians, keep our laws in mind when your ire is roused by errant drivers, or that rude guy who edges his cart ahead of you at Publix. Remember the fine line that we have drawn in our sand – we might be but one altercation away from finding ourselves in Trayvon Martin’s shoes.

Mahalo

–Ed

My post vacation thoughts…

civil_defense_manualThis blog has suffered greatly these past couple of weeks, as professional demands, as well as lack thereof, have taken a toll on my writing schedule. Translated, that means that after working like hell for quite a while, I went on an eight-day vacation and didn’t write a line. Seldom do I vacate for eight entire days, but this year was an exception, and although I did not travel far (only 125 miles up the Florida coast), I was officially, ‘away’, and when I am ‘away’ I try not to touch a computer keyboard. This year I almost made it through without touching fingers to keys, and if it were not for the need to post an item for sale on Craigslist, I would have succeeded in keeping my vacation ‘computer free’.

I also try not to watch too much network news. I mean is there really any need to be completely informed on all matters at all times. Since there is little threat these days that ‘The Big One’ will be dropped on us at any time, I see no need to stay connected to international affairs 24/7. I recall reading a Civil Defense book that we had in our home when I was a child. I remember the chilling photos of the mushroom cloud rising over a distant city, as a family hunkered down in their well stocked fallout shelter, hopefully safe from annihilation in a wake of a gazillion megaton nuclear blast, that in reality would have vaporized them along with their supply of canned tomatoes and bottled water.

This particular Civil Defense guide went on to suggest that farmers take transistor radios to the fields with them during times of international tension, in order to monitor unfolding events. Presumably, they would be able to get the tractor tucked safely in the barn, should a flight of ICBMs be tracked coming in over the pole. Ludicrous indeed. As time went on, and the sixties unfolded into the seventies, these Civil Defense guides disappeared as we all accepted the grim reality that in event of such a man-made doomsday, there would be few, if not, any survivors.

Today, we seem to have little to fear from sudden and complete annihilation of the North American continent, however, our lives seem to be no more or less safe from destruction by events beyond our control.

The Orlando, Florida television stations, in the beachside community where I spent last week, preempted local news in lieu of live coverage of the George Zimmerman trial. Zimmerman, the armed community watch volunteer who seemed to go prepared for trouble, found it, and dealt with it using deadly force, is on trial for (what is effectively) his life. Meanwhile, the distraught family of the unarmed teenager felled by his bullet plead for justice. So it is a dangerous world, where walking in the wrong place, at the wrong time can mean deadly consequences. We are an armed nation, and there are lots of people packing heat and not afraid to use it – or maybe they just use it if they are afraid, who knows. Fortunately, this trial is coming to a head, and shortly justice will be served – hopefully.

Word of the tragic death of 19 Arizona firefighters came to me not over a network news station, but via The Weather Channel (TWC), as I tuned in one morning to ascertain whether or not the line of storms off of the Atlantic coast was a threat to the day’s fishing. I immediately turned to an NBC news report, delivered over my phone.

Finally, the crash of an airliner in San Francisco distracted me from fishing and beach.  As I paused to think for a moment about the two young girls who lost their lives in this ‘routine’ flight, and to consider how vulnerable we all are as we shoot through the skies from city to city aboard a mode of transport deemed safer than driving. Unlike the crash of the commuter plane in Buffalo a few years ago, in which the experience of the pilots is coming into question, this jet from Korea to the US had four pilots aboard for this long-haul international flight. The fact that it could crash upon landing, on a clear day, after making a successful flight across the Pacific Ocean is beyond belief.

The cause of this crash will take aviation experts, of which I am not one, months to investigate before a cause is determined. What I do find interesting is the news media’s continuing disbelief that the shaken passengers took time to gather personal possessions (even duty-free bags), before exiting the burning aircraft, as if these oblivious survivors put Ipods and scotch above human life as they malingered to gather earthly possessions. More than likely, these passengers were is shock in the few minutes immediately after dropping onto that San Francisco runway. I wrote a bit about this several years ago in an article about surviving a plane crash. You can read it here if you like.

So that’s it for now. Vacation is over, and I am back working and blogging. I am thinking about the fragility of life. As a new tropical disturbance crawls through the Caribbean I find myself thinking of how quickly our situations can change. If we are alive and relatively healthy we should consider ourselves lucky.

Stay safe.

Mahalo,

-Ed