Martin and Zimmerman – What Can We Learn?

I’ve been caught up in the news for several weeks concerning the shooting death of Trayvon Martin. I start out by immediately claiming no special insight, authority or awareness into this ongoing story. I do have an opinion which I hope suggests an alternative to making hasty decisions and perhaps what can we learn from this and avoid a recurrence of this tragedy.

Here are two links which I believe help create a backdrop for my opinion.

Bill Cosby weighs in: The Washington Times April 7th 2012
Deborah Simmons:  The Washington Times April 4th 2012

I don’t usually place a lot of stock in celebrity opinions. Bill Cosby isn’t your average celebrity. He’s very intelligent and has wisdom that a lot of people would do well to listen to or read what he says. He provides a short summary and reasoned point which I believe dovetails well with the opinion expressed by a Washington Times columnist who posted his opinion a few days after hers.

Mr. Cosby suggests the introduction of carrying a firearm by Mr. Zimmerman, while on neighborhood watch emboldened him into a risk taking position. The carrying of a firearm by a neighborhood watch member is also against the guidelines put forth by The National Sheriffs’ Association as Ms. Simmons points out, and thus calls into question the rational by Mr. Zimmerman when he was following Mr. Martin. A neighborhood watch person observes from a vantage of safety and reports suspicious activity to the police. They don’t have police powers. I don’t doubt a serious altercation occurred and once this situation was in full development I don’t doubt adrenaline was high and perhaps immediate dangerously violent behavior occurred. I don’t know if Mr. Zimmerman was in mortal danger, but as Mr. Cosby points out, “Without a gun, I don’t see Mr. Zimmerman approaching Trayvon by himself.

Ms. Simmons rightly points out, ” the very fact that a member of a neighborhood-watch group was armed is frightening in and of itself — and more so when you consider that members of neighborhood patrols are discouraged from 1) arming themselves and 2) confronting suspicious people.

From the information I have and the simple and thoughtful explanation given by these two opinions, I believe Mr. Zimmerman should never have placed himself into this situation and therefore Mr. Martin would be alive today. Once Mr. Zimmerman brought a gun on patrol and then continued to follow Mr. Martin, this scenario was put into motion and the acts that followed lead to a tragic death.  How this plays out in the legal community with what I believe has to happen is still an unknown.

We can also learn from this situation that bringing in outsiders, especially those that make a living or obtain a lot of public attention stirring up racial tensions doesn’t help. Under stress some people react badly but combine this with radical elements of society and then we have local as well as communities not directly involved become embroiled in hostilities. This is avoidable if we have leaders not ready to make public inflammatory proclamations.

From this point going forward, we need to have cooler heads prevail and thorough unblinking investigation into what lead up to and occurred during that night when Trayvon Martin was shot. After the legal investigation as well as a grand jury deliberates, a full and open public disclosure needs to happen.

The community needs to come together and heal and that is where true leadership should manifest itself.