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.