Saturday, June 23, 2012

What Choices Would You Make If You Were Being Stalked At Night?

Take a moment and ask yourself what you would do in this situation:

Imagine for a moment that you are walking at night, since you don't have a car.  You left your apartment to go to the corner store to get a snack, and now you're walking back.  There's a light rain.  The neighborhood has had a number of break-ins lately, so you keep an eye out for trouble.

Then suddenly you realize a man you don't know is driving slowly behind you, following you, watching you intently and muttering into a cell phone.  He isn't a police officer.  What do you do?  Do you blithely continue on your way, or do you dart off and try to lose him?

You choose to try to lose him.  The man gets out of the car and hurries after you, stalking you.  What do you do?  Do you head straight home, leading the man to your family, or do you try harder to lose him?

You try harder to lose him.  But suddenly he catches up to you.  The man doesn't say his name or why he's following you.  You ask, "Why are you following me?"  All he says to you, in an accusational tone, is "What are you doing here?!"  Then he pushes you.  What do you do?  Do you assume he's no threat, after stalking you through your apartment complex and refusing to say who he is?  Do you turn and try to run some more and hope he doesn't catch you again?  Or do you defend yourself?

You figure you could take him, so you decide to punch him.  A struggle ensues, and you continue to fight back, falling to the ground with him.  That's when you discover the man has a loaded gun hidden under his jacket.  What do you do?  Do you try to run away and hope he doesn't shoot you in the back?  Or do you fight harder, maybe even try to get the gun away from him?

Would you have made the choices I described above?  Trayvon Martin apparently did, and I don't blame him.  The above description is a summary of events as described on the 911 phone call from Trayvon's shooter, George Zimmerman, an account from Trayvon's female friend (whom he was talking to during the event), and Zimmerman's own account to police, which was just released in police interview videos.  Of course, Zimmerman's account is his word against that of a dead boy and a few half-coherent observations from witnesses.  Sadly, it ended with a single gunshot and a fatal wound for the boy, through his heart and lung, so we will never hear his side of the story.

Trayvon was scared, according to his female friend.  But imagine how much more scared he would have been if he had known that his stalker was armed with a loaded 9mm handgun, that he had a history of violence, that he was paranoid enough to make dozens of 911 calls in previous months for things as simple as open garage doors or children playing, and that he was using medication that could arouse aggression and hallucinations.

Zimmerman suggests that he was the victim.  And yet he obviously pursued and shot the unarmed boy.  If Zimmerman is to be trusted, why then is he back in jail after committing perjury for lying about his finances, using his wife to move money around and hide it, and trying to hide a second passport?  Does this sound like the actions of an innocent man who has nothing to fear from the truth?

But the gun extremists don't care about all that.  They've donated at least a couple hundred thousand dollars to this murderer's cause, beginning even before the facts in the case had come out.  They are apologists for Zimmerman, downplaying Zimmerman's violent past or justifying his attempt to follow the boy.  They instead attack the victim, Trayvon, because the boy had a brush with marijuana usage in his past and a miniscule, trace amount of THC in his autopsy report, and blow it way out of proportion with speculative hearsay designed to demonize this boy and make the murder seem to match the fantasy that conceal carry permit holders are only going to shoot thugs and druggies. 

The choices made by Trayvon that night, as reasonable as they seemed, served only to reinforce Zimmerman's toxic preconceived notions and vigilante tendencies.

Would you have made the same choices as Trayvon?

Would you have made the same choices as Zimmerman?