Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Profiling Fatality 3: The Demonization of George Zimmerman

I know there are evil people in the world. Hitler comes to mind, and I could list others, but you probably know them already or perhaps you have your own list. The truly evil have no regard for human life; they suffer no remorse for their actions. They haven’t got a conscience. They feel entitled. They feel justified.
Most people aren’t evil. We are flawed, though, and not perfect by any stretch. That’s what I think about George Zimmerman. He was doing what he thought was right when he abandoned his plan to run an errand and, instead, followed a hooded boy, Trayvon Martin, through his neighborhood. He might have been exasperated by recent break-ins and maybe he thought he could handle whatever the situation turned out to be. In my first post on this tragedy I asked, “Did George Zimmerman ask himself what it would mean to shoot someone?”
(Here’s the URL: http://aboutracewriter.blogspot.com/2012/03/profiling-fatality.html)
I don’t know if he ever asked himself that question, but maybe he thought he would be lauded as a hero. I remember daydreaming as a child that I did something heroic, something that everyone would notice and be thankful that I did it. My daydream made me feel wanted, loved, needed, and valued. I think lots of people daydream like that. But George Zimmerman got something else when he pulled that trigger.
He got the weight of killing a teenager leaning on his soul for the rest of his life. He got recognition for being a vigilante. He put his own life in danger and maybe that of his family. Even if no one acts in kind (an eye for an eye), his life will never be the same.
George Zimmerman represents the trend of many people wanting to protect their homes and lives. Here is an email exchange that occurred when I was the secretary of our HOA.
A neighbor wrote to me back in October 2011 (unrevised):
This is XXX and XXX XXX at XXX Lane. Just wanted to make you and the other neighbors aware of the fact we had a house break in on Friday morning. I was at home at the time. I pulled my handgun on him and he fled my residence upon meeting me on the stairs. The suspect matched the suspects that broke into the home last weekend on XXX as well. They are still investigating it and I hope that they catch these theives! They are apparently ringing doorbells and if no one answers the come in. I was upstairs and heard him come in...luckily, I spared him his life and he didnt hard me. None the less, it is so very scarey! Its that time of year an people are looking for presents and other items.
You may want to send out an email to the neighborhood to just be on the lookout and be very cautious and make sure doors are locked and alarms are set if they have them!
Have a good weekend!!!
I was shocked by the email, especially the line where he (I assumed it was the husband – the couple share an email. Months later I discovered it was the wife who wrote the email, but I will continue using “he” in this post) said, “I spared him his life.” The signature line, “Have a good weekend!” surprised me, too. It seemed so out of place, gleeful, in an email that delivered such a heavy message. But under my obligation as an officer of the HOA, I emailed back and asked him for a description.
He replied, “Black male mid twenties....scruffy thin wirery beard/ goatie. Gray hoodie on....evil looking eyes. 5'9 or 5'10 about 140-150.”
Evil eyes? What do evil eyes look like? Were they blackened out like the demons’ eyes on the show Supernatural?
Hoodie? That gives me pause reading it all these months later. I decided to do some editing when I sent my message out to the neighborhood. I sent the following:
Pleased be advised that there were two break-ins in our neighborhood in the last week or so. It appears a black male in his 20s, 5'9" or 5'10", 140 - 150 pounds and with a wiry beard, was seen in the neighborhood and is a suspect in the two break-ins. The second break-in, he was confronted by the homeowner and ran away. The police believe the suspect is ringing doorbells and then breaking in if there is no answer. Please take precautions and make sure you keep your doors locked and report any suspicious people in the neighborhood to the police.
Be safe!
Apparently the homeowner was not happy with my version of events. He sent a note to the neighborhood watch leader, and she put this email out to the neighborhood:
From the owner of XXX:
My home, XXX was broken into, not attempted. I met him in my staircase with our GLOCK .45 and he took off running out the front door and around the back of the house. Nothing was taken; he didn't have time because luckily I was upstairs and heard him walking around in my kitchen. The description of the black male is from my eye witness encounter. Not sure if door bell was rung, you can not hear it upstairs. Apparently, when I came home, I didn't lock the door...he pretty much just walked in. Our door handle is tricky...if you lock it, but turn it slightly it will unlock. I'm thinking that is what happened. I always lock the door.
Well, I thought, you ought to spring for a new lock. I was upset that now the neighborhood knew one of the neighbors carried a gun and considered using it against another person. Would the other neighbors view the incident as bravery on the part of the homeowner? Would the rest of them run out to purchase Glocks (not at all difficult to do in my state) for household use?  Would they buy a few guns: one to keep by the bedside, one next to the TV remote, one in the kitchen drawer, and another stuck in the side pocket of the car door?
Ronald had his own opinion about the matter. He said that if the intruder were a seasoned criminal, a real bad guy, the owner standing on the stairway with the Glock would not have deterred him. Rather the situation could have been reversed: the intruder holding his own gun and not afraid to use it, or the intruder grabbing the owner’s gun. Then it’s the intruder deciding whether to spare a life or off one.
I wrote a personal email to the neighborhood watch leader:
Yes, XXX emailed me the details, but I did not want to put in the Google groups that he brandished a gun. I felt uncomfortable about revealing that point -- I'm not against carrying guns, my husband is a competitive pistol shooter and a certified pistol safety instructor -- but I am against people brandishing guns when they don't know how to use them or talking about doing harm and so forth when shooting someone is a horrible thing even if the guy had ill intent -- it's not a video game or movie. Maybe he wasn't happy that I didn't let the neighbors know of his bravery. And his email was a bit of a jumble -- I wasn't sure if he meant his doorbell was rung or if that was what the police said they thought was happening. Anyway, thanks for putting out the correct version. I hope I don't start to see our neighbors brandishing guns while out walking the dog.
She responded:
He/She (not certain which one) emailed me and I asked her if I should distribute her message to the group. She said yes, so I did, but maybe I shouldn't have. I just wanted people to be aware that he had gotten into the house. I also asked how he got in, whether she had heard a bell, and that was her reply.
It is a bit unusual because we've gone so long without any break-ins. Hope it's not a sign of the times.
It is a sign of the times. A sign that people value human life based on whom they are aiming their guns at. It’s a sign that as a society we value some lives more than others and property more than human life.  We live in difficult and complicated times, but then again, humanity has always suffered by its own hand. What’s worse is that we continue to look for the bad guys. Right now, they are the ones wearing the hoodies and the ones holding the guns. The definition of who the bad guys are changes with the temper of the times, or by political affiliation, religious views, race, and class.
We have to stop thinking that everyone else is the bad guy and realize that we all have the power to be bad as easily as anyone else.  All it takes is one bad decision on a rainy night or while standing on the staircase, holding a Glock, and looking down on an intruder.
I don’t hate George Zimmerman, and I don’t wish him dead. He is not evil. He is not a demon. He is simply human. I feel sorry for him – sorry that he killed a teenager and sorry that he has to live with it.

1 comment:

  1. This was a very fresh perspective. I appreciate your presentation of Zimmerman's situation through your own HOA's personality and issues. Your conclusion was superb and arresting. Truly, most of the problems we face in this country come down to our devaluing of human life, "valuing some more than others," and "property over people." How on earth did we get to the point of property over humanity? It must be genetic--a predisposition to be glamoured by the glitter of things, as though we are starving and things are food.