I don’t know anything about the Trayvon Martin George Zimmerman case.. Okay, so I do. I don’t know anything that anyone else doesn’t already know, and probably less than you do, cuz I’m not actively following it. Still, try as I might I can’t help but hear the gist of it. It’s all over the place nowadays.
Fourchan has re-enacted the whole Martin Zimmerman thing as a Mortal Kombat spoof. Reddit has critiqued that animated image file and the entire debacle. This is just one of many places on the Internet where this argument is ongoing. I see it on other message boards, on Twitter, it’s a little annoying. Essentially Zimmerman is guilty until proven guilty. This is called “Trial By Media.” Or rather, that’s what we used to call it, before the Internet.
Not too long ago sadly, and even more sadly in some parts of the world even still today, a person is considered guilty in a court of law until proven innocent. The burden of proof falls on the accused. This system doesn’t work and a lot of people go to jail or worse for crimes they did not commit.
Here in America, that’s not how it works. One is supposed to be innocent until proven guilty. This is rapidly becoming more and more difficult to do, because if the trial gets any media attention at all, the person accused is probably going to be seen guilty even if he’s proven innocent.
There are some forces who do not want our legal system to be the way it is, cuz guilty people do on occasion get off on technicalities. The burden of proof falls on the prosecution and not the defense, so if the prosecution can’t convince a jury, the guy gets away with it. It’s a little more complicated than that I know. I’m not a lawyer, and I don’t want this blog post to be very long. I’m already bored writing this so you’re probably already tired of reading it.
There’s a reason why innocent until proven guilty is the better system. If guilty until proven innocent is the norm, justice errs on the side of putting innocent people away for crimes they didn’t commit. I’d rather have some guilty people declared innocent than innocent people declared guilty. The REAL problem is this isn’t foolproof. In recent years with the advances in genetics, use of DNA in revisited cases has led to convictions being overturned. Turns out even with our current system, science has proved that sometimes innocent people are found guilty anyway.
So we can’t win for losing, can we?
OJ Simpson was found guilty of murdering his wife and her lover in a court of the media. The fact that a court of law had to acquit him didn’t seem to matter. I don’t know if he actually did it or not. I have my opinion, but it’s not a well-informed one, and I really don’t care. She broke her vow to him. He lost his temper. The only difference between this domestic disturbance and thousands of others that happen every year is that OJ was once considered a hero in the eyes of the public. We seem to put people up on pedestals in this country just to watch them fall. Anyway. That’s ancient history now. Last I heard OJ was still held liable for financial damages to his ex-wife’s family, and then he tried stealing back stuff he claimed was his, and went to jail anyway on an unrelated charge. Some people would say that’s just desserts. He got what was coming to him. His bad karma caught up with him. Whatever. Some could argue OJ Simpson carved his own destiny. Others could argue it was carved by variables completely out of his control. He used to be a professional football player and an American hero beloved by millions. Today he’s just a convict. Was he always bad, or did he start off good and something turned him evil?
Or maybe he’s just like every single one of us: human. None of us are really heroes or villains. We are people driven to make choices and some of those choices are heroic ones. Others are villainous. However, no one wakes up every morning twirling their mustache with maniacal laughter contemplating how to be more evil than the day before. Everyone thinks they’re wearing the white hat, and anyone who gets in their way is wearing the black hat. Each and every one of us are trying to do right by ourselves, and those we love, and the world at large, but each choice made paints us a little more into a corner if we’re not careful. How we make choices and what affects how we make choices can speed up the process of messing it all up.
George Zimmerman fancied himself a man of justice and law. He wanted to contribute to his neighborhood but on his terms, using fairness and judicial prudence as he understood these concepts. Is he also racist? Does he have a thing against Skittles? I dunno. Nobody knows. That doesn’t matter. The point I’m trying to make here is that whatever happened that night, both Zimmerman and Martin thought they were wearing the white hat and the other guy was wearing the black hat.
Do you know where “white hat” and “black hat” comes from? In modern day parlance it’s usually in reference to hacking. White hats believe they are helping society by trying to break through firewalls and other security measures. Then they report what weaknesses they find to the proper authorities so as to shore up the levies so to speak. Fortify the ramparts. Make sure that the real bad guys (aka ‘black hats’) can’t get in. However, hackers got the idea from old time westerns where usually in black and white movies the good guy was made to look as clean cut and angelic as possible so the audience would be able to tell he’s the hero, and then the bad guys were always darker skinned and wore darker clothes, and they’d be depicted in shadows or riding black horses and the music would also indicate they were the bad guys, so you wouldn’t determine who was good and bad just by how they behaved, but how they looked and sounded on screen. Many of the cheaper westerns didn’t bother with artistic lighting or sound. They just put the bad guys in black hats and the good guys in white hats.
Then of course there’s the Caucasian versus African-American thing. Most of these westerns were written by white people back in a time where racism was not as frowned upon as it is today. White people believed they were their god’s chosen people, and the black people were put on this Earth to serve them. I don’t know a better way to put that. As a child I remember hearing people talk about the mark of Cain. How they believed black people were descendants of Cain and because of Cain’s sins, his descendants were to be kept downtrodden by the descendants of Abel, who by the way died before he could father children, so this entire fictional bullshit story never made any sense but that didn’t stop generations of people passing this along to their descendants.
Thankfully by the 1960s this stuff was already being scoffed at, but it took a long time for civil rights to become accepted in mainstream society, and we still got a long way to go half a century later. Now, does this mean I’m boiling the Martin Zimmerman thing down to a black man being chased by a white man? No. Sadly, that’s just what we’ve learned over hundreds of thousands of years of humanity evolving. We still want to keep things simple, but they’ve never been that simple. Michael Shermer talks of “patternicity” or the human tendency to seek patterns in the noise that is reality. We tend to congregate amongst others who are more like ourselves, and we tend to shy away or even demonize people different from us. Shermer feels this is a defense mechanism. It’s why early man tended to travel in tribes (families of blood and choice). People of like-mind worked together to ensure their survival, but began seeing humans outside their familiar tribe as outsiders who threatened their livelihood by competing for local resources.
The planet used to be really big in our minds. The more we learn about Earth, the stars, and ourselves, the smaller everything seems to get. Truthfully, we’re living in an expanding universe so it’s not really getting smaller, but the Internet has made it possible for us to learn about natural disasters or domestic disturbances happening halfway around the world. Despite conservative efforts to wall up geographically, we can learn from China’s Great Wall that such efforts are a waste of resources. There’s objective reality and then there’s how we subjectively feel about that reality. Who and what we view to be our allies and our enemies.
We can no longer circle the wagons. We can no longer build higher walls to keep out the barbarians at the gate. Geography is more a descriptor than a definer, and it’s time we start realizing this. I argue with tongue firmly in cheek that this is de-evolution, a concept made popular by Mark Mothersbaugh back in the 1970s, but harkens back even further than that. Mothersbaugh was satirizing the Scopes trial of the 1920s, and the work of Johan Blumenbach in the 1800s. Still, there might be a sliver of truth in this idiocy. The more we advance ahead of ourselves in terms of technology, the more we seem to begin to behave just as barbaric and feral as we’ve always been. We like to imagine ourselves as higher beings than lions or apes or elephants, but truth be told, we’re just beasts wearing silly hats. Some creationists argue that perhaps apes devolved from humans. They fail to see the irony of that. Blumenbach argued that the superior “most beautiful” race was white people. Naturally he was white. He saw as many as five different color people, all “evolving” from the white man. He failed to see that if such were the case, these mutations would be a step UP and not DOWN the evolutionary ladder, but then devolution is all a matter of perspective: subjective perception of reality at work again.
Martin felt Zimmerman was his enemy that night. Zimmerman felt Martin was his enemy. Two men of differing ages and cultures and lifestyles. Both men spoke English, but failed to communicate to each other in any meaningful useful way. They didn’t want to talk to each other. How different it would have been that night had the two men been able to just stop and think and opt to simply not grapple with one another that night. Martin probably just wanted to be left alone and Zimmerman wanted to protect his territory. It’s a shame they couldn’t see a bigger picture from their limited viewpoints. Too trapped in their respective closed-minded lives to step back and realize that avoiding the encounter entirely would have been better than embracing conflict. Zimmerman could have just called the police and left it at that, but he’d seen before that they did nothing. He had to take the law into his own hands. If you want something done right.. Martin’s choices were even more limited. He was trying to get home. He couldn’t not walk in his own neighborhood past Zimmerman’s prejudicial watch. Perhaps Martin could have stayed where he had been for awhile, hoping Zimmerman would get bored and leave him alone, but to be honest, Martin should not have had to do that.
I am a man. I have the right to life free and seek skittles, no matter how you may perceive me.
Is Zimmerman guilty? That’s to be decided by a jury. Will ‘we the people’ find him guilty in a court of cyberspace? That too remains to be seen, but from what I’m seeing on message boards, the verdict’s already in.