On Trayvon Martin and Shaima Alawadi and “taking our country back”

They’ve taken our country back, alright…

I haven’t yet written about the senseless killing of Trayvon Martin, not because I had nothing to say but because I wasn’t sure I had anything to add to the conversation. Then, over the weekend, an Iraqi mother in California was beaten to death and left with a note that said “Go Back To Your Country, You Terrorist”. It was then that I realized that fearful, angry conservatives have achieved their goal of “taking our country back”. They have taken it back to the 1950s and before.

There has been plenty of hyperbole thrown around with regard to the killing of Trayvon. However, I find it pretty easy to forgive that. He was an unarmed kid being stalked by another man at night who was then gunned down for no other reason than that a self-styled vigilante was afraid. The man who shot him was allowed to carry a gun and is even now free despite having murdered someone yet our young people are being told not to wear hoodies.

And yet, the fear of hoodies is somewhat understandable, right? There is a whole musical genre, “gangsta rap”, that uses guns and violence and sexual predation combined with specific ways of dressing that include hoodies to create a persona of a “to-be-feared” hero (or anti-hero). So that certainly doesn’t help.

But it’s also certainly no reason to be shot when you have done nothing. That’s the result of unreasoned fear of something different.

Shaima Alawadi was an Iraqi mother of five young kids. She wore a head scarf and looked different. That was enough to justify beating her to death with a tire iron for her killer, apparently. Again: unreasoned fear of something different.

I listened to an African American pastor on Friday night who, in who spoke in a calm but passionate way about how he never thought he’d be seeing things like the slaying of Trayvon Martin again in his lifetime. “This is the closest thing to Jim Crow,” that I have ever seen,” he said.

He’s right. It’s the same fear of people who are different that creates hate in the minds of some who then act on it.

Since the election of Barack Obama to be president, there has been a small but very vocal segment of the USA that has stoked fears of him being different. They question his race, his religion and his allegiance. They have stoked fears of “illegal aliens” and Middle Easterners and, frankly, anyone who isn’t white or who doesn’t fit into some predefined image of what is acceptable.

While the tea party’s rhetoric from the 2008 and 2010 elections may be starting to fade a bit, the repercussions of their message are still resonating with some who act on their fear. The progressive change that allowed someone like Barack Obama to be elected to the presidency has been rolled back, largely thanks to the birthers and the far right conservatives who have been stoking fear against those who are different. Since the 2008 election, they have called (and still call) President Obama “the Usuper”. They have said he “hates America” and “hates white people”. They have created fear and all the while talked about “taking our country back”.

In some sense, they have succeeded. They have taken our country back to a dark and evil place where being different can get you murdered.

In 2012, it’s time to take our country forward.

[Image credit: LTDesignStudios - available as t-shirts and hoodies]

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  • CB_Demented

    “There has been plenty of hyperbole thrown around with regard to the
    killing of Trayvon. However, I find it pretty easy to forgive that. He
    was an unarmed kid being stalked by another man at night who was then
    gunned down for no other reason than that a self-styled vigilante was
    afraid.”

    That’s part of the hyperbole right there. Another way to look at it was that Zimmerman was heading back to his SUV to await the police, when Martin attacked him, according to an eye witness, and that it’s Zimmerman yelling for help on one of the 911 tapes, and not Martin. http://www.myfoxtampabay.com/dpp/news/state/witness-martin-attacked-zimmerman-03232012

    That being said, Zimmerman should have stayed right the hell where he was and waited for the police. Stand your ground is just that. You don’t have to retreat. It doesn’t give you the right to go after someone, and even if he was just going to his car, which I don’t believe, there’s a chance he may run into the guy, and the police were on their way. This incident needs to go before a jury. There’s enough inconsistency to warrant probable cause to charge Zimmerman and give him his day in court.

    More importantly, the Sanford Police chief, Lee, needs to be investigated as well. He has an agenda. He was on record as opposing the SYG law prior to its being enacted, and it is believed he is using this tragedy to continue that agenda.

    And while tragic, the death of the young Iraqi woman has absolutely nothing to do with Martin’s death. Both are isolated incidents having to do with different prejudices, neither of which has anything to do with either party.

    If the Conservatives are to blame for this fear you think exists, then the Democrats are to blame for your fear that there is some conspiracy to sew fear of people who are different.

    The Conservatives can’t get their shit together enough to pick a candidate who doesn’t suck balls. How could they possibly have it together enough for this grand design you are peddling?

    Birthers are to blame for this? Really? You do realize that nearly every conservative laughs at birthers are much as you do right?

    Give me a break.

    • Guest

      You say the Conservatives can’t get their shit together to pick a worthwhile candidate, but you’re overlooking that they did very well succeed in getting Conservatives to hate the president.

      People like the person who posted this don’t think there’s a “conspiracy” of Conservatives consciously trying to make people racist, but DO think that the rhetoric that they used during 2008-2010 very well DID stoke the embers of xenophobia and racism. The arguments and rhetoric that they used against the POTUS stoked those embers. They were in fact the ones saying, from the beginning, that the use of such rhetoric would only lead to events such as this. Now those events are happening.And no, the two incidents were NOT isolated events with nothing to do with each other. They were both violence and/or fear of something “different”. 

      And here’s the flaw in your final argument: Had Martin been a few years older and had he shot Zimmerman instead, he would have been arrested. That’s the injustice that’s happening here. While Martin would have been arrested under similar circumstances, Zimmerman wasn’t.

      —-

      Now, your whole “George Bush hates black people” thing is a COMPLETE misquote. First off, it’s “George Bush DOESN’T CARE ABOUT black people”, and let me give you the complete quote just for good measure. This was during the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. Try to remember the frustrations people had with the slow response from… everyone:

      “I hate the way they portray us in the media. You see a black family, it says, ‘They’re looting.’ You see a white family, it says, ‘They’re looking for food.’ And, you know, it’s been five days [waiting for federal help] because most of the people are black. And even for me to complain about it, I would be a hypocrite because I’ve tried to turn away from the TV because it’s too hard to watch. I’ve even been shopping before even giving a donation, so now I’m calling my business manager right now to see what is the biggest amount I can give, and just to imagine if I was down there, and those are my people down there. So anybody out there that wants to do anything that we can help — with the way America is set up to help the poor, the black people, the less well-off, as slow as possible [...] George Bush doesn’t care about black people.” – Kanye West

      • http://eclectablog.com Eclectablog

        Don’t let your accurate quote get in the way of a good revision of history. You’ll ruin their worldview.

      • aielman

         Conservatives didn’t “get” anyone to hate Obama…they hated him from the moment he stepped to the podium, just like liberals hate any conservative, or someone who styles himself that way, that steps to the podium. That’s the political reality these days that pretty much started during the Clinton administration and then continued through the Bush administration and on to today. Political discourse has become nothing but hate rhetoric, distortions and lies.

        And thanks for the lecture, but I’m well aware what Mr. West said…and I didn’t quote him…which is why there weren’t any quotation marks. I relayed the sentiment that arose after West’s rather asinine statement, which became a common mantra amongst many on the left…who were themselves misquoting Mr. West.

        The two incidents are isolated events. They have a common thread, but are otherwise completely unrelated. The broad generalizations that have arisen, especially from the Martin case, are mirrored here in this thread.

        It’s ridiculous to even suggest that it is a goal of conservatives to sew fear any more than it would be for me to suggest that liberals are trying to race bait because of this incident. Neither are true. There are certainly individuals that think they can profit from the sale of fear, whether it be Hawks trying to make everyone afraid of Muslims, or the Sharptons of the world trying to find something to make more money for their coalitions by trying to characterize every incident involving a person of color as being racially motivated. But to suggest that it’s some type plan by either side of the political spectrum that’s in any way endorsed, or even supported, by any meaningful number of people, is just flat out wrong.

        From the moment this started to go viral, there have been people characterizing Zimmerman as a rabid racist wannabe cop just looking for someone to hunt down and shoot his gun at. And that poor little Trayvon was this innocent lamb just out for a stroll when the white racist, who by the way is just as white as Obama is, pounced on him and murdered him. That the stand your ground law is nothing more than an excuse to shoot people, must be reviewed, according to Chuck Schumer, by the federal government.

        The internet is alive with people putting on hoodies and taking pictures, the press can’t seem to find a picture of Treyvon that isn’t 3 to 4 years old.  E himself characterizes Martin as being “stalked,” despite evidence to the contrary, and the President himself decided to put his 2 cents in, once again, without bothering to wait for the investigation to conclude.You’d think he might have learned to wait for the facts after the Henry Gates incident…but apparently he hasn’t.

        Nobody knows what happened in this incident. There hasn’t been enough information released. All we know is that a young man tragically lost his life…and that another man killed him. This might well turn out to be another racial witch hunt like the Duke “rape” was…or he may very well be the racist ass that everyone thinks he is.

        But no matter what the investigation reveals, this has nothing to do with fringe lunatics pedaling hate. You don’t start hating people because some talking head on TV tells you to unless you’re already a flawed individual…and probably already hate to begin with.

  • CB_Demented

    And just to be clear, after hearing the CNN cleanup of one of the 911 tapes, and listening to all of the 911 calls that have been released multiple times, and reading the background for Zimmerman, that he probably was out looking for trouble, and is probably a racist.

    It’s my belief that Zimmerman put that kid in a position where he felt he had to confront the man, rather than retreat as he could have done. That confrontation ended it a tragic loss of life that could have been avoided if cooler heads had prevailed. Martin chose to not talk to Zimmerman, which could have diffused the situation. There had been multiple break-ins in the community, so there is was reason for suspicion about someone walking around staring at the units and talking on the phone. He could have been casing the place for a future robbery. A polite conversation alleviated that suspicion.

    And Zimmerman chose to either follow Martin, as it appears he did, or to walk back to his SUV, which he claims to have tried to do, rather than wait for the police. If he had stayed put, there may not have been a confrontation either.

    Zimmerman could have been less gung ho. Just because someone is in a hoodie and walking around at night, doesn’t mean he’s up to no good…regardless of race.

    But none of those things happened. So a series of bad choices led to a tragic death that otherwise would not have happened. Instead, Martin chose to stand HIS ground. Had situation been reversand, and
    he been a couple of years older, and armed, while Zimmerman wasn’t, who
    would be at fault then? Would there be a huge outcry about yet another thug in a hoodie shooting a man who was just out trying to protect his neighborhood? Or would this be just as tragic of a misunderstanding that escalated to violence that could have been easily avoided?

    • Marie-Elsie Ade

      The bad choices were not Trayvon’s. He was walking minding his own business when that man accosted him demanding to know the reason he was in the neighborhood as if being in that neighborhood was not his right. A polite conversation was not possible due to Zimmerman’s action.

      • Cb_demented

        Well that depends greatly one what story you believe.

        No one knows what whom exactly accosted whom. There is a time gap of close to two minutes. What is known, through a witness statement, is that Martin struck first physically. He punched Zimmerman in the nose, breaking it. Zimmerman went down and Martin jumped on top of him slamming his head into the ground causing a wound that required 12 stitches. That action alone made Martin guilty of aggravated battery, which by law is justification for using deadly force for self defense.

        However…by Zimmerman’s statement, Martin ran into him as he was going back to his SUV following the instruction by the Police Emergency line operator (It has been confirmed that his call was not to 911, but to the local police emergency line). According to the transcript, Zimmerman began the call in his SUV and almost immediately exited the vehicle as he was describing where he was. You can hear the ding as he opens the car door on the tape. A few seconds later Martin notices him looking at him and begins to walk rapidly away. According to his girlfriend’s statement, he lost Zimmerman. . On the tape of the call, the dispatcher tells Zimmerman they don’t need him to follow and he replies with “ok.” According to Zimmerman’s statement to the police, he was returning to his SUV when Martin confronted him. Martin asked him what he wanted with him and as Zimmerman replied, he reached for his phone.

        The physical altercation ensued at that point. Now maybe Martin thought Zimmerman was reaching for a weapon, in which case he would be perfectly justified to then escalate with force. He’d have a reasonable fear for his safety, and he had just as much right to stand his ground as Zimmerman.

        But we’ll never know. Because the only statement as to state of mind comes from Zimmerman, and a witness saw Martin physically attack Zimmerman first…and that Zimmerman was the one yelling for help, not Martin.

  • Cb_demented

    Some further information has begun to come to light on this case.

    The press hasn’t reported this, but the police did take Zimmerman into custody initially, and he was questioned for 5 hours, after which he was treated for a broken nose and had the back of his head stitched, none of which has made it to the mainstream press.

    Much hay has been made about the fact that it was a narcotics detective on the scene, and not a homicide detective, with all sorts of wild speculation as to proof this was a racially motivated action by the police assuming that Martin was a drug dealer. This isn’t the case. The narcotics detective was called because he was closest to the scene and could secure it the fastest.

    Martin was questioned at the station by a homicide detective, who wanted to charge him with manslaughter. The local prosecutor decided not to charge because there was no evidence to contradict Zimmerman’s statement. There are 3 witnesses to the case as evidenced by the recently leaked police report. http://media.cmgdigital.com/shared/news/documents/2012/03/28/trayvon-martin-police-report.pdf

    The one witness that has spoken to the press corroborates part of Zimmerman’s story that he was physically attacked by Martin and that it was Zimmerman who was screaming for help. Physical evidence suggested this as well. Because Martin was on top of Zimmerman, stand your ground is not an issue. With a 6′ 2″ 190lb kid on his chest, he couldn’t have retreated if he wanted to.

    Zimmerman’s gun was a Keltec PF9 9mm. When recovered at the scene, it had a full magazine and was jammed. This means Zimmerman had one in the barrel, which is what fired, and jamming in such a manner, especially with this type of weapon, is consistent with a gun that’s fired while someone is impeding the slide mechanism. In other words, they were likely fighting for possession of the weapon and it went off. The Coroner’s report will likely shed more light on this supposition. If Martin was grasping the weapon or near it, he’ll have the same powder residue someone who fired it would have, and quite probably will be burned from the discharge through the ejection port during firing.

    Angela Corey, a state prosecutor based in Duval County has been appointed special prosecutor. She’s got 54 murder cases under her belt, 9 of which were SYG cases, 6 of which she successfully prosecuted. She’s brilliant and very effective, and is described as Attila the Hun in the court room. She will be bringing the case before the Grand Jury April 10th, and if there’s something there, rest assured, she will prosecute.

  • aielman

    Regarding the original idea that fear mongering from the right somehow played a part in Zimmerman’s actions…

    What are the chances that a lifetime registered democrat who self identifies as hispanic, and voted for Obama according to a statement from one of his closest friends, was deeply influenced by right wing politics?

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