Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Stand Your Ground

In which an unarmed minor dies of a gunshot wound wielded by a suburban vigilante, who decided to take the law in his hands even though Trayvon Martin was not breaking any law and the 911 dispatcher told him to stay inside his car.
No one saw the altercation. No one was on the street. In places like Sanford, Florida people live in gated communities in houses where they can go weeks without seeing a neighbor. Then they get in their cars by themselves. They live in fortresses, and because of this isolation, they are paranoid that someone is going to harm them. This is why they feel they need to have guns to defend their property. They act as if there is no one around them, and they are all alone in the world. No society, no community. This is why they have absurd laws like Stand Your Ground. Although we can surmise that had this entailed the shooting death of a white 17 year-old with skittles in his pocket, murdered by the same man, Zimmerman would have fried, his white last name notwithstanding. Because it is about race, but race gets worse in the suburbs.
In a city teeming with people we share the space with all kinds of other people. We feel safer because we don't feel so alone. And we know better than to assume that because someone is black and wearing a hoodie, our lives are in imminent danger. We may think racist thoughts, but we learn to recognize signs. We simply are more in contact with all kinds of people and this creates a certain social cohesion that seems to be missing from less crowded places.
Racism of course, plays a big part. But the more you live in proximity to different kinds of people, from different ethnic backgrounds, socio-economic levels, beliefs and gender orientations, the more you share the space, the broader criteria you have to wield your prejudices. The city provides a saner reality check than the lurid fantasies that come from living in isolation. We laugh about the people we hate in the subway, but we live in peace with them, in very tight quarters.
Living in the suburbs may give you lots of space, but it is isolating and can lead to delusions of blacks coming to rob you, immigrants coming to steal your job and use your hospitals, and you, some sort of lonely Daniel Boone, armed in your own cocoon, fearsome of everything that is out there.
Zimmerman is already rotting in a hell of his own making. 

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