In Sanford, FL about a year ago, Trayvon Martin was killed by a neighborhood watch captain named George Zimmerman. Zimmerman claims he acted in self-defense, so he was not arrested. Martin was unarmed, unless you consider a bag of Skittles and a bottle of iced tea to be "packing".
So one questions what Zimmerman felt so threatened by that he had to "return force". A hail of Skittles perhaps? Did he just feel affronted at having to "taste the rainbow" so he had to shoot?
Now, you all ought to know that this kind of thing might be covered by a law enacted in FL that allows citizens to be armed, and to "stand their ground" if they feel threatened and "return force" if necessary. This law was signed by Gov. Jeb Bush in 2005. There are laws like this in nearly two dozen states.
You can see where this goes. Let's say you don't feel safe as you go through the drive-thru at Burger King because the person in the window looks, I don't know, "shifty". You're armed. He looks at you funny as he takes your money, an "altercation" ensues and you pull out your piece and...return force. So in a way, this law was trouble looking for a place to happen when it was signed. Well, I guess trouble done found a place to happen.
By all accounts, Trayvon Martin was a good kid. He was raised right, liked sports, played football and was close to his dad. He was the kind of kid any parent would be proud of. Even President Obama said that if he'd had a son, he'd want him to be like Trayvon. Now he certainly wasn't perfect, because no teenager is. This gets us to the senseless part of my remarks here.
There has been a rather concerted effort to portray this kid as some kind of thug who attacked Zimmerman and therefore he was justified in shooting him. There has even been a suggestion that the kid's hooded sweater was what aroused suspicion. There's also been new evidence introduced by the defense only yesterday that attempts to paint Trayvon as some kind of punk who possibly "had it coming." So they're playing that tune again. The one that says young black men are inherently dangerous and the best way to deal with them is either to lock them up or shoot them.
The point I want to make is this: as an artist, I find myself studying the human condition in its beauty and its horror. Because I'm an artist, I find myself asking questions like this: how did we get here? How did we get to a place where it's okay to shoot an unarmed teenager with what appears to be no provocation and just walk away?
How did we imagine passing a law that makes it okay to basically shoot first and ask questions later would somehow make for a more civil society? Apparently these acts of violence have increased dramatically since this law went into effect.
Why do some of us still have this knee-jerk reaction to young black men that says they might be dangerous? What weirdling paradigm is that based on?
And doesn't it seem curious that as things like art and music and education get cut, that there seems to be an increase in the kind of reptilian non-thinking that allows horrific tragedies like this to occur? Can you draw a direct line to this? Maybe not, but a connection can be made if you look. Because I can assure you, artists, musicians, poets, writers, actors, and dancers generally aren't busy coming up with new laws that allow us to spend time stirring up trouble, looking for fights, and finding new ways to kill each other. Unless of course you're Ted Nugent, who really should spend more time playing his guitar, and less time ranting for the NRA.
I did say that generally, artists aren't into this kind of stuff. There are always folks out on the fringe.
Meanwhile I keep hope that a better use of our collective imagination might at least mitigate a fair portion of this.
Don't quit your day job, Ted. Ranting for the NRA is so not a good look for you.