I’m conflicted and disturbed about what happened last night. This isn’t a think piece or an article, I’m just trying to work some stuff out. Bear with me.
I don’t believe that when George Zimmerman set out to follow Trayvon Martin in February last year, he had already made the decision to kill.
We’ve all spent the last year and a half holding various beliefs about what happened on the night Martin died, and those beliefs are really all we’ve had to go on. Emotion and speculation has been the biggest part of this case from the beginning. I’ve found it hard to grasp the events I truly believe in throughout this trial, and found it hard to grasp the idea some people can believe the complete opposite, and have justifiable reasons to do so. This murky divide has been encouraged by the news media, a filtration system we’ve all been getting a bit fed up with these past few months. None of us know much at all, but since we’ve been prodded into caring so deeply, our impulses and prejudices have been exploited many more times over than the facts ever were. The best has been done not to inform, but to further entrench us in whatever view we had at the beginning of all this.
It’s this emphasis on guesswork that’s allowed me to come to terms with who I believe George Zimmerman to be. I can’t, after studying this case, in all good conscience call him a monster, or a cold-blooded assassin. I think he made a tragic mistake. I think a hotheaded, stupid, hateful action lead to several more, and someone died. I doesn’t matter who he was before the trigger was pulled, but it was. And now, whoever he is, whoever he was before last year, he’s officially not responsible for the death of a teenager.
I’m upset and I’m angry, and many others are. The walks and protests and arguments were done under the banner of “Justice for Trayvon”, but justice for Trayvon was swept off the table on the night of February 26, 2012, when his life was ended as a result of profiling and vigilantism. Those of us who stand with Trayvon in this case have to examine the root of the event. Why was Zimmerman, gun in hand, able to approach an unarmed teen and somewhere along the way claim self defence? Why was he able to roam his neighbourhood in the rain, and Trayvon Martin not? I’m not convinced there was justice for Trayvon long before Zimmerman ever stepped out of that car.
George Zimmerman won’t go to jail today, but that doesn’t really matter in the grand scheme of things. Whichever window he’s looking out of, he’s looking out of it a killer; one unable to lead a normal life. Whatever he is, whatever he did, I do not believe he’s a sociopath, a narcissist, or pure evil. There’s no scientific term for “Fat angry loser with a gun” but that’s what I’d probably go for. The fact is this: in due course, things will die down, the media will stop reporting, and Zimmerman’s “victory” will fade in his memory. And then he’ll be left with what he did. The one person who’ll ever fully know what happened that day. Whatever decision the jury reached last night, it’s the last 18 months that will define him. Where he hides for the rest of his life is irrelevant. He’s doing it as someone who stalked a teenager, looked him in the eyes, and killed him. I believe he regrets it, and I believe his experiences as a defendant, trained to say and emphasise certain things about that night, have numbed him to that for now. But that will go. Soon Zimmerman will have nothing but the memory of gunning someone down in an entirely preventable situation. That will stay.
Last night’s verdict doesn’t sully Martin’s memory, or provide his family with any less closure or comfort. That was also swept off the table last year. Last night’s verdict instead validates mindsets and actions I can’t reconcile myself with, and hurt me to know are still prevalent and, seemingly, legal. If you walked for Trayvon, if you refuse the society that allowed this event to ever take place, if you’re troubled by Zimmerman waking up today a free man, it only means you value the compassion and reason that we’ve allowed so many others to lack. We’ve got to refuse to vilify Zimmerman, and instead work towards making sure our discourse can inform, provoke, and invite a community that can prevent something like this from happening again, long before it ever would.