The Politics Of The Trayvon Martin Case
By Jack Kelly
In the latest news surrounding the tragic case of Trayvon Martin, we learn that Trayvon had traces of THC in his system. For those of you who are unaware, THC is the active ingredient in Marijuana. So in other words, Trayvon was smoking weed sometime around the time he was shot. As with every aspect surrounding this case, this tidbit of information has become twisted as a broader point in the actual shooting. Like everything in our country, this case has become political; conservatives have been, in general, sympathetic to the alleged shooter George Zimmerman or at least more sympathetic to his ‘fear’ of life claim, while liberals are enraged by the shooting and have made Trayvon a symbol of everything wrong with a variety of laws and problems in America.
For some, the shooting of Trayvon Martin symbolizes a flaw with current gun laws in some states, such as the ‘Stand Your Ground Laws’ that are active in Florida, while other’s see the death of Trayvon as another example of continued racial tensions within our society. But this latest piece of news has added another controversial sphere to this evolving and increasingly, muddled case. Again, this has become political, at least subtly. It is conceivable some conservatives could insinuate that because Martin had Marijuana in his system, this somehow validates his killing, in combination with other fictitious examples they site.
Some of the more notable examples conservatives have opined upon as a factor in his own death and other distorted excuses for Zimmerman to pull the trigger, are the ‘hoodie’ Travon was wearing and a self-defense excuse, even though he followed Trayvon after being told not to by the police dispatcher. Now, with Trayvon having Marijuana in his system, some conservatives have suggested Zimmerman must be innocent. But how? Just because Trayvon was using Marijuana this makes him more culpable in his own death? This is nonsense.
Sure, if it could be proven that Trayvon was under the influence of Marijuana, then sure, his mood and attitude would be altered. But how does this change anything about the case? It doesn’t, but the ‘suggestion’ that Zimmerman supporters are trying to say is quite simple; ”Trayvon was a punk who smoked dope and had a hoodie on, so therefore, Zimmerman was justified in shooting him.” This illogical analysis may seem archaic and sophomoric to more ‘enlightened’ people, but this message has and will continue to resonate with cultural conservatives who may conclude some validity to this way of thinking.
This strategy has been employed since the dawn of human civilization and more recent examples are similar, even if the context is much different. For example, during the 1980′s, Ronald Reagan was able to attract working class-white democrats to his campaign because he highlighted welfare fraud and helped peddle the infamous phrase, “welfare queen.” The imagine of a big, minority female, “scamming” the welfare system emotionally moved these so-called “Reagan democrats” to vote for the former President, even though logically, it made little sense.
The same tactic is being used here in the Trayvon case and now that it is being implied that Trayvon was under the influence of Marijuana, it adds contexts to their misguided argument that this case has some sort of grey area simply because he was using Marijuana and wearing a hoodie. There is a cultural imagine Zimmerman sympathizers are trying to exploit and it may work.
But notable liberals are just as guilty as exploiting the Trayvon case for their benefit. Talk show host such as Al Sharpton and New York Times columnists Charles M Blow, have harped upon the racial aspects of this case to a default. Does race appear to be an issue in this case? No doubt! However, is there another important aspect being ignored here that race has overshadowed? It’s possible. For example, a better question would be the balance of empowering unelected, community volunteers in a police like capacity, as Zimmerman was in his role as the community crime watch leader.
Are crime watches effective and useful in reducing violence and increasing neighborhood awareness? Perhaps, but it must be limited and the actions Zimmerman displayed showed how destructive civic vigilantism can be. Zimmerman’s lack of understanding of a youthful Trayvon is an alarming issue and is more common in communities all across this country than many realize.
The lack of dialogue between youth and community activists is a problem that arises every time an instance of violence occurs. With Trayvon, his youthful urbaness’, distinctive cultural style, coupled with some recent house break-ins and Zimmerman’s alarming ignorance of all members of his surrounding community, helped lay the foundation of this tragic event.
The death of Trayvon Martin is tragic, but what is worse, is the development of the continued example of how broken we are, politically and culturally, as a nation. This case is not about race or Marijuana or hoodies’, but it is about the cultural differences we continue to have and perceive upon each other. The fact that Trayvon was smoking Marijuana and wearing a hoodie simply makes him (unfortunately) a somewhat ‘normal’ teenager.
If one disagrees with that statement, then you have a problem with teenagers in general, not just Trayvon Martin, because ultimately, he is more like you than you may think.