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Byron Williams Headshot

Florida Goddam! And I Mean Every Word of it!

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"Not guilty!" With those two words, I was overcome with that nauseating feeling of saddened expectation. I wanted so desperately to be wrong, but alas, absurdity won out. Nina Simone's 1963 civil rights protest anthem, "Mississippi Goddam!" ought to be reprised. Only this time the official name of the Magnolia State should be transposed to that of the Sunshine State.

Florida is unquestionably the nation's unofficial citadel for absurdity. Since the infamous Bush v. Gore with its hanging and dimpled chads, to voter suppression tactics, to the George Zimmerman verdict, it has become the place where one simply throws up their hands in utter frustration, paraphrasing the closing line in the movie Chinatown: "Forget it, it's Florida!"

But there is a seductive aspect of absurdity that successfully works both sides of the equation. It is absurd to fathom a young man walking down the street, who has broken no laws, erroneously suspected by someone unqualified to make such observations, and wind up dead.

It was 44 days after Zimmerman shot and killed Trayvon Martin that any charges were filed. But the absurdity doesn't stop there.

Armed with the mantra of "justice for Trayvon," those who felt Zimmerman was guilty embraced their own absurdity by advocating in the court of public opinion impossibility based on nationalizing a local issue.

The moment Zimmerman fired the fatal shot on February 26, 2012, "justice for Trayvon" was unfeasible.

Though well intentioned, "Justice for Trayvon" became the convenient euphuism suggesting that "right" existed exclusively in their domain. Was it ever feasible to believe the national demands for justice were congruent with the laws of Florida?

From the beginning, I felt the case hinged on the difference between the 18 and 84 seconds during Zimmerman's 911 call to police.

It took Zimmerman 18 seconds to get out of his vehicle and follow Martin before the police dispatcher asked: "Are you following him?"

Zimmerman: Yeah.
Dispatcher: We don't need you to do that.

But 84 seconds later, Zimmerman still had not returned to his vehicle. It would stand to reason anything that ensued after that point would be based on Zimmerman's failure to adhere to the police directive, but not in Florida.

Absurdity has us grasping at improbable straws for answers. It is invariably around some newsworthy event that calls for national conversations on race are tossed about. Does it require the death of a 17-year-old to advocate for a discussion about America's original sin?

Even if such conversations were to take place could they be conducted judiciously with this absurdity looming above?

From filmmaker Spike Lee erroneously tweeting Zimmerman's address, to those who grotesquely cashed in on selling shooting targets in the image of Martin, it was a glimpse of America at its worst.

The cacophony of talking heads, fueled by television ratings, made it inevitable that the losing side would opine that justice was not served. The desired outcome may not have been achieved but justice, in the jurisprudence sense, was served.

What I find most absurd is that Zimmerman broke no laws. Had this tragic event occurred in say, New York, perhaps the outcome would have been different. But it happened in Florida, where Zimmerman's absurd actions are legally protected.

The lawmakers who wrote the "stand your ground law," the residents of Florida who support it, and the jurors who upheld it, view this absurdity as consistent with their states' norm.

This leads to one final absurdity. By finding Zimmerman not guilty of any crime, the jurors offer their selective understanding of what the law should be.

Why selective understanding?

Regardless of myriad feelings about the Zimmerman acquittal, I doubt anyone in Florida, the rest of the nation, not even Zimmerman himself, would accept this verdict if someone did to their child what was done to Trayvon Martin.