Some events, like the self-immolation of Tunisian street vendor Mohamed Bouazizi in 2011, are catalytic, if unpredictable. The underlying and unnoticed cause of revolutionary sentiment long seethes subterraneously, unnoticed by the cadre of jet-set international news media celebrities, who photo-up at every disaster like politicians. But we know not if, when and from where, a spark will set these combustible social atmospheres. Others are mere sideshows, but expose the current state of affairs within a society and culture to those astute enough to notice. Others are mere sideshows.
The Zimmerman-Martin sideshow is the middle option.
Dwelling in a jurisdiction outside the gates of the American zoo, my perspective could be dismissed as one lacking knowledge and empathy. And on this particular matter, which is more peripheral to my experience than those dwelling in the U.S., this is legitimate comment. My claim to credibility comes from having distance and perhaps therefore greater impartiality and broader perspective.
The Trial and its Verdict
From what little I gleaned, mostly from Internet sources, (the television mostly acts as a sculptured vase in my habitat); it is unfathomable how any human, with a residue of common sense and integrity, could convict Zimmerman on the basis of evidence. And from what I gather, the available artifacts largely confirm the narrative that Zimmerman gave from the start, giving credibility to those things he says, for which there lacks corroboration. Those, who cry for a strange form of justice, in the face of actual evidence, make a serious case for stripping voting rights from those who do not pass or live according to the lessons of basic 101 civics courses. Is full democracy prudent if it means that we must be governed by a confederacy of dunces?
My own speculative take on the incident is that of two rash male youths, lacking psychological insight and self-control, seething with an underlying anger and masochism, which do not see standing down as a viable option. One, who otherwise demonstrates all the virtues of a straight-and-narrow cardboard cutout of an outstanding citizen, overplays his Walter Mitty vigilante daydreams The other, who hitherto stays just on this line of social consciousness and compliance, is fed up with the continuous harassment; which he might take as racially inspired, youth inspired, or something else. We will never know. (And there is a more insidious war on youth. I have seen many manifestations of its ugliness, even in the social milieu within which I dwell.)
If Zimmerman can be categorized as a good citizen, it is because intellectual integrity cannot dismiss the critical part, Zimmerman played in exposing a crime and scandalous nepotism by the Sanford Police Department in an unprovoked attack by a white cop’s son on a black homeless man in 2010/11. Nor can one dismiss the continued Good Samaritan episode even last week, in which he helped victims of car crash to safety. If blacks and liberals were seeking to push their agendas onto the public consciousness, they demonstrate an enormity of political obtuseness in picking this particular ambiguous incident to press their case. Indeed, in the unapologetically blatant prejudicial narrative that the propaganda machine of both interest groups painted of Zimmerman and whitewashed of Trayvon Martin, they have further damaged their already severely depleted credibility. And this depleted credibility is of far greater long-term threat to their own cause and well-being than this incident. However, so lost are these interest groups in the arrogant certainty of their certainties, they fail to realize how hopelessly sidelined, they are from garnering support beyond their own partisans. Few, outside their flag-waving zombies, will be inclined to give their causes the benefit of a doubt, even when the benefit of a doubt might be justified in future.
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Nevertheless, the odour of race relations pervades the Zimmerman-Trayvon altercation. More pointedly, the odour of race relations envelopes around the Zimmerman-Trayvon altercation. To the first point, this violent altercation took place within a gated community. The idea of a gated community is itself, a symbol and harbinger of race and more importantly, class relations in the U.S. We do not harbour; rather, we do not officially harbour gated communities in Canada. Or perhaps, we don’t have many of these strange beasts. However, at least 10 million people in the U.S., according to best guesses, feel the need to retreat behind such mildly protected barriers.
I visited one of these circus oddities, north of Atlanta, in 2007/2008. In the same quarter-century period, in which we had experienced one hopelessly amateurish and unsuccessful break-in, our interlocutors to the South had been victimized by five major thefts, mostly in Hawaii. In that light, their fleeing behind the barricades was neither altogether unreasonable nor pathological. Indeed, the gated community acts as the latest necessary accoutrement of status symbol living. However, beneath the wide lots and well-endowed homes, lies an opulent desolation. More resonant to the theme of this blog entry, the gated community represents a Custer’s last stand against the barbarians at the gates. This is largely how race relations pervade the Zimmerman-Trayvon altercation. Zimmerman would be damned if he would allow the barbarians to ravage these last enclaves of sanity, even if the Hun actually turned out to belong to the enclave.
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To the second point, the widely contrasting reactions between whites and blacks constitute a harbinger of yet worse things to come. The blacks have too long pushed the same civil rights envelope, unaware that they stand on the air of empty moral authority. And it is largely their own damn fault!
There was another criminal trial some eighteen years ago, which unlike the present one, acted as a catalyst; although it would not and is not apparent even at this time; the OJ Simpson murder trial. I think that up until then, most Americans and those beyond their shores, could find acceptable, if not spine-tingling the words “I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.” However, the heirs of the assassinated tribal hero who spun those words, decided to cash in on their hero instead of living by his words.
And although, I paid only cursory attention to the particulars of that trial as well, I was witness to another strange circus oddity as the verdict was pronounced. In frame segment after frame segment, I saw the jaws of white folks drop in consequence to that perverse tribalist judgment. And I had always thought hitherto that the expression ‘jaws dropping’ was a metaphorical phantasm.
I knew that I had witnessed the death of a cultural idea; although it still lingers in the Kingdom of God proper. The betrayal of the Dream by King’s own community had assassinated his Dream. And the beginnings of a hardening attitude by whites, well justified, would ensue, albeit subterraneously.
However, the white population is not so much imbued with racism. That is the overwhelming vice of the black population in the U.S. That one of most mediocre and obtuse U.S. Presidents in U.S. history obtained a 93% support by blacks because Obama was black, is stark and blatant evidence of the tribalist prejudices of the American black. The fact that this overwhelming plurality contributed to the overturning of a white vote, which in itself would had given the Republicans a landslide win, can only exacerbate an already deteriorating class, social, cultural and racial schism.
Rather, white tribalism is ideological and cultural. The ideas and mores that pervade black subculture are so out in left field from those that pervade in white culture; that from the perspective of white society, social and racial alienation stems more from an insidious and perilous culture clash. The more communal and self-serving socially distributive ideas of black culture, at least sociopolitically, impose a threat to the ethos of the American heritage. White folks can sincerely and genuinely oppose their racial counterparts on legitimate grounds of protecting the cultural values that made America good and great.
Twenty years ago, racial issues would have found whites in apologetic mode. No more! White attitudes have become justifiably, deeply and openly defiant. I doubt that the racist epithets garner much impact, except amongst some gullible high school and college students. And any new crusader for black civil rights faces a far more implacable and hostile interlocutor; partially because he/she could not appeal to shared values of shared documents (Constitution, Bible). But mostly, the betrayal of blacks to a prized principle seals their denigration as a minority in deteriorating race relations.