Oregon writer, Rain Trueax, and Oregon painter, Diane Widler Wenzel co-author Rainy Day Thought. Diane generally posts on Wednesdays and Rain on Saturdays. There may be extra days or changes as situations warrant. Comments are always welcome and appreciated as it turns an article into a discussion.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Snow, violence and our culture

Yesterday we woke to snow and the amazing part is it snowed all day but with an accumulation of only three or four inches because this wasn't a heavy snowfall but more of a steady fall of mostly tiny flakes. The thing is we don't get all day snows that often in the middle of winter, let alone when it's nearly the end of March-- as in never then. I will say it was pretty as it fell but snow doesn't photograph that well while it's falling and best not until the sun comes out and the sun never came out.

Last year was a little odd too as our spring was colder than usual and wet. Summer, once it finally got here, not the usual May but nearly the end of June, was lovely with a lot of warm dry days, never hot enough to need the room A/C. Summer weather lasted well into October. Snow falling in the mountains was very late with little accumulation on Santiam Pass clear into January. So I wonder if that polar shift they talk about, if it is happening gradually and the earth is doing a little shift without asking any political party...

I have been following what is happening with the murder of Trayvon Martin-- and it was murder whatever the legal system decides to call it in Florida. Their law for self-defense is not meant to cover a big burly guy in an SUV deciding to track a citizen, follow them, intimidate them, and then when the citizen recognizes they are being hunted (but not by who), they try to defend themselves (how would the victim know this wasn't someone out to kill them-- oh wait, it was.  Even the man who wrote the law says it needs to re reworded. They figured when they wrote it that it would really be self-defense. This clearly was only self-defense on Trayvon's part.

The sheriff's office in Sanford amazes me but likely when it's a black, they have been used to thinking hey it's gotta be okay because doubtless the black had done something wrong. We have seen many sheriff's offices across this country (Arizona comes to mind) who think exactly that way.

But there are saner minds, and I am hoping Florida will realize what this was-- a homicide and I don't mean manslaughter. You follow someone, reveal through tapes that you were angry and out to get them, then when they resist, you, a private citizen, have a right to shoot them dead-- that scenario sounds like self-defense to any sane person? I don't think so.

I get it-- there had been burglaries in that neighborhood. But it could have well have been whites. The idea that a black youth isn't as safe as anyone else to walk the street is horrifying to many of us. Frankly with a vigilante like this guy, any young guy might not be safe. And I've heard of this too many times to not believe the black community is right when they say a young black male is not as safe. From what I have read, it actually was a mixed neighborhood; so the killer had no right to assume anything as he clearly had.

In most states even to prevent a burglary in your home you do not have the right to shoot someone. You only have that right when you are being threatened. What kind of threat could this boy have had beyond a few bruises if he had decided he had to defend himself.

I don't know what kind of man this self-appointed vigilante was. The police there didn't do a drug and alcohol test on him (they did on Trayvon's body). Most people would be feeling awful now not only for the chance of a criminal justice system coming down on them but also that they took the life of someone who was clearly innocent. For all I know, he felt proud of himself though. We aren't hearing there was even much questioning of him or what his reaction was.

I think the reason this has gotten so many of us so upset is we can visualize it being our son, our grandson, and the teen who lives in the neighborhood. We relate to the boy, to his parents, and those of our population who do not (you know who they are, the 30% who are bigots and more worried that they might not have the right to shoot someone themselves), well we know why they are not upset at it.

Maybe I am a Pollyanna but I really do think this will lead to rewritten laws, in states all across this country, because the average Republican doesn't really want this kind of hunt and kill law-- at least not where it involves humans.

I also think there will be a spring here... Although it won't be one with daffodils inside our fenceline (these are from the bulbs that self-planted themselves along the gravel road, just outside our fence, under the shelter of the trees there, as the lambs are eating the blossoms as soon as they open. Theoretically sheep don't eat daffodils...


OldOldLady Of The Hills said...

The truly terrible thing is---This Is Not New. That law may be new, but the hunting down or mistreatment of Blak men has been a given in many places in our country for a long long time. Here in Los Angeles---it has always been the case in certain areas. The mentality that is suspicious of anyone of color, we know STILL very much exists in this country.
Legalizing this fear--this out and out Racism---with a law like this is frightening, beyond words.

Rubye Jack said...

What is interesting to me is how backwards our southern states are in their thinking. Or, should I say in America's "Heartland". I've been wondering why certain people in the south are so hateful. It is as if they have been told it is okay to be cruel. Well, they have been told this by their culture. Maybe it is poverty or lack of education.

Kay Dennison said...

Snow? We had 70 and sunny in Ohio which is weird for March! I'm betting snow on my birthday next month.

That murder really annoys (gross understatement) me greatly. Martin Luther King is turning in his grave!

I live in a mixed race neighborhood and we seem to manage pretty well. My upstairs neighbor is pretty racist which puts me crazy and I've told her to go back to redneck land where she grew up.
"Walking while black" is not a crime but cold-blooded murder and I hope the man who committed this gets the death penalty for it.

Anonymous said...

Under the Florida law Zimmerman, who is Hispanic and not White, is innocent. If the people in Florida do not want the law then they should repeal it. Prove to me that this law was passed due to racism. And our Southern states may be backward (RJ's phrase) in your eyes, but I have seen blatant racism in the North that is as virulent as anywhere - the thing is it is more subtle. And would any of you take a walk in Watts or South Central ? There's plenty of racism there too. People who live in glass houses shouldn't throw stones !

Rain Trueax said...

The way Zimmerman himself referred to the person he was following does suggest he saw him as a risk purely due to skin color and age. Being a minority yourself doesn't mean you cannot put down another minority as inferior to yourself. Surely you, anonymous, do not support what he did? AND the law didn't justify what he did. If you think about what self-defense means, it doesn't mean following someone, intimidating them (and from the phone call we know he was doing all of that) and then say it's self-defense when the person tries to defend themselves.

Racism can be North or South. It is equally wrong wherever it is; but it's in the South where we've seen the hangings, including in jail cells when the family denies that person would have ever taken their own life. Those aren't old stories either. Sorry but the South has gone beyond the kind of racism we see the most in the North. And I can walk through black neighborhoods safely. I don't know where you live anonymous but I've done it. My son, when he was a teen, walked into one by mistake in SF. That was some years back, of course, but the worst he got was-- your daddy buy you your clothes, yelled at him. A black guy in a suit directed him how to get out of the neighborhood.

Anybody who says the Florida law justifies what Zimmerman did, hasn't looked at it. And the fact that the police chief down there was one who did exactly that and let Zimmerman goes tells me something about that system that goes beyond one nut with a gun!

Anonymous said...

Rain please do read your American history. There have been lynchings of Blacks in the North and race riots in the North. Remember South Boston ? I invite you to take a walk through South Central . Will you do it ? I doubt it. I wonder how the boyz in the hood would receive you. Failing that go to Chicago. I would not have shot the young man - I would have called the police.

Rain Trueax said...

Any more insults, anonymous and you won't be posted here. If you had said that about one of the other commenters, I would not have posted this one. Yes, I read history, but I also read the newspaper and the events I am talking about are recent within the last few years. As to going somewhere I don't live, I don't do it. I live in Oregon and can walk through our black neighborhoods and have although there are more gang shootings in some Portland neighborhoods but not just by blacks-- gangs and drug related most of the time. I have been in them off and on through the years including taking home kids who had been playing with my son.

Here's the thing-- the issue is today and what one particular police station did which was condone a murder. The more I hear about the Florida law, it didn't condone stalking and killing someone. Trayvon did nothing wrong and what this man did by following and intimidating him was wrong and should not be defended by anybody. If (and I don't know this is yet true) Trayvon did turn and try to defend himself from someone he felt was trying to assault or rob him, he didn't do anything more men would not do.

YOU still have not said what you think about the specific case-- the killing of Trayvon. If you recall, the killer did call the police and then ignored what they told him to do. That's okay with you?

The story of Trayvon is not the only story like this, but it's the one where the parents had the wherewithal to complain with lawyers. It has caught the attention of the whole country. I would hope that also means Southerners because it would go a long ways toward telling the rest of the country that Southerners aren't supporting murder by color. Nobody should think this was okay and bringing up other instances, usually vague and with no details, doesn't help to assess this one.

Taradharma said...

if you listen to the 911 tape, the police clearly told Zimmerman NOT to follow the kid. And, towards the end of the tape, you hear Zimmerman mutter, "Fucking coon." I think that speaks volumes about his intent.

la peregrina said...

Thank God people are not letting this slip away. Police have to be held accountable for what they do not do as much as for what they do do. That Chief of Police had no business deciding whether or not Florida's "Stand Your Ground" law applied in this case. His job was to investigate, period.

Ingineer66 said...

I was listening to a firearms instructor from Florida on the radio. He said they and other self defense classes teach Avoid, Evade then Defend as a last resort. Nobody would advocate chasing anyone down as any part of self defense or neighborhood watch

Rain Trueax said...

Ingineer, as you know, but maybe other readers here do not, I have a concealed weapon permit. I have had it from about the time Oregon first permitted people to carry concealed. You took a class and it emphasized good sense where it came to guns. You had to have a clean record. I very rarely carry a gun away from the house because the risks are great in using it wrongly. Pepper spray, which is available in most sporting good stores, is a lot better choice. It stops people and allows you to say you are sorry.

Now in my home, if someone broke into it, all bets are off, but outside my home, I would not kill someone who was nosing around. I'd call the police which hopefully would get out here before the person decided to break in. I can't understand why anyone would recklessly shoot someone else and wonder how they live with such a decision.

From all I can tell of Florida's law, the legal system down there has not applied it as it was intended to be-- which meant you didn't have to try to run away but if you were attacked with a lethal weapon, you had a right to shoot. Zimmerman didn't remotely fit that description. He has ruined his life as well as Traynon and his parents'. He will have to worry about his physical safety if he does end up in prison- probably even if not. The sad part is you cannot undo that kind of mistake. There is no making it right now.

Thomas said...

Rain does the name Eugene Coon sound familiar to you or your readers ? He is a 13 year old boy - who happens to be White - who was set afire by two older boys - who happen to be Black. He suffered first degree burns to his face and head. This strikes me as a hate crime. How do you feel about it ? This did not create the media frenzy that the tragic shooting of Trayvon Little did, but hate is hate regardless of the color of the hater. And how do you feel about the vigilantism advocated by the New Black Panther Party ? Do you condemn it ? These are valid questions that may not produce answers that we like.

Rain Trueax said...

It is a hate crime when someone chooses to hurt another purely based on skin color-- so yes, that sounds like a hate crime but as you said, I never heard of it. I am not sure we'd have heard of Trayvon Martin had his parents been less determined.

And whether the crime with Trayvon is going to qualify as a hate crime, it's hard to say; but we need to have a better definition of what justifies lethal force. As we hear more about Trayvon, it sounds as though he was pursued, and when the man directly confronted him, he fought back. Possibly he was even winning. But does a fist fight justify shooting someone? Zimmerman was hardly in danger of dying from it, and he set up the scenario.

We won't know the truth of this story as all that is left is Zimmerman's story, and it's going to paint him as innocent as he can manage. Even now his side is putting out how he was so sad over it. But if you look at the information as it comes out, there have been some doubts about his judgment for a long time.

There are evidently some witnesses to the aftermath of the shooting who said Zimmerman didn't attempt to help Trayvon but held him into the ground after he shot him. My fear is this will escalate to even more hate of one race for another which would be a very sad result.

I did not feel that a bounty on Zimmerman was a good choice from the New Panthers-- and should have the law after them if it's true. I know that Zimmerman is frightened for his life and in hiding.

A lot of this would have been lessened and we might not be talking about it today except for what the police did by not holding Zimmerman, by assuming the Florida law enabled him to hunt someone down and when they tried to defend themselves shoot them dead, and if they had even done a drug and alcohol test on Zimmerman. A lot of the outrage is at the system. I think you probably heard of the boy killed by being on someone's porch. It seems too often the first response these days is shoot first; and if the Republicans get their way with cutting government even further, there will be more as we go back to an old West attitude. Do you think that would be good?