The Stalking Precedent
George Zimmerman's acquittal sends a chilling message to those who would take the law into their own hands – and would-be victims
George Zimmerman set up in his mind a template of what people who commit break-ins look like. When he spoke to the dispatcher, he had some choice words for the likes of Trayvon Martin. He said of him, "fucking punks, these assholes always get away." Even though Trayvon Martin was not a punk or an asshole, Zimmerman applied the template to him based on the color of his skin and what he was wearing. It is this writer's opinion that Zimmerman should neither have been following nor have had the right to follow Trayvon Martin; that Martin had every right to turn, face his stalker and defend himself by striking Zimmerman first (if that is even what happened); that Zimmerman created the situation and, therefore, cannot claim self-defense; and that Zimmerman knew as a licensed owner of firearms and a wannabe cop that if you had a chance to escape or avoid violence, you must do that — but he instead pursued Trayvon Martin on foot.
The jury, finding Zimmerman not guilty of second-degree murder or manslaughter, has set the precedent that it is lawful as a civilian to profile and stalk with a gun another citizen. Furthermore, it is unlawful to turn around and confront your stalker. At least if you are black. If you're a white victim, well, we'll have to wait and see on that.
So, that begs an absurd question: Who in my life do I now have the right to follow with my gun? If I were a vigilante, I would go after aggressive drivers.
I am a law-abiding driver. I think obeying the traffic laws is critical to public safety. People disregard traffic laws all the time and many times have put my life and the lives of my family members in danger. Not only that, but the authorities join them in violation. I see police not using signals, speeding without their emergency lights or sirens on, and tailgating motorists, so they send the message that it's OK to ignore traffic laws. It is a mockery of the justice system.
Aggressive drivers come in all shapes, colors and sizes, but I get the most ticked at people who use the size of their vehicles to intimidate other drivers. So I choose big trucks as my profile.
Every day when I drive home, my spirit is in turmoil. I see the as motorists selfishly fight to get wherever they're going faster by getting so close to my bumper that they'd hit me if I let off the gas. So I find myself getting in line at traffic lights prepared to obstruct them. I won't let them merge. I practically beg them to hit me. I slow down to a few miles an hour under the speed limit and make them crawl behind me. There is something in me that wants that confrontation. I want to be the cop and make other drivers respect and obey the law.
I'm sick of people getting away with endangering the lives of others.
It used to be hopeless. But now I have the "stand your ground" law which, evidently, as determined by a jury of Zimmerman's peers (who, were only white and Hispanic), gives me the right to follow people. And I've got a license to carry a firearm, so when the template turns around to bite back, I can put two in the chest and call it self-defense. I can lump another person into a category, follow him or her and enact my own perverted version of justice.
Of course, this is absurd. It is absurd to think that I can stalk anyone, especially with a gun. It doesn't feel right inside to take my mind there. It is extremely creepy. What's even more absurd is that in my scenario, the aggressive drivers are actually committing crimes. Martin took a break from the NBA All-Star game to get some candy and an iced tea. He did not commit a crime.
Reflecting on what happened to Martin, I realized I would have reacted the same way. First of all, Zimmerman is not a cop. He has no badge, and he doesn't have a uniform. The last thing I want (my nightmare) is a "creepy-ass" anything following me in the dark, especially when the creep has not identified himself as a law enforcement officer. I get nervous when I feel like the police are following me, intending to pull me over, even though I know I'm not breaking any law. How much more disturbing is it to have a stranger following you alone at night in unfamiliar surroundings? I wouldn't want some creep following me home to my family. Most likely, I would have hidden and seen if he was truly stalking me. Then, I would try to get the jump on him, so that he wouldn't get the jump on me. And I'd call that self-defense.
How can it be that the one doing the stalking is the defender? How can the victim of a crime be the offender? Essentially, if Martin were alive, he'd be charged with assault. If Martin had the gun, I guess he would've been the murderer. That would be fairer than the trial that let Zimmerman walk free and get his gun back. At least, Martin would be alive to tell his story.
I'm all for giving a victim the upper hand, for which reason "stand your ground" was written. But it's troublesome when so many people are so confused about who the victim is. In this case, it's cut and dried. The victim is the dead teenager with the candy, in a nondescript hoodie, not the gun-toting neighborhood-watch captain/wannabe cop.
The message this verdict sends to the black community is frightening. You will be profiled. You will stand down if you are profiled. You better not get out of line if you're being followed or you might get shot. All because you're black, you pulled your hoodie up, or you played your music too loud at the gas pump.
Florida law is George Zimmerman. The infection of racism has wormed its way back to the surface of society. What has always been there has exposed itself again through the general population's acceptance of the slaying of an unarmed teen who was not committing a crime. A mother's son was killed, and then his character was dragged through the dirt to manufacture a criminal who did not exist. It is time to emulate Trayvon Martin and face the predator — the law that supports racial profiling and the slaying of innocent life.
Braselton is a Jacksonville resident.