Monday, July 15, 2013

That thing I don't want to write about today

I want to write about other things, but I feel like it would be weirdly irresponsible to not write something about Treyvon Martin, considering how much it’s in the news today, and all over social media, and how unsettling it is.

I can’t, of course, come to any real conclusion of guilt or innocence; I wasn’t there. I do believe it’s a travesty of justice, in my personal opinion, but I was not there on the jury. I was not there being asked if I believed without doubt that I could convict someone of the charges raised.  I don’t know that I believe in a life for a life. It’s a tragedy this young man was shot, and that speaks to a much larger conversation. I don't think shooting an unarmed person can be warranted. 

I was also not there in the jury that convicted Marissa Alexander, a woman in Florida sentenced by the same judge who prosecuted the Treyvon Martin case,  given 10 to 20 years in prison for firing warning shots after suffering domestic abuse. That seems a miscarriage of justice to me.  

Another fury is the twitter commenting reminding Kim Kardashian, while showing her support for Treyvon Martin, that her father was OJ Simpson’s defense lawyer and got him off when they believe he should have been convicted. He was acquitted, but he was wealthy.  Is the argument that his wealth got him off, so wealth and celebrity trump everything else? But he was convicted in a civil trial and of a later crime. What about gender? If he had been a woman?  Sexuality?  If he had been gay and it was his partner? Where do those fall on the scale of reasons to acquit or convict? What evil, strange scale would that be? How would you test it? What combinations ensure freedom? What is the winning combination of celebrity, wealthy, sexual preference, gender and race?

I do not wish to be incendiary, I don’t have an answer the conversation. That perhaps, is because the conversation is too big for an answer.  I am not willing to say, “Oh, well, that’s the way it is” and let it go. I’m troubled by it – that’s an understatement. I’m scared, I’m disturbed, I’m outraged.  It does not even feel like we have two justice systems. It feels like we have different justice systems in different states, and ones that can be swayed by race, gender, money, sexuality, personal prejudices. I do not want to live in Florida, that’s for sure. When this happens, core safety feels threatened. My safety feels threatened.

 If this jury was of George Zimmerman’s peers, it’s possible they all think like him. Or it’s possible that they really were confused, and knew they had his life in the balance as well.  They also must have been aware of the media scrutiny – I can’t believe that did not weigh on them as well. I don’t know. I wasn’t in the room. Pull one string and it's connected to a pack of dynamite.

I do not think this verdict is simple. I do not think any of the miscarriages of justice that we’ve had in this country are simple.  Well, that’s not true – some of them are clearly based on bias - race, gender, sexuality, economic. That’s happened in the past, many times.  I'm probably not going out on a limb saying that I am on the side that thinks racial profiling is part of what happened in this case. That’s part of the outrage, if not all of it. That is perhaps why I’m reluctant to write about it: I have no simple solution, no clear idea of action, no uncomplicated feeling. 

I was listening to the radio last week (104.3 fm in LA I believe), and the call-in show had people, well, bragging about the ways the avoided jury duty.  I’ve been talking about this with people all week, during the trial. So many voices that are outraged are probably some of the same voices without time or inclination to serve on a jury. They feel inconvenienced, and figure out ways to get out of it and back to their lives.  How though, can there be a jury of peers, when people do not show up for jury duty? How can we be outraged when there is a travesty of justice is if we don’t show up for our communities, except to express outrage? I want to know who showed up to serve on the jury for Zimmerman, and what jury selection was like.

There are so many disturbing travesties of justice in the history of this country. There are however, reversals as well. And there are many people acquitted of crimes they didn’t commit. People who are exonerated.  I heard a story this weekend about a woman who was 19 and convicted of a drug charge after being told she would be given probation. She was told she would get probation if she pled guilty, but the judge wanted to make an example of her, so she was given 10 – 20 years in prison, with no evidence. She escaped, raised a family, was found, brought back to prison after 23 years, and waited for a year for charges to be dropped, as there weren’t sufficient charges to prosecute in the first place. Our system is broken, confusing, huge, overwhelming.  The only way, though, for people to do anything about it is to get involved.  I hope that people who are upset will report when called for jury duty.

I saw a very disturbing short film at Outfest yesterday. The action was two gay men being hung by men in military looking uniforms. The men looked Middle Eastern. There was no dialogue. It was devastating, disturbing. This is happening now.

Our system isn’t perfect, but I don’t know that I wouldn’t trade it for what I see elsewhere. In fact, other systems have been modeled on ours. I do hope that this spurs people to get involved in fixing it.

Ugh. See why it's the thing I don't want to write about today?  My thoughts are with the families, with that woman serving 10-20 years for shooting a warning shot and convicted under the same law that Zimmerman was acquitted under. So angry. And her case makes me angrier because no one died or was hurt, and she is not with her children but in prison. Sent to prison for wanting to protect them and herself, when she had a restraining order in place that he violated. Her jury took 15 minutes. That makes me sad and angry. I am actually hoping that the noise around that case will cause it to be reviewed, and maybe something good will come out of this.

So is it jury selection? Is it confusing laws? Is it having to uphold a law on a jury you may not believe in or understand, but have to follow the rules of the court?  Will our system, like any system, remain flawed?

I prefer it to vigilante justice, but that is just what was on trial with Zimmerman. Do we have a fair trial whose purpose is to give assent to vigilantism?

I am lost on this one.

Thanks for reading. I am no clearer than when I started.  Even identifying the questions on this is complicated. A young man lost a life, and that's tragic. Part of a nation feels unsafe, and I'm sure part feels vindicated and given permission to use their guns.

I hope this verdict doesn't result in more fear, but I don't see how it can't. I hope, like I said, it spurs people on to conversation and more action.


dixiebelle said...

These and other events should bring people to the table to talk. Just like the Cheerios commercial that has so many up in arms over an interracial couple serving up some breakfast cereal. If we don't talk about the issues with race, gender, human equality, guns and control of them etc then we will never have change. I love it that most children do not see race and have to be taught to hate or fear others. Talk is cheap sometimes but at least it's a start.

Criticlasm said...

Yes, I agree. The more I hear about the verdict, the more upset I get, especially when that particular law is invoked and people are prosecuted instead. It does seem to be racially driven, and it does seem that the dead man was put on trial instead, which is not the point. The whole thing is sad and upsetting, but I do hope it starts some overhauling. And once again, just disturbed at Florida over and over.

dixiebelle said...

Florida will no longer see any tourism dollars from me unless they make some serious overhauls with their laws. I abhor the thought of going near that state in it's current condition. The Zimmerman trial was a miscarriage of justice in my opinion but I was not privy to all the facts. However, they did put TRayvon on trial instead of Zimmerman and that was wrong. A child is dead at the hands of a civilian who was told to stay in his car and he choose to ignore the police and now he has to live with his choice of killing an innocent child for the rest of his life...if I were him or his brother who looks like him, I would be in fear for my life for the rest of my life....argh...I'll get off my emotional soapbox now...

All Things SueƱos said...

I'm sure your emotions would be assuaged if you sat down and looked at the facts of the Zimmerman case, a case that should never have gone to trial in the first place but for political intervention (from black leaders and your president). The case was not about vigilantism, it was about self-defense. One can say that we can't come to any sort of conclusions because we are not on the jury, but this whole trial was publicized to such a degree that ALL the evidence was put forth for all of us to scrutinize. This was pretty clear-cut if you strip away the media spin and the emotional reactions from people who don't have, or refuse to look at, all the facts.

The case about the woman who received a sentence for firing a shot into the ceiling thus endangering her neighbors is not even close to this case in any way, although this is not the first place I have seen that comparison. I would question where you heard about that other case and in which context. Apples and oranges.

I avoid jury duty all the time. When I am called I always try to get dismissed as a hostile juror. I am not going to partake in a system I do not support (statism).

This case wasn't about race any more than your comment of "The men looked Middle Eastern" was about race. Well, no, I take that back (regarding your comment being about race), because I look Middle Eastern and I can say without a shadow of a doubt that I get stopped at airports a lot more than you do. Comments like yours don't help people like me.

I think people would be a lot less emotional if they just took the facts of what happened and took a step back and reason through what was going on. This was not about vigilantism, but the right to protect yourself. For an in-depth analysis (better than mine). You can go here:

I'm happy to add to "the conversation."

Criticlasm said...

Thanks. I appreciate that.

To defend (I guess?) my comment about the short film the actors all appear to be of middle eastern descent, but since the film was made in Sweden, they are probably all Swedish.

It was clear, either way, that they were executed for being gay.

I don't get stopped in airports. I do get "you don't look Jewish" or "You don't seem gay" as well. I've also gotten to hear some pretty disturbing things because of those assumptions. Those infuriate me, so I'm sorry to have added to that in any way.

If this case was about protecting yourself, then I still question shooting an unarmed individual. There is another case in Florida of a 77 year old black man shooting a white man who was apparently choking him on a basketball court who is now serving time for shooting the man, even though the "stand your ground" law was invoked in that trial, too. I don't think people can be helped from thinking this is about race. But, like I said, I think it's about a lot of things, and I was reluctant to write about it for that reason. Thank you for the thoughtful response