» I lived in Florida for nearly a year. It was the first place that the Navy sent me .. after prying me away from mom's apron strings in Connecticut. I was 18 (close to Trayvon's age) and Florida is where the military sent me for bootcamp (.. via Amtrak, 1-way, 2-day trip).
Six months later I RETURNED to Florida to attend the Navy's [ Holy plutonium, Batman! ] Nuclear Power school (.. in Orlando).
After I got out of the Navy some 6 years later [at EAOS], I again returned to Florida .. to visit an ex-shipmate who I'd previously lived with on the North Shore of Oahu (.. in a shack on the beach in Waialua).
"Come on down," he roared. "You'll LOVE it here!" (He was a Brooklyn boy who could talk anybody into anything.)
Seeing it was the dead of winter, and the rest of the country was freezing their babushkas off, I hopped on a plane and headed south, spening another month or two down there.
I did however, love it down there in Florida, and was shown a great time.
So Florida is where I went to re-orientate myself back into the civilian world .. with a small part of the world's best ex-military support group (.. who had already experienced the transition and understood its psycho-dynamics) .. to try and screw my head on straight .. and grow my hair long again.
So I like Florida. The good-sized waves at Daytona Beach, the cool-sounding name of Cocoa Beach, the Disney World buzz of Orlando, the "on vacation" attitude of Ft. Lauderdale ..
.. especially the tropical feel in Tampa & St. Petersburg, and the bathtub-warm murky waters of the entire Gulf coast (.. before the spill, anyway).There was no part I did not enjoy. Even Ocala horse country.
Tho I never made it down to the Keys, I believe I could someday retire there.
It's definitely the FLATTEST state I've ever lived in. Great state if you like to bike .. cuz there's not a hill to be found anywhere.
Takes a little getting used to the humidity. Sitting at sea-level means that much of the the state is a swamp (.. called the Everglades).
It's a state where .. in the span of 20 minutes you can go from beautiful blue skies to a torrential downpour and back to sunny skies again .. with the wet pavement STEAMING in the hot sun before it's dry again. Can you say sauna?
[ You learn to wait, and not make a mad dash for it, where the faster you run, the wetter you get. Because, by the time you get there, the rain has stopped. ]
And then there's the BUGS. Florida has more bugs than any other state I've been to. Cockroaches thrive there. The mosquitoes have been known to carry off cattle. Alligators think nothing of taking a dip in your swimming pool.
The Feel You Get Living in Florida
Now every state has its own distinct 'feel' .. its own unique flavor, its own particular characteristics .. which you might not be able to appreciate until you've LIVED there a while. (At least, that's how it was for me.)
And I could certainly wax verbose here and talk at great length on the subject .. and maybe things have since changed .. but suffice to say that the #1 'feeling' I got from Florida .. while living there ..
.. was that THIS was a place where they » LET YOU DO YOUR OWN THING .. which is one of the reasons why I liked Florida, and one of the reasons why my buddy decided to settle there .. after globe-trotting for 6 years with the Navy. (In other words, they stay out of your business.)
[ By contrast, California (like the Feds) tries to get involved in every little aspect of your life. I have LIVED, btw, in ~ a dozen different states, and visited many more, which gives me a variety of points of reference from which to compare & contrast. ]
So while I *am* surprised about the Trayvon Martin shooting by George Zimmerman (4-weeks ago today), and by the SPECIFICS of the case, I'm not surprised that it happened in Florida.
I mean, the Stand-Your-Ground law, which the authorities cite as justification for the shooting, sounds a whole lot like » "You folks go ahead and take care of whatever business you need to take care of .. and call us only if you really need us." Does it not?
Now, many people have already commented on this tragedy at length, so I wasnt sure that I was going to comment myself .. which is why I waited a month. (No sense in duplicating what others have already said.) So I'll get right to the point.
••• today's entry continues here below •••
The Trayvon Tragedy & its Ugly Moral Implications
Seems we have a 28 year old man with a gun chasing/pursuing a 17 year old boy (.. a "minor" by definition) who's packing nothing more dangerous than a half-eaten bag of Skittles. The 28 year old man catches up to the 17 year old boy and, in short order, shoots him dead. (Why didnt he just shoot him in the leg?)
The stone killa (.. who has a documented history of Violence, including a previous arrest) then puts his hands to his head (.. as one witness reported) in a gesture you probably know better as the classic "Fuck me" pose.
But that's not even what has everybody so up in arms.
Now .. if the police HAD arrested George .. and he'd gotten OFF in court .. that would've been one thing. But he wasnt even arrested! (Meanwhile the boy is still dead.)
Not even for Manslaughter, which is the charge when you kill somebody accidentally, or out of stupidity.
Shooting a 140-lb minor in the chest at point-blank range .. uh, that may be stupid, but it doesnt seem very accidental.
Then they saw the gun in the hand of the 28 year old man, and they somehow managed to conclude that he did NOTHING WRONG. [ He still hasnt been charged with any crime. ]
The police cite a Florida law called "Stand Your Ground" as the reason this shooting/murder was okay/justified. Yet George Zimmerman was NOT standing his ground. Rather, he was CHASING/PURSUING (.. or "STALKING" as Florida state Republican Richard Gloriosa called it) Trayvon Martin (.. even after the police instructed him not to).
It's not like George was sitting in his own house, minding his own business, playing Scrabble with the kids .. and along comes Trayvon with a gun, saying, "Your Skittles or your life." Cuz that's where the Stand Your Ground law should be applied .. cuz that's "your ground".
But that's not the way it went down. No, sir. Not at all. I mean, who hasnt heard the adage » "If you shoot a guy on your doorstep, drag him inside the house." ?
In other words, how can the authorities apply to George a law called "Stand Your Ground" when he wasnt on "his ground" .. and when he wasnt "standing". Rather he was chasing/pursuing an unarmed boy .. while packing a gun, no less.
Is this what law-makers had in mind when they wrote the law? I think not. (Somebody should ask them.)
And how can it be deemed SELF-DEFENSE when the older guy is packing heat and the kid got nothing but a bag of Skittles? (.. that he bought & paid for). And when the older guy is chasing/pursuing the younger? And when the dead kid .. is just a kid? Nothing about the case makes even a little sense.
In What Universe is this Okay?
That universe is called » Florida. (Cuz that's where the SYG law was written, interpreted & applied.)
Again, I like Florida. But I can see how this case happened to play out there.
Tragic as this shooting/death was, the MUCH LARGER issue here is the LIGHT it shines on a whole host of issues confronting our country, our nation.
You dont need to be a legal scholar to understand the moral implications that this light has shined on our "Nation of Laws" .. both its current state and the unfortunate direction it seems to be taking.
I mean, the implications behind this thing are so HUGE .. that they're actually BIGGER than the death of an innocent, unarmed 17-year-old high school boy (.. horrible as that obviously is).
In other words, Trayvon's death is (unfortunately) bigger than Trayvon's life. (Surely you dont think that Trayvon is an isolated case.)
Cuz .. if George gets off WITHOUT EVEN BEING ARRESTED .. then we have even bigger problems than we thought (.. and everybody knows we already have serious problems).
St. Augustine said:
"In the absence of justice, what is sovereignty but organized robbery?"
Whatever happened to Justice in this country? I'm not talking about something I havent witnessed & experienced first hand.
Cuz Justice has a big brother. And he has already made it clear how he feels about injustice. So you might wanna step back, dawg. Cuz it might get ugly up in here.
Wouldnt wanna be standing around with blood on my hands when Bro shows up. No, sir.
The people have spoken out in a manner that is impossible for anybody to ignore. What else can we do? To get Justice restored to our nation? What's it gonna take? Our list of available options grows frighteningly short.
If it's the LAWS themselves that are bad, then change 'em. Or at least make it look like you're trying.
We like to point fingers at others, but resent it when other nations reciprocate.
Are we incapable of soul-searching? Is that considered a weakness and something to be resisted at all costs?
And right now our military is deployed, as you know, to foreign countries (for more than a decade now) .. to kill people there who do not agree with or enthusiastically embrace our values. (That's what dictators do.)
[ Strangely enough, BOTH sides claim the moral-killing high-ground. Which means at least ONE side is fabricating it IN THEIR OWN MIND .. fabricating this so called high ground of moral-killing.
Cuz when two people are trying to KILL one another, they BOTH cant hold the moral high ground. Is that not obvious? Plain as day? ]
Because we have more wealth, we think that makes us smarter. Because we have a bigger military, we think that makes us right.
But that's how bullies think. And bullies are people who dont have the courage to shine their critical light inward .. to analyze the reasons why they act the way they do.
As everybody is well aware, we have many things regarding our national ethos that have been coming to light lately. (You know what I'm talking about, dawg.) Things that reveal maybe we're not the global model of morality we'd like to believe. Certainly not any more.
So it's GOOD .. that we're having this national discussion. Because you cant resolve problems by dismissing them as non-issues (.. which is, too often, what we do). Maybe this tragedy will help us get out of our national denial and help us to become the truly enlightened society we think we are.
Cuz it's not just dark-skinned males who are being treated poorly. Tho few will argue, statistically speaking, that they're not getting their asses kicked on a regular basis .. socially, economically, judically, etc.
Regarding the Trayvon shooting death, the obvious question is » Was it manslaughter or murder? [ Not » Did he do anything wrong? ] My condolences to the parents.
Skittle-nation & the Horror
Today's entry is merely my token gesture. A shout-out of support .. from the other side of the country. From a safe distance.
Elie Wiesel said:
"Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented."
Desmond Tutu said:
"If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor. If an elephant has its foot on the tail of a mouse and you say that you are neutral, the mouse will not appreciate your neutrality."
Edmund Burke said:
"All that is required for evil to prevail is for good men to do nothing."
Martin Luther King Jr said:
"The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy."
Must be an unbelievably devastating thing. How can they even get out of bed in the morning? How can parents of something like that ever go on?
[ Uh .. maybe that last sentence needs explaining. See .. the LAST thing the kids get after pizza is » Skittles .. from a quarter vending machine. Which is the last thing he's eating when I drop him off, or when his mom picks him up.
And I told him, "Have to agree with mom, there. Too many Skittles." =)
I mean, they will eat the pizza or split a lasagna, but soon as that's done, it's Skittle time! Almost as tho the pizza were merely a formality. And they both always want more quarters.
So Skittles is the thing, I feel, that many people IDENTIFY with .. and therefore with Trayvon. Cuz everybody knows that a kid who eats Skittles cant be a bad kid. Anybody who has been around them knows that Skittle-nation is a peace-loving people.
And if you've read the entry titled » First Grade / First Kiss [ dated 22 Feb 2012 ] you know the Bug was wearing a "hoodie" when he GOT that kiss. (Tho I've never called them that. Rather » "hooded sweatshirt." )
I'm sure he gets into his share of mischief, like all boys do (.. and like I did when I was a kid).
But attack a guy with a gun? Or say something like, "You're gonna die" to a guy with a gun. I dont see it.
I read that Trayvon had never been arrested, which is quite remarkable for any dark-skinned male these days. (Tho it seems we cant say the same for George.)
Why didnt George just pull his gun and hold it on Trayvon and wait for the cops to arrive? Why pull the trigger? Or why not shoot him in the leg? Or why not just run away, if he really felt threatened? Why resort to killing an unarmed kid? A boy. A minor. Who has his whole life in front of him.
I mean, cant you just LOOK at the kid (Trayvon) and tell that he's a good kid .. that any parent would be proud of?
Now I dont know George, and maybe it's just an optical illusion, but I must admit .. he looks a lot bigger than the kid and a little scary, no? Not somebody I would normally associate as being a Skittles-kind-of-guy.
It would seem that he desires the power & authority we normally invest in our law enforcement officers .. but without fully understanding or accepting the responsibility that goes along with that (lethal, deadly) power.
I mean, he obviously knew that, when he started pursuing Trayvon, he had the gun on him .. that he was packing heat. Right?
Because Law Enforcement should be populated by level-headed people who have a sense of justice, and never by those with a yen for power (.. or worse, a jones for it).
They make it sound as tho George had a right to "defend" himself, but Trayvon did not .. from a guy who was admitedly stalking (following) him .. even after the police told him not to.
Maybe the reason the police let George go .. is cuz he was doing something that they can RELATE to » trying to protect his neighborhood (.. which can be an honorable thing, and normally is).
Maybe the Police IDENTIFIED with George .. cuz of what he was doing. They probably saw some of themselves in George. Like he was one of them.
That seems more likely and would explain the hands-off approach .. better than any stupid Stand-Your-Ground law. (Cuz the police dont arrest their own.) Or maybe George's daddy had something to do with it.
So, I think that much of the national anguish here stems from the fact that .. while most Americans can identify with the Skittle-snackin' kid, the criminal justice system identified with George the vigilante, who "took a class in criminal justice."
As a side-note .. I never used to think very much about moral issues (which are often UGLY and can be TAXING to consider, even distressing) .. not until I started reading after Nietzsche.
Nietzsche is very much about morals & VALUES. He's remarkably articulate in these areas .. which forces the reader to grapple with his ideas ..
.. which are surprisingly insightful and well thought through. (Whether or not they are true & accurate is another discussion entirely.)
I find this interesting, cuz I didnt start reading Nietzsche for that reason. My interest/question was » How did Nietzsche become Nietzsche?
The Law of Unintended Consequences.
Cuz I definitely have a "feel" (« not the right word, but I dont have a better one) for morals & values now that I didnt have before .. before reading (wrestling with) Nietzsche.
Nietzsche (.. or rather grappling with his forceful attacks on the values we hold most sacred) .. forces you (.. in a most uncomfortable manner) to confront these things.
It's difficult to describe and might even sound corny, but ..
.. the end RESULT of this grappling (.. way down inside, where our moral values live & breathe) .. is that .. it's like a "filter" (« not the right word either, but you get the gist) .. has been laid over my eyes .. that allows me to SEE DOWN INTO ("enhancing"? "sharpening"?) things.
It's a surprisingly CALM experience. Tho I am unable to describe it better right now.
But certainly more questioning. Because Nietzsche makes you question yourself. .. your OWN values and the morals they represent .. the morals that our values TRANSLATE INTO [ .. and Nietzsche is none too pleasant about it, either. =) ].
.. that guns are serious shit? .. seeing he was a SELF-APPOINTED neighborhood watch captain. (Vigilantees are also self-appointed.)
It just occurred to me .. that the previous entry I wrote [ titled » CdM to Remove Fire-Pits from Beaches ] also deals with the SAME sensitive [ and poorly disguised ] underlying TOPIC ..
.. that we have here with Trayvon & George .. that of » We-Dont-Want-Your-Kind Here-in-Our-Exclusve-Neighborhood (.. unless you're here to tend our yards or clean our houses).
What's that old saying? "Twice makes a trend." But you wont hear many people discussing that topic. It's too ugly for most to touch.
Because .. think about it » this was a GATED community. Gates lock .. to keep people out. (Not to keep them in.)
And what kind of people do we want to keep out? Answer » the bad kind.
Ques » What does "the bad kind" look like?
I might add, and probably should, that .. altho I've started seeing the world with Nietzsche's value-tinted, morally-contrasting x-ray glasses .. I cannot say it has been a very pleasant experience. Because it's not. (Cuz you see the world's ugly under-belly.)
Because Dostoevsky has not only SEEN, but LIVED more ugliness than most American can even contemplate, much less comprehend (.. myself included) .. even dark-skinned males. His life inspires me .. gives me courage.
A few months after I finished my foray into Nietzsche .. there was the Julie Allen thing .. where this super sweet girl, who I'd never met before, walks up and introduces herself .. chats up an surprisingly engaging little 3 minutes .. then dies a month later in SPECTACULAR fashion .. taking a few others with her. WTF!? That really did a number on my head.
Racism & Other Shit We Should Be Way Beyond By Now
If you were paying attention, you might've noticed that I managed to avoid using the words BLACK or RACE. Cuz you already know the deal there. Cuz we have a (half) black President sitting in the White House .. who said, "If I had a son, he'd look like Trayvon."
Lastly we are left with the most unfortunate reminder .. that Trayvon isnt here .. to tell HIS side of the story. Is he?
Are you expecting George to be absolutely 100% truthful? Would you be? Murder? I think not, my friend.
Must say .. I'm surprised that nobody seems to be stressing the fact that he was a MINOR. (Was.) Dont we confer upon minors special 'protections'? .. because they are so young & inexperienced.
And dont we hold adults to a higher level of conduct & responsibility? (.. because they should know better).
I could be wrong, BUT my purely intuitive sense is that .. because there is obviously a manifestation of corruption here (.. seeing that George wasnt even arrested) .. that the bad decisions can be traced back to someone who has real POWER, and who has become accustomed to that power. Too accustomed, obviously. We'll see.
PS - Did you folks see the video? How come, in the regular version there is nothing visibly wrong? .. no cuts or bruises. Yet on the "enhanced" version, he has a giant wound on the top of his head. Looks pretty enhanced to me. Everybody loves Photoshop. (Image "enhancing" software.)
If he had a broken or bloody nose, how come there's no blood on his shirt?
Lastly, I hate to labor the obvious .. but arresting George will not bring back Trayvon. Even if George is arrested, proscecuted in court, found guilty and sent to jail .. it wont bring back Trayvon. Justice? ■
When I was 5 or 6 years old, I remember mom saying, "Honey, we never judge anybody because of the color of their skin."
To which I said, "Okay." ( Sounded like no big deal. )
But, as you know, it's really the EXAMPLE that our parents set that does it for impressionable children. And mom would have tea with the moms of my black friends while we played, and later, send them home with arm-fulls. Genuine heartfelt compassion. Dad however, I suspect was not quite so egalitarian.
We had black friends over the house growing up. [ Two-family house with 3 cousins upstairs. A place where all our friends would congregate. ] They were very nice boys. Well mannered. (Way better than US, for sure.)
Everybody was always glad to see these kids whenever they were able to stop by .. specially to play in the pool on hot summer days.
Now dont get me wrong .. I have certainly judged my share of blacks as "unfavorable". Tho never because .. they were black. Just as I've done with many OTHER-color skinned/race/sex people.
Assholes, it would seem, are not exempt from any particular skin color .. not that I've been able to ascertain, anyway.
PREJUDICE is what happens when people PRE-JUDGE a person .. before they've gotten a chance to know them .. or perhaps before they've even had a chance to MEET them. For sure, nobody likes it when others do it to them. (Suks, doesnt it?)
I mean, it takes more intellectual effort to catergorize everyone according to their own individual merits .. rather than lump everybody into the same convenient grouping, according to some simplistic arbitrary observation (.. such as skin color).
Simple minds, who have difficulty distinguishing character beyond the most rudimentary and obvious characterizations. Maybe it's not their fault. Maybe they are simply INCAPABLE of making distinctions that are more discerning than the color of one's skin. "The color of your skin is different from mine; therefore you are bad/evil, and should be shot."
I'll leave you with a quote by George Aiken, who said:
"If we were to wake up some morning and find that everyone was the same race, creed & color, we would find some other cause for prejudice by noon."
Speaking of "dark-skinned males" .. you might enjoy an entry I posted on Dec. 20, 2010, titled » Gays in the Military | My Experience. [ It's true! .. everything you've heard about them. =) ]
You'll find I normally give blacks the benefit of the doubt .. plus a little extra (.. cuz they deserve it).
For more along these lines, here's a Google search preconfigured for the query » trayvon martin george zimmerman sanford florida
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