Georgia Voices: The Trayvon Case: It comes down to attitude
by the Augusta Chronicle
April 17, 2012 12:00 AM | 1318 views | 8 8 comments | 7 7 recommendations | email to a friend | print
No one knows how the George Zimmerman case will end. But we have a pretty good idea of where it started. On the wrong foot.

Whatever happened between these two tragically tied-together souls, it’s obvious where the volunteer neighborhood watchman Zimmerman was coming from: That the hooded 17-year-old Trayvon Martin was up to no good in the gated suburb and needed to be dealt with.

It also appears Zimmerman was ill-equipped to be the one to “deal” with it. Prosecutors claim they will prove he profiled Martin. At the very least, the impression we’ve gotten is that Zimmerman was overzealous, perhaps dangerously so. Such confrontations can be explosive even for the most seasoned law officers. It takes a ton of training and experience for professional, certified, full-time police officers to handle such situations — and Zimmerman is clearly none of those things.

Zimmerman also ignored warnings from a law enforcement dispatcher not to follow or confront Martin.

But even in ignoring that stop sign, Zimmerman most likely could’ve avoided striking this match in America’s fireworks warehouse. It comes down to one word. Attitude.

No matter what Zimmerman thought or suspected, he could have approached Trayvon Martin with a more professional, even positive attitude. He even could’ve expressed concern or an inclination to help the youngster if he was lost. A forced smile might have completely defused things.

Fact is, we would argue Zimmerman had an obligation to approach the young man that way — particularly since he wasn’t supposed to approach him at all. As the adult — as an armed adult — and as a volunteer representing the entire community, Zimmerman owned 100 percent of the responsibility for ensuring that his encounter with Martin started off well and proceeded calmly and fairly.

One supposes it’s possible he did these things — but, from the results, that’s extremely doubtful. The more logical conclusion is that he failed in his awesome responsibility — utterly, foolishly, recklessly, dreadfully. If there were video of this fateful rendezvous, it should be played for any student curious to learn how not to deal with other human beings.

Likewise, how the youth responded to Zimmerman was his choice alone. Even a bombastic, bellicose questioner can be met with respect, however unwarranted.

Again, no one knows how the criminal case will end. The charge against Zimmerman this week was a relief to those who sincerely believe in his guilt — but they must guard against getting their hopes up too high for conviction: Not only is second-degree murder a tall hurdle for prosecutors to overcome with proof beyond a reasonable doubt, but even the lesser charge of voluntary manslaughter may be highly difficult to prove. The claim of self-defense is a formidable one, and rightfully so; we all must be granted that basic protection.

Still, however the legal case comes out, an even greater question is what we will learn from it all. If we learn how better to interact with each other; how to honor each other; and how much power we all have, under any and all circumstances, to control how we respond to those around us, then this tragedy will not have been in vain.

Trayvon Martin’s mother graciously suggested this past week that the confrontation was an accident. She’s being far too kind. Whatever happened between those two individuals, it sprang from calamitous errors in both judgment and, most importantly, attitude.

What happens to us is sometimes an accident. How we deal with it never is.
Comments
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J Balfour
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April 20, 2012
There seems to be two issues here: one, Zimmerman had no right to get out of his vehicle and confront the kid; two, the Black community has to face the facts that too many of their own are committing crimes. I, personally, feel a sense of fear when I see a group of young Blacks dressed like rappers, especially after hearing nightly local news reports on the day's crimes and seeing the mostly black mug shots.
Maatf
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April 18, 2012
Regardless of anything else, the one thing we do know is that Zimmerman would not have shot Trayvon Martin if Zimmerman had heeded what the 911 operators told him to do.

I can't get past that and the simple fact that Zimmerman had a gun and the young man had a box of skittles.
Self-Defense Defense
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April 17, 2012
RE: "The claim of self-defense is a formidable one, and rightfully so; we all must be granted that basic protection."

I agree with the general sentiment of this editorial. However, I dispute the notion that Zimmerman could have been acting in self-defense.

For the sake of argument, let's take Zimmerman at his word. Let's assume that he was tackled to the ground by Trayvon Martin and that Martin pounded Zimmerman's head into the pavement and broke Zimmerman's nose. At this point in time, who was "standing his ground?" Who was acting in self-defense? Answer: Trayvon Martin.

Even if we accept Zimmerman's version of what happened, by following Martin in his car, Zimmerman had intimidated Martin into running away through neighbors' back yards. Unprovoked, Zimmerman got out of his car and chased Martin into the night. If Martin tackled Zimmerman under these circumstances, rather than continuing to run, then it was Martin who was acting in self-defense. It was Martin who was standing his ground.

From what I've read, Zimmerman's version of events is highly suspect. But even under the best case scenario--from Zimmerman's perspective--Zimmerman is still the offender.

As a result, Zimmerman's self-defense defense does not persuade.

TIC
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April 18, 2012
That is the whole problem with the "stand your ground" concept.

It has been pointed out that gang members in Florida that have been involved in violent confrontations have used the "stand your ground" defense to successfully justify their actions.

I am not intimately familiar with the details of this "stand your ground" component of the law in Florida, but if it is being used by gangbangers to legitimize their actions then something about it must be terribly flawed.

Unbelievable comment
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April 17, 2012
If he were white would you say "white attitude? I doubt that, you just have sown yourself to be another racist in our midst. I am always amazed how racists seem to flock to this site.
anonymous
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April 18, 2012
I agree, but no one should never be amazed at the number of racists in Cobb County.
Swooper
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April 17, 2012
"The Trayvon Case: It comes down to attitude"

I saw the headline and thought differently than what I read. I think the Editorial makes a good point... that Zimmerman did not have the temperament or training for this situation.

However, I strongly suspect that when Trayvon was challenged for his reason to be there, instead of saying he was visiting his father (end of situation) he replied with a large dose of what folks now recognize as "Black Attitude".

It takes 2 to Tango.
anonymous
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April 18, 2012
"However, I strongly suspect-he replied with a large dose of what folks not recognize as "Black Attitude". It must be very difficult to get inside the head of a dead person that you do not know. I strongly suspect-that you are merely projecting your own prejudice and fantasys into a situation you know absolutely nothing about.
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