I mentioned this in a tweet last night, but I thought it was worth unpacking a bit further. First of all, the whole Trayvon Martin-George Zimmerman affair is tragic, whichever way you look at it. A series of bad choices led to one life being lost and another being forever changed. While Zimmerman was found not guilty in a Florida court last night, he's only a "winner" in the narrowest definition of that term. I doubt he'll ever be able to resume any normalcy in his life -- at least not anytime soon -- and the social and racial wounds this case has exposed aren't likely to heal over simply because the jury had its say.
What I want to discuss isn't so much the "could've-should've" about how the case went down and how it was ultimately decided, but rather the spectator-like approach it manifested. On the one hand, you had people expressing sadness for the death, sympathy for the family, and bemoaning what they perceive as a miscarriage of justice. While some of these reactions also veered into the inappropriate, the majority of them still fell into the expected range given the nature of the case. On the other hand, this is a post I saw on my Facebook feed: "Yes!!!! Yes!!!! Yes!!!! Not Guilty!!!!!!!!!! Yeeeeeeees!!!!!"
Seriously. As if George Zimmerman clinched the penant for the Marlins and didn't just get off for shooting an unarmed kid to death. And yet that's not the only such post I've seen, both on Facebook and Twitter, with people absolutely ecstatic in their approval of...what, exactly? What happened last night that's worth celebrating? What's incontrovertible fact is that a man armed with a gun discharged said gun into a teen armed with a bag of Skittles. Yes, the shooter was able to skate thanks to a peculiarity of Florida law, but is that really something we want to toss confetti over?
The truth is, for all the talk we've gotten across the opinion spectrum about racial profiling and "Stand Your Ground," this wasn't a case solely about race anymore than it was solely about gun rights. But the way it's exposed the uncomfortable realities at the junction of those issues shows only that we have a profound cultural divide in this country that's wide and vast and not in danger of healing anytime soon. The more we choose up sides on these kinds of stories, viewing them solely through the prism of "liberal" issues or "conservative" issues instead of communal issues we all have a stake in, the more inevitable that we have more Trayvon Martins and more George Zimmermans.