Favorite

Lyons: Justice for Trayvon Martin 

click to enlarge Trayvon Martin image

Everybody wants to see justice done in the Trayvon Martin case, and almost everybody acts as if they already know what that is. Never mind the Rev. Al Sharpton, activist and crusading journalist all in one. Nor his MSNBC colleague Lawrence O'Donnell, who recently announced he'd decided to forgo wearing a hoodie on TV to look more like a prosecutor.

Here's GOP presidential candidate Rick Santorum on "Face the Nation," assessing shooter George Zimmerman's mental health. "Someone has a very sick mind who would pursue someone like this, Santorum said. "This is clearly a heinous act. You know, there are a lot of people who have a lot of distorted views of reality...And my heart goes out to the parents, too. I can't imagine what they're suffering, losing their son in such a horrific way. All I would say is that, whatever the motive is, it was a malicious one."

As an attorney, you'd think Santorum would know better than to bring a legally charged term like malice into it. Not to mention implied psychosis. Santorum subsequently reverted to form, blaming President Obama—one of a few public figures who've spoken with appropriate restraint—for bringing race into the equation. This because Obama, extending condolences to the family, acknowledged that "if I had a son, he'd look like Trayvon."

Indeed, he would.  Images of Trayvon's handsome, boyish face have played no small part in the public response. Obama also took care, in his capacity as chief executive, not to pre-judge the case. He called it "absolutely imperative that we investigate every aspect of this and that everybody pulls together—federal, state and local—to figure out exactly how this tragedy happened."

In short, the president promised an investigation, not a result. Would that his circumspection were followed by more of those who have justifiably turned Trayvon's death into a national drama, but who could end up provoking even graver and more socially disruptive tragedies if they're not more careful.   

I say this as one who agrees that had George Zimmerman and Trayvon Martin's roles been reversed, the black kid would almost surely have been arrested. Maybe not convicted, but taken into custody? Definitely. Who thinks that "concealed carry" handgun permits should be damn near impossible to get, and that Florida's NRA-influenced "stand-your-ground" law, and others like it, were certain to have disastrous results. They must be repealed.

I wouldn't trust me with a pistol in my pocket, much less you. Untrained individuals like Zimmerman have no business packing heat, nor confronting strangers they deem suspicious. Trouble didn't come to George Zimmerman; he went looking for it. At minimum, he acted like a damn fool.

However, I've also had the experience of writing a book about a media-amplified murder case that took place in my home state of Arkansas. What I learned was that when reporters and pundits set themselves up as amateur homicide detectives, not to mention as prosecutor, judge and jury, the odds against justice being served grow longer.

I can still remember where I was sitting and what the weather was like when I realized that a ballyhooed front page account of a murder trial in Little Rock's dominant morning newspaper bore almost no relationship to the actual testimony and crime scene photos. It was that shocking to me. All the errors ran in one direction, casting suspicion on an innocent man for murdering his wife. He was eventually exonerated, but only after a harrowing ordeal.

Meanwhile, a veritable orgy of gossip, speculation and self-righteous moralizing swept the state. "You could ask the ladies under every hair dryer in every beauty shop in Arkansas if McArthur was involved, and they'd say yes," one beleaguered police official told me. "They didn't have to know the first thing about the case. They justknew."

It's no exaggeration to say that millions are already there with regard to Trayvon Martin. So affecting were the pictures and descriptions of his death, and so moving the grief and immense dignity of his parents, that it's become easy to cast Zimmerman as a racist villain out of central casting, and to leap to conclusions not in evidence.

Specifically, what exactly took place between Zimmerman and Martin during their fatal encounter? Who attacked whom? We really don't know, and media accounts, as often happens, haven't helped. On MSNBC's "The Last Word" the other night, Lawrence O'Donnell's guests tried to discuss what Martin's girlfriend may have seen.

The girl was halfway across Florida, talking to him by cellphone.

There have been numerous similar episodes. Much of what you think you know may be false. Media personalities don't set out to misinform; mainly, they become True Believers.

It's possible George Zimmerman's culpability will never be proved to everybody's satisfaction. But the kind of painstaking professional investigation President Obama has called for is the only way to try.

Favorite

From the ArkTimes store

Speaking of Trayvon Martin, George Zimmerman

Comments (14)

Showing 1-14 of 14

Add a comment

 
Subscribe to this thread:
Showing 1-14 of 14

Add a comment

More by Gene Lyons

  • A difference

    How low can a columnist go? On evidence, nowhere near as low as the president of the United States. I'd intended to highlight certain ironies in the career of U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.). The self-anointed moral arbiter of the Senate began her career as a tobacco company lawyer — that is, somebody ill-suited to demand absolute purity of anybody, much less Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.).
    • Dec 14, 2017
  • Cats and dogs

    I've always been leery of people who dislike animals. To my wife and me, a house without dog hair in the corners and a cat perched on the windowsill is as barren as a highway rest stop. We're down to three dogs and two cats, the smallest menagerie we've had for years.
    • Dec 7, 2017
  • GOP contempt

    Sometimes it's hard to be cynical enough about the current course of American politics. Astonishing, yet not at all surprising. That was my immediate reaction to the news — largely ignored by national print and broadcast media — that the Trump administration refused to ask Congress for one thin dime of disaster funding in the wake of Northern California's devastating wildfires.
    • Nov 30, 2017
  • More »

Readers also liked…

  • Hillary hit jobs

    It's always been my conviction that if Hillary Clinton could be appointed president, she'd do a bang-up job. Getting elected, however, might prove more difficult.
    • Jul 28, 2016

Most Shared

Latest in Gene Lyons

  • A difference

    How low can a columnist go? On evidence, nowhere near as low as the president of the United States. I'd intended to highlight certain ironies in the career of U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.). The self-anointed moral arbiter of the Senate began her career as a tobacco company lawyer — that is, somebody ill-suited to demand absolute purity of anybody, much less Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.).
    • Dec 14, 2017
  • Cats and dogs

    I've always been leery of people who dislike animals. To my wife and me, a house without dog hair in the corners and a cat perched on the windowsill is as barren as a highway rest stop. We're down to three dogs and two cats, the smallest menagerie we've had for years.
    • Dec 7, 2017
  • GOP contempt

    Sometimes it's hard to be cynical enough about the current course of American politics. Astonishing, yet not at all surprising. That was my immediate reaction to the news — largely ignored by national print and broadcast media — that the Trump administration refused to ask Congress for one thin dime of disaster funding in the wake of Northern California's devastating wildfires.
    • Nov 30, 2017
  • More »

Event Calendar

« »

December

S M T W T F S
  1 2
3 4 5 6 7 8 9
10 11 12 13 14 15 16
17 18 19 20 21 22 23
24 25 26 27 28 29 30
31  

Most Viewed

  • Gratitude

    Now, more than ever, I find myself thankful for those who resist. Those who remind us of our higher common values. The fact-checkers and truth-tellers. Those who build bridges in communities instead of walls to segregate. The ones who stand up and speak out against injustice.

Most Recent Comments

  • Re: Gratitude

    • Thanks for the information about the rally Saturday.

    • on December 15, 2017
  • Re: Money talks

    • I understand what you are saying about money, but there are always exceptions and a…

    • on December 15, 2017
  • Re: A difference

    • History is likely to move with light speed in concluding that in late 2017 society…

    • on December 14, 2017
 

© 2017 Arkansas Times | 201 East Markham, Suite 200, Little Rock, AR 72201
Powered by Foundation