Every homicide is a suicide. As Trayvon Martin’s mother stated“Trayvon was my son, but Trayvon was your son too.” What should be obvious is that a culture or a species that specializes in such ultimately suicidal outbursts as the wanton killing of Trayvon Martin is at risk of extinction. Trayvon’s dirge, in other words, plays for all of us.
Furthermore, that modern human polities, bristling with weapons of mass destruction in the hands of rulers who project their ‘terroristic’ tendencies onto faceless others-towelheads, sand-niggers, Islamofascists, and like ‘nonentities’-might be particularly prone to self-destruction is worth considering. Any such consideration, of course, requires that people give a good Goddamn about these matters.
More pertinent to this narrative-since in some sense, many tens of millions of people do ‘care’ about what went down in Sanford, Florida-such consideration also premises that people are willing to dig deeply enough into these persistent instances of immolation to figure out what causes and patterns are at work in them. Mere compassion and concern yield little that might avert such mayhem in the days and months and centuries to come-that is, if our thanatopic tendencies do not first manifest themselves so robustly as to wipe us all from the planet, like some sort of ‘pink slime’ that blights the natural order.
Similarly, mere knee-jerk reaction-in which mediated manipulation focuses attention on ‘all the usual suspects’-will never move us a millimeter in the direction of justice and democracy and popular personal and collective power. And if we fail to find a fashion to inch society toward social justice and democracy, then no force on earth will stop Trayvon’s face from appearing again, in slightly different guise, on the morning talk shows and the infinite plethora of portals on the World Wide Web that thrive on such reportage. In essence, we all risk facing Trayvon’s destiny.
Troy Davis’ recent murder by the state of Georgia chillingly illustrates this assertion; at least anyone willing to listen with his heart and ponder with her brain will see the irrefutable logic at play, easy enough to state in simple language . Young, swarthy men, whose wildness and toughness is an inevitable attribute of all youthful manhood’s manifesting itself, represent both a uniquely contemporary and a classically resplendent and grotesque instantiation of scapegoating.
Readers might think about the following additional cases, all of which have come to pass more or less in tandem with Trayvon’s soulless culling from our family.
• Staff Sgt. Robert Bale’s carnage against sixteen Afghans, mainlywomen and kids;
• The continued outcry against the ongoing Guantanamo incarceration of Omar Khadr, whose likely killing of a U.S. soldier apparently obviates all need for due process or openness in relation to the then-15 year old, who is now 24 and still has never faced trial or gotten independent legal counsel;
• The Mississippi conviction of and doling out a life sentence toDeryl Dedmon, a White teenager who hatefully drove down a Black man at random, as part of a ‘posse’ of young paragons of racial purity, none of whom-thus far-has had to stand before the bar of justice;
• Yesterday’s carnage in the Bay Area, in which a disaffected former student mowed down seven people and wounded three others at an Asian religious college.
A thorough expansion of such a list as this could easily run into the hundreds or thousands of cases-in Ohio’s schools, in various police jurisdictions, and in the innumerable murder-suicides that typify American life, all in the past few weeks or so. And in a sense, they are all Trayvon; their victims are all Trayvon; their legacies threaten all humanity with Trayvon’s end.
Whether these terrible, merciless matters of savagery and slaughter appear in the costume of the robed judges who ignore all the evidence of their senses in order to kill Troy, or in the confused glance of the pathetic worm who shot down Trayvon himself, or in some other way that random killshots come along, what is happening concerns a denial, projection, justification, expiation, and psychic management of political, economic, and historical crimes. The variations on the theme may be, practically speaking, endless. Nevertheless, Trayvon, blameless and wanting little more than life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, appears in all of them.
Those who wish to shun this history of racketeering and brutality project its violence onto victims. This in turn justifies or explains the entire dynamic, albeit in a way that is objectively baseless and prospectively hopeless. The wild brouhaha that ensues in the aftermath of every such explosive manifestation then serves to expiate the sense of sinfulness of a modern culture always on the verge of meltdown. Thus, the complete cycle-from denial to pretenses of penance-manages life today-like some ancient cleansing ritual that avoids grappling with the real issues in play-without necessitating the transformation that has to occur if we’re to survive, if we’re all to avoid ending up as Trayvon did.
A Plausible Explanatory Nexus
Yet we do want to find out facts, even if the data we search out facilitates no change whatsoever. We long for everything to fit in some orderly, coherent way that forces no one really to assume responsibility. We seem to want a story that doubles as indictment and exculpation, as both a justification of forgetting and a basis for keeping a false consciousness intact.
This humble correspondent happened to be in the right place at the right time to uncover evidence that absolved Troy Davis. Herepeatedlymade this point, in writing and speech, to no avail. The honesty of this narrative and the accuracy of these allegations of innocence were immaterial. In fact, they violated the sacrosanct apprehension of institutional honor without which we’d be much more likely to riot in the streets and so forth. Hence, this humble correspondent watched with a sickening sense of horror as Georgia-and the majority of Georgians-made themselves into cold-blooded murderers.
He has no such inside knowledge in relation to George Zimmerman, who ‘stood his ground’ and blew Trayvon Martin away. Moreover, he hasn’t any resources to pursue a full recounting. This is true at the same time that the ubiquity of those who ask pointless questions and develop heated non-sequiturs as argument is ever more prevalent. In this context, nevertheless, this humble correspondent can construct a reasonable depiction of what happened-a ‘creative delineation’ that can serve as a first step toward a potent response to this entire typical expression of American social insanity and criminal duplicity.
Judgmental, officious, aggressive, and impotent people are everywhere apparent these days. Many of them exude the initial noisome qualities as a mask for the final characteristic. The result is always depressing, and often these sorts describe their maladies as one form or other of ‘Depression.’
We might contemplateMr. Zimmerman in such terms. Unemployed, unable to complete his criminal justice studies, or otherwise gain entrance to the fraternity of those who wear badges, despite his issuing from a father who wore judicial garb, he promulgated the mythos that he could address the issues of powerlessness and pointlessness in his existence by externalizing them, blaming shadowy intruders who were ready to invade his realm and upset the fake semblance of security and comity that supposedly prevailed there. His pugnacity and righteousness, which led him to show enough audacity to justify gunning down an unarmed youth on a harmless commercial mission-skittles and soda, appear as something akin to a cover for the worthlessness that his face showed him to feel.
Ah, but the booking photo is not the ‘real’ Mr. Z, folks might say. Another shot, quite popular among the fascists and reactionaries who dominate the web and the media, purported ‘liberal’ proclivities thereof notwithstanding, shows George with ahuge smile: “George and the Giant Grin,” the caption might read.
When this humble correspondent looked at that depiction, the reaction was, like, an instantaneous ‘gulp!…Killer!’ This was primordial, beyond any rational decision-making nexus.
But maybe one is not skilled at detecting fake and lethal smiles. Certainly, no one else seems to be writing about this.
Let’s hear a few kudos for the BBC. This still arguably authentic news organization provides a 20-person line-up to test the capacity to detect counterfeit affability. This humble correspondent got 16 out of twenty , and only called one ‘genuine’ smile fake.
Based on the easily available images of George Z’s facial expressions, including of the blurred video of his entry at the police station in Florida, and on multiple descriptions of his rage reactions in various situations, a rational participant might see Zimmerman as a prime candidate for medication for ‘depression.’ He looks that way, acts that way, and blows people away that way.
Blunted affects are a common side-effect of anti-depressants. Impotence inevitably accompanies the use of some of them, not likely to be the sweetest outcome for this son-of-a-judge who had to be grappling with the ‘loser’ label for most of the last decade or so. Whatever the state of his pharmacological profile, Mr. Zimmerman has not been a happy camper for some time. In the event, here is a plausible story: maybe ‘medicine’ has played a role; perhaps not, but whatever the case may be, this psychosocially pathetic exemplar was acting out his psychopathology in predictably homicidal fashion, given his place in the bigger picture of the ‘American way.’
He was tiring of the plus or minus ten 911 calls a year that did not climax appropriately, from the point of view of George’s infuriated nihilism, in ‘getting the bad guy.’ “These assholes always get away,” he says moments before putting a bullet through Trayvon’s heart. With or without detailed premeditation, he may very well have imposed a script something like the following on the timeline of the evening of February 26th, an imposition that guaranteed a fulfilling release of the tensions in his life.
||There you are; you’re not getting away this time….
||I don’t know what you’re talking about, I…
||(Whispering, though with a furious spit)Nigger.
||What the fuck?
||(Still whispering forcefully)Coon!
||Fuck you, motherfucker!
||(Baffled)What the hell?
||Help me! Please, help me! (He moves closer and closer to Trayvon, his pistol at his side.)
||God, someone please help me!!!
|(He is within a meter of Trayvon, who adopts a defensive stance as the stranger approaches, raising his shooting arm as he closes the distance between them.)
What happens next, in this rendering, is akin to a dress rehearsal, except that it represents a costuming after the fact instead of before the performance. George lies on his back next to the dying Trayvon, the young man’s death throes the most gratifying experience for George in many, many years. He stalwartly bangs his head on the concrete, until he can feel abrasions and blood. He then turns over, as Trayvon’s last bubbling bleed-out comes about and slams his face, nose first, against the pavement, satisfied when he himself begins to bleed out his nostrils.
The police arrive to find a bloodied and disoriented Mr. Zimmerman, a dead Mr. Martin, and the rest is ‘stand-your-ground’ history. But another view is obviously possible. Maybe Trayvon went ballistic.
After all, the criminally fraudulent and intentionally delusional actions of Trayvon’s school, in the thrall of the so-called ‘War-on-Drugs’ that permits among its many heinous consequences the criminalization of education, had recently led to his ten-day suspension. A baggie in his possession had detectable ‘traces’ of THC. This had caused a ‘grounding’ at home, a state in which, over and over again, young adults languish angrily here in the ‘land of the free and the home of the brave.’
In such a context, the ‘angry young man’ might easily ‘snap’ to the fore, as it were. So here’s another conceivable script. The ethnic slurs in this iteration are optional, though they certainly would add to the impetus to violence.
||‘Chu following me for?
||(Surprised)Stay back there nigger; I got something for you.
||(Angry)Fat chump, I could kick your ass.
||Fucking coon; I’ll kill your ass. (Trayvon is on him in a second, tackling him and pounding him in one fell swoop). Helllppp!
||Cracker pig. (He hits him again, pushing his head into the cement.)
||(Yelling)Help me! (He pulls his pistol, still screaming.) Somebody, help!!
||(Unaware of the weapon, whipping the larger man)Pussy!
Clearly, the thirty to ninety seconds that ended in a discharged weapon and a mortally wounded Trayvon Martin might have included, literally, an infinite number of details. Without doubt, these facts occurred at least somewhat differently from what this humble correspondent has estimated. On the other hand, arguably, the two categories of scenario depicted here represent something like what probably transpired in the chilly dark of Trayvon’s last seconds of life.
No matter what, we can never assure ourselves that we have reconstructed the events of that night with total fealty to the facts as they unfolded. In fact, one way of viewing the entire affair is that we are not meant ever to figure it out entirely. Instead, the manifest intention of the entire outpouring of attention over the event is to cause people to bicker about details and miss the points that, truly, do matter. In any case, with hundreds of millions of web portalsnow leading to “Trayvon Martin,” the overwhelming majority of them do have this sort of diversionary effect.
Various Pointless or Insipid Responses
Absolutely one of the two most common perspectives that result from the constant litany of murder, of which Trayvon’s execution is one instance, is that we ought to make weapons illegal or at least diminish the presence of guns in America. Such perspectives in relation to Trayvon, ranging from New York Times cartoons to breast-beating editorials hither and yon, number in the hundreds of thousands or more. Unfortunately, examined in even the most open-minded fashion possible, attacking guns as the source of the carnage that has claimed Trayvon is weak and stupid.
The weakness stems from various factors. Disingenuous is a charitable label for such critiques. Here we are in the world’s primary instigator of armed mayhem, in the planet’s most fully-stocked arms bazaar, where as much as half the productive economy relates in one way or other to merchandising death through weapons, and ‘liberals’ and pacifists are wont to say that the problem is hand-guns and other firearms in the possession of common citizens. It is tantamount to saying that the primary problem in European Nazi territories in the 1930′s and ’40′s was the presence of occasional armed gangs who would attack and terrorize Jewish people.
In a milieu that celebrates and institutionalizes armed violence, focusing on ‘grassroots’ emanations of such cruelty and brutality is at best a dodge from the primary underlying machinations of mayhem. More pertinent, such feints are typical in their effect, inasmuch as they focus public attention with absolutely zero attendant risk of enforced alteration of established relationships of oppression and opprobrium. The hue and cry for gun-control, in other words, will never in a million years attack the problems of poverty, of class-and-color-based incarceration, of the emergence of police-state mentality as de rigueur politics, of the idiotic corruption and cupidity of the ‘War-on-Drugs,’ or any of the other real factors lurking beneath Trayvon’s murder.
In an entirely different vein, the importance of Second Amendment, whatever one’s personal attitude toward weapons and violence, is utterly missing in the blame placed on citizen-owned ordnance. Whatever the analytical and evidentiary failings of Libertarians and different stripes of ‘patriots,’ they understand implicitly that the government, as currently constituted, represents an enemy force, and an occupying force, in their communities. Whether one listens to Dead Prezor Hank Williams Junior, this message resonates from the masses. “As long as the army, navy, air-force, and marines got gatt, we’re gonna pack heat too.”
Nor is such a view wrong-headed or useless. One need look no further than the bulging prisons, the lengthening unemployment lines, and the growing army of bailed-out plutocrats for confirmation that governing bureaucracies and administrators operate according to protocols different from those which would assist the interests of common people. The ‘right to keep and bear arms’ enshrined in the Bill of Rights was a nod to this pattern of rulers’ imposition on the ruled, a check in the system of checks and balances that retains resonance even in this day of purported commitment to non-violent means of dispute resolution.
The stupidity of focusing on pistols and bullets flows from the fact that winning a political battle that puts the criminalization of weapons at its center will, inevitably, further divide working people and ruin their capacity to stick up for themselves in relation to the most heavily armed police and military forces on earth. This tactic-divide and conquer-shows up repeatedly in such matters as this, helping to insure that the learning and insight that are possible from such horrors never leads anywhere productive for the victims.
The most common response to this situation, however, even more prevalent than bemoaning the ubiquity of ‘Gatt’ on the streets and in the neighborhoods of our society, is twofold, either a furious denunciation of ‘racism’ in this case or a denial that ‘racial’ motives make much of a difference here. The search for a mechanism of blame, on the one hand, and the attempt to preclude any measure of accepting responsibility, on the other hand, are a false duality, again perfect for keeping people who need to unite separate and wrangling.
Explications that revolve around the presence or absence of race or racism are as hopeless as accounts that blame the victim, or his clothes. Anyone who doubts the presence of White-supremacist thinking in this country needs a mental-health exam, stat. Anyone who fails to recognize that social privilege accompanies White skin is similarly deficient in brain functioning.
Nonetheless, even though such factors are obvious rationale for understanding what went on here, they simply don’t go nearly far enough. Moreover, they obscure critical points that concern politics and economics instead of social relations. Most problematically, such perspectives guarantee that theentire nauseating roller-coaster ride will make its rounds again, in the next ‘bread-and-circuses’ interlude that fails to examine what Richard Wright made clear in Native Son, his classic novel of scapegoating young men of color.
Can we listen to Wright’s communist attorney for Bigger Thomas and hear parallels, from all directions, to what is happening today? This humble correspondent is dubious, but the parallels are omnipresent if one is but willing to think about it.
“Crimes of even greater brutality and horror have been committed in this (area). Gangsters have killed and have gone free to kill again. But none of that has brought forth an indignation equal to this.
…Wh(at), then, fanned this hate into fury? Whose interest is th(e) thoughtless and misguided mob(in Trayvon’s case both the defenders and assailants of George Zimmerman)serving?
The State’s Attorney, knows for he promised the Loop bankers that if he were reelected demonstrations for relief would be stopped! The Governor of the State knows, for he has pledged the Manufacturer’s Association that he would use troops against workers who went out on strike! The Mayor knows, for he told the merchants of the city that the budget would be cut down, that no new taxes would be imposed to satisfy the clamor of the masses of the needy. …
There is guilt in the rage that(overflows here). …All of them-the mob and the mob-masters; the wire-pullers and the frightened; the leaders and their pet vassals-know and feel that their lives are built on a historical deed of wrong against many people, people from whose lives they have bled their leisure and their luxury.”
In terms of the historical and political-economic attributes, Bigger Thomas and Trayvon Martin represent a merely slightly divergent manifestation of fate. The first takes place in an era of Klan justice, whereas the second happens in the presence of an extremely brilliant and sympathetic Black President. But both young men represent the culmination of historical and material forces that must be part of what we deal with if we want to make things better.
Why, in Political Terms, ‘What Really Happened’ Does Not Matter
Thus, for citizens capable of contemplating Wright’s challenge, the relative ‘guilt’ or ‘innocence’ of George Zimmerman is immaterial, just as the remote possibility that Trayvon ‘blew up’ matters not a whit. The central issues that emerge from Trayvon Martin’s killing concern the wasted lives-White, Black, and Hispanic-that flow from the present U.S. methodology as foreseeably as does the inevitability that some of these lives laid waste will in turn ‘waste’ the chances of others, with the pull of triggers, the plunging of needles, and otherwise.
Equally significant as the faultiness of popular consciousness are the motives and rule of those in charge. As Wright recognized, and as we ought to emphasize so emphatically that all misleading distraction is easy to throw away, those at the helm of society-mediators, interpreters, executives, pontificators, administrators, pundits, and more-gain leverage, political space, and key social objectives in continuing our confusion about what Trayvon’s death means. Once these patterns become clear, neither the sick victimization of Trayvon, nor the soulless wastage of George Zimmerman’s life, is germane to our improving things. Only transformation of revolutionary scope can lead anywhere useful. Those who would address error, poor management decisions, better laws, and the like are, at best, promulgating futility.
“It’s not a ‘mistake,’” is something we should shout out. An absolute principle in law and science is that if a process or dynamic or a reaction appears often enough, then its appearance is part of the plan, a component portion of the overall dynamic in play. To put the case most baldly, in avoiding a reality orientation to the past and present political economics of American society, Trayvon’s death was our choice, and until we shift our approach and relate to each other differently, worsening horror will also amount to our preference.
A nation of murderers and accomplices-of victims and bystanders who blame others in a way that locks in persistent sadism, spite, and inhumanity-is the ineluctable fruition that will blossom from Trayvon’s death unless we adjust the ways that we see and understand.
Can we undertake to accomplish such a transformation is vision and consciousness? Human viability likely depends on figuring out how to answer affirmatively.
The Surface Meaning of Trayvon Martin’s Death and the Popular Response to It
A depth-reporting investigation of the Trayvon phenomenon would reveal that it has many simulacra in recent memory. O.J. Simpson, Columbine, Nidal Hasan: the list of greater and lesser ‘madmen’ who have gone on killing sprees would run in to the hundreds in North America in the last decades or so alone. The most obvious upshot of such continued brutalization is fairly easy to state; it’s the ‘American way,’ in its most essential aspect.
“We can sell this:” the spectacularization and commodification of murder for the passive and powerless has subsumed every aspect of American culture, from YouTube to ‘Reality TV,’ from stand-up to talk-talk-talk-talk radio. As horrifying as this admission is, only one blind to what happens in the aftermath of an incident will deny the likelihood of this conclusion. A combination of ‘bread-and-circuses’ and scapegoating is at work here.
The benefits to those atop the heap, as it were, are many. They make money from nothing. They divert attention from the underlying problems that would strip them of power were we collectively to address them. They divide those who can only stand against entrenched wealth and privilege if they find a way to unite. The list goes on and on.
For those who want to ‘defend’ George Zimmerman, a Spanish aphorism is apt. “No hay peor ciego que el que no quiere ver.” The English translation is apropos for those who would demonize Mr. Martin. ‘Nothing is worse than a blind man who does not want to see.’
Nor is the innocence of Trayvon Martin central here. His sanctity as a human being was undermined by the standard operating procedures of everyday America. Only by rejecting that SOP can we honor Trayvon and gain anything that is not specious from his death.
The Deeper Meaning of Trayvon’s Murder and the Inauthenticity in Response
Would anyone dare suggest that slavery was just a mistake? That lynch-law was merely a series of unintended errors? That mass incarceration that targets Blacks and other ‘minorities’ is somehow ‘accidental?’ At the absolute best, interpretations of this ilk would elicit waves of revulsion.
Yet almost everything that appears near the top of the millions of citations that ponder this travesty is making just this sort of argument. If we get rid of the ‘mistake’ of ‘stand-your-ground,’ the moral error of ‘racism,’ then all will somehow heal. Or, alternatively, if we either recognize that George Zimmerman was only confused or overzealous, or-obviously worse-acknowledge that many or most Blacks are somehow ‘criminal,’ then we’ll stop blowing the entire incident out of proportion.
While the intellectual integrity of the former analyses are much more credible than the latter sorts of scrutiny, the point to take away from thinking about the matter is that neither is adequate to overturn further instances of havoc against future Trayvons. Most critically, this inadequacy is equivalent, in that neither type of assessment delves deeply enough into the matter to locate the lynchpin of the nearly infinite recurrence of such lynchings in this culture.