A BART police vehicle is vandalized during a protest after George Zimmerman was found not guilty in the 2012 shooting death of teenager Trayvon Martin, early Sunday, July 14, 2013, in Oakland, Calif. Protesters angered by the acquittal Zimmerman held largely peaceful demonstrations in three California cities, but broke windows and started small street fires Oakland, police said. (AP Photo/Bay Area News Group, Anda Chu) ORG XMIT: CAOAK109
Updated: August 16, 2013 6:07AM
On Saturday morning, I posted a simple yet loaded question on social media: “As the jury in George Zimmerman’s murder trial begins a second day of deliberations, I ask the jury of public opinion: Is he guilty or not guilty?”
Note that I did not say “innocent,” but “not guilty” — the difference between lightning and a lightning bug — and Zimmerman was indeed found “not guilty” by a jury later that night. But was he innocent of any wrongdoing in that racially charged incident? Doubtful.
Responses do my curious query were across the board, as well as passionate and polarizing, as I expected. If Trayvon Martin’s death served any purpose, possibly it was to force our country to again examine and discuss the always debatable issue of racial profiling, if not race relations.
“The pot smoking punk could have just keep moving and gone home rather than letting it escalate into a fight and a subsequent shooting,” commented Jerry K.
Gregg K. wrote: “If Zimmerman had listened to the dispatcher, who was following protocol, we would not even be discussing this. Instead, he acted, for no real reason, like a vigilante. If someone pursued me with a gun, I would defend myself in much the same way as the unarmed boy did. Skittles and a soda are no match for a firearm. It is a form of murder.”
Joe W. responded: “Zimmerman made a HUGE mistake and I think that he is liable for his actions. However, LEGALLY I think he will be found not guilty. Unfortunately, public opinion and threatened mob action has already had too much of an effect on this trial. It will even be the grounds for appeal if he is found guilty.”
“He killed someone, regardless of anything else,” said Nicki B. “I think he should at least be convicted of manslaughter and serve his time. The rest of it? Ahhhh ... that’s such a debate.”
A debate indeed, one that will linger into this week, next month, and probably for decades to come. I simply don’t see a commonground with these issues, nor do I see us
Ed W. cited a point that I’ve heard from many other region residents, especially from Gary, during the Zimmerman trial: “Five African American men killed in Gary within the last eight days... where’s THAT outrage?”
As all of us know, the lack of outrage stems from the cold fact that those homicides involve only African Americans, not a race related or stereotypical racial profiling issue in our eyes. Is it fair? No. but that’s the reality of the situation.
Getting back to the Zimmerman case, none of us were eyewitnesses to that fatal exchange on Feb. 26, 2012, so none of us know what really happened. The trial only muddied the waters more while reigniting the national deliberations on the broader issue at hand.
“Who cares?” asked Karl T. “How many murders have been committed all over the country while the news paraded this farce on us, feeding their ‘professional opinions’? How many major newsworthy things are being ignored while they hand us this three ring circus? Be done with it.”
We may now be formally “done” with the Zimmerman-Martin case, but we’re nowhere close to being done with the ripples of this case, the “stand-your-ground” law, and the jury of public opinion.
Was justice served? Some scream yes, others sigh no. But few of us are truly innocent when it comes to this issue. If Martin’s death does anything, maybe it can serve as yet another reminder and a needed lightning rod in our struggle for equality, if that is even possible.
See Life Adventures update
Over the Memorial Day weekend, I wrote a column asking for readers’ help to send a few children on a summertime trek to the East Coast. As usual, you came through in the clutch.
For the past 20 years, Carolyn Ballenger, a retired Hammond school teacher, has escorted students on a two-week “adventure of a lifetime” trek to the East Coast. There, the kids took part in a science, history and literature program with personal experiences that are both visual and motivational while designed for critical thinking.
It was later named “See Life Adventures,” with Ballenger becoming its founder and president, and money raised each year through grants and donations to help kids of U.S. military personnel and veterans.
“The East Coast offers our children hands-on experiences that are different than here at home,” Ballenger told me. “For example, we visit Concord, Mass., for literature and history because it was home to many of our great authors, such as Emerson, Thoreau, Hawthorne, and Louisa May Alcott. The children stood in the room where Louisa May wrote her book ‘Little Women.’”
This year, however, three of those children and their families didn’t have enough money, roughly $1,000, to make the trip. Ballenger, who was desperate, hoped that generous readers, veterans groups or military-minded businesses would step up to make donations on behalf of these kids. And you did.
The trek set out on the morning of June 13 with vans packed with luggage and children, leaving behind teary mothers and happy fathers.
The group’s first event was at the Sea Coast Science Center in Rye, New Hampshire, where the children learn about the tide, the zones in the ocean, and the plant and animal life that live in those zones.
“They go to the tide pools with a naturalist and their chaperones to find specimens, learn about them and return them to the ocean,” Ballenger said after they returned. “One of the adventures that most excited the children is whale watching. They boarded the Captain’s Lady III boat for the adventure at sea.
The kids also did white water rafting, zip lining, and gem mining before visiting the Salem Witch Museum and Pirate Museum in Salem.
“The children were good sports and great adventurers,” Ballenger said.
Again, thanks in part to those P-T readers who made this trek possible.
Connect with Jerry via email, at firstname.lastname@example.org, voice mail, at 713-7237, or Facebook, Twitter, and his blog, at jerrydavich.wordpress.com.