It was too much to expect from a country as consumed by hostility and jugglery as ours, but a saner society would have had a different take on the Trayvon Martin tragedy.
The overwhelming sentiment of any civilization deserving of the name would be a profound sorrow and alarm over the sudden and unnecessary violent death of a teenage boy on a Sunday evening after a snack run to the convenience store.
One minute, the kid is strolling home; the next he becomes aware that he is being stalked; the next minute, he’s shot dead. What should his school activities, his social life, his clothing, his race have to do with anything? A boy is dead when he should be alive and the family and friends who loved him will never see him again. What’s not to mourn?
Yet, poll after poll tells us that in the eleventh year of the third millennium – when human beings are presumably more enlightened than ever – Americans have pulled apart on the foundational factor in the case: whether Trayvon’s killing was justifiable.
A Reuters/Ipsos poll released last week found that 91 percent of black Americans believe Trayvon was killed unjustly. Fifty-nine percent of Latinos and only 35 percent of whites felt that way.
There are other particulars imbedded in the great divide – gun control, the ridiculous “stand your ground” law that does not carry any obligation to retreat from an alleged threat, the charge brought against shooter George Zimmerman, the who-attacked-whom debate. These will play out, to varying degrees, as the case progresses. Reaching agreement on any of those is a far-fetched possibility, given that the country is so pathetically divided on whether or not Trayvon deserved to be shot.
Let’s ask this of the nine percent of black Americans, 41 percent of Latinos and 65 percent of whites who told the pollsters either that they think the shooting was justified or were not sure what to think: if you came upon someone you thought posed a danger, would you move toward them or away?
And if you moved toward them, might it be said that you were looking for a confrontation?
And since there is no duty to retreat under the ugly law in Florida (as well as 23 other states), if that “dangerous” person turned around and walloped you because he felt threatened by you, well isn’t that a good-for-the-goose-good-for-the-gander proposition?
If all goes well from here on out, a jury will decide whether a bubblegum cop with a glock or a teenager with candy beans was the real threat that fateful evening.
Pray that they are more civilized than their countrymen.