It is an outrage, a stain that will never go away – a kid with candy in his hand and a hoodie on his head, shot dead by an untrained Crime Watch volunteer, whose story keeps changing as to why he got out of his car to follow Trayvon Martin.
In my old neighborhood we would call that “looking for a fight.” Although in Sanford, Florida the weapons were uneven – Skittles and ice tea versus a loaded handgun.
Evidence-based journalism is vital, but it may not take us all the way. I’m relying on my gut here and speculating on whether there is more going on.
The issues of race appropriately came up right away – Martin, 17, is black, and the shooter, George Zimmerman, 28, is Hispanic. The president said if he had a son he would “look like Trayvon,” the Department of Justice is looking at possible civil rights violations, a Florida grand jury will be empanelled, the Sanford police chief stepped down temporarily after the city fathers voted “no confidence in him,” and rallies expressing support for the Martin family, and outrage over this insane event, have been held in Columbia, South Carolina, Washington, D.C., Chicago, with more planned.
It’s the rallies I’m interested in. Is something else is going on?
I wonder if that “something” is a sense of futility felt by anyone legally shafted by the system. A sense of powerlessness felt by people who watch financial institutions bailed out while their own houses go under; who wonder about endless wars in the mid-East for no obvious strategic purpose. A feeling of powerlessness in employment opportunities that don’t seem there any more, money that doesn’t buy what it used to, political leaders from both parties who can’t seem to say Yes or No without following it with another bucket o’ words? The powerlessness felt by people who had never heard of the “Stand Your Ground” laws and now discover they can be plugged at will if a vigilante with a gun feels threatened by a kid walking away from him?
Is there a sense of the powerlessness of people versus the crazy-quilt U.S. health care system – and it doesn’t matter what side you’re on. If you support the Affordable Care Act, it could get thrown out within a few months; and if you oppose it you it could get upheld. And in either case, whether you have insurance or not, trying to navigate the medical-industrial complex will drive you crazy.
Thousands of people marching in protest against the death of a kid is a powerful statement of anger at the waste of a young life. Some of the acts that support evidence-reporting – polling, in-depth interviews, and long-term follow-ups – may over time deepen our knowledge of what we are witnessing today.
Meantime, the lyrics from the Buffalo Springfield song – “something’s happening here, what it is ain’t exactly clear, there’s a man with a gun over there, telling me I got to beware” – may be prophetic.
Earlier Blog Posts
Google’s Eric Schmidt gives keynote address at…
March 2, 2012
Paul Miller Fellow Karoun Demirjian wins David Lynch…
February 10, 2012
Saturday, December 17: An Evening With Austin H. Kiplinger
December 16, 2011
NPF Announces 2011 Awards for Accomplishment
December 14, 2011
Uncovering Race: NPF co-sponsors discussion on race…
November 4, 2011