maybe THIS murder will change things?

I wasn’t going to write anything about Trayvon Martin. His murder happened a long way away, and the newspapers here in Abu Dhabi are filled with plenty of stories of murder and mayhem (Syria, anyone?). Plus, you know, he’s African American and the murder happened in Florida, and so really, who am I, as a white woman in the Middle East, to weigh in on the terrible thing that happened to him and his family? Isn’t that the way the logic goes? That if it doesn’t directly relate to our lives, we don’t get involved?

Maybe I could say, as Mom-101 did so persuasively, that I’m a mom and so one mother’s pain is also my own.  Or maybe I could say that I’m a mom who wants her sons to grow up without fear of someone thinking they look “suspicious” (my kids have darker-than-white skin and shiny black hair.  They don’t look African American but I suppose you could think they look vaguely Arabic. And you know that all Arabs are terrorists, right?)  Charles M. Blow, in the Times, writes about his fear of his own children ending up like Trayvon…I suppose that all parents worry that something terrible will happen to their children, but for some parents, that worry is more real than others.

Here’s the thing: it seems to me that as long as our country refuses to moderate its insatiable appetite for guns,  all our children are at risk.

Because beyond the simple heart-breaking fact that Trayvon is someone’s son is the fact that his death is–again–about our country’s love affair with guns and vigilante-ism, about our insistence that “they” (whoever they are at the moment) are dangerous and that “we” are always on the verge of being attacked.

Frightened people imagine attackers everywhere, which seems to be how George Zimmerman, Trayvon’s killer, looked at the world.  Zimmerman saw Trayvon as the boy was walking home from the convenience store, where he bought Skittles and iced tea; the gated community neighborhood was unfamiliar to Trayvon because he was visiting, spending some time with his father and his father’s fiancee.  Mr. Zimmerman, a volunteer for the neighborhood-watch patrol, saw Travyon walking home and thought he “looked suspicious.”  Now, in some places, “neighborhood watch” means folks strolling around the block chatting with their friends and picking up errant trash.  In this neighborhood, though, the volunteer had a concealed weapon and was cruising around in his SUV.

What made Trayvon look suspicious? I mean, Skittles are a pretty friendly looking candy, don’t you think? Well, apparently Trayvon was wearing a hooded sweatshirt, with the hood up. Up, of course, is a clear danger signal. I’m sure the color of Trayvon’s skin had nothing to do with Zimmerman’s concern.

Well, folks, we know how it ends. What with one thing and another (and in defiance of the police operator, who told Zimmerman to stay in the car until an officer arrived in the neighborhood), Zimmerman got out of his car, chased Trayvon, and then Trayvon was dead on the ground.  Zimmerman claims he shot the boy in self-defense, which when you kill someone in Florida can be an extenuating factor.

Self-defense? A 28 year old man with a gun against a 17 year old unarmed boy?

Zimmerman has not been arrested and no charges have been filed against him.

The Republican nominees for President have not said a word about Trayvon. I guess they’re too busy discussing the best ways to keep women barefoot and pregnant.

Astonishingly, however, Obama hasn’t contacted Trayvon’s family either, which reveals (again) the minefield created when racial politics intersect the politics of gun control.

Trayvon–and all the other children who have been the victims of gun-related violence–deserve more than silence. What happened to Trayvon deserves to be screamed about, shouted about, twittered, tumblr’d, pinterested, and facebooked. He deserves more than his own hashtag (although he’s got one now); and his family deserves more than the police chief saying “the evidence doesn’t establish so far that Mr. Zimmerman did not act in self-defense.”

If Zimmerman hadn’t been armed, Trayvon would be alive. It’s as simple as that. I realize that I’m shouting into the howling wilderness, but I’ll say it anyway: with stricter gun laws, Columbine would have ended differently; Virginia Tech would have ended differently; and so would have that Florida evening in February.  Remember how after Columbine and Virginia Tech people were sure that this time, gun laws would become stricter?

Should we even bother to hope that Trayvon’s death might finally, finally stir people to speak out against the gun lobby?

I know they say that guns don’t kill people, people kill people. But you know what? It’s really hard to kill someone with a bag of Skittles and a hoodie sweatshirt.


Update: on Monday, the US Justice department opened a probe into Trayvon’s death. George Zimmerman still sleeps in his own bed, in the comfort of his own home.  Update unrelated to heart-breaking tragedy: yeah write is open for linkups, so click on through and follow the conversation.  Then come back on Wednesday to vote for your favorite posts.

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32 Responses to maybe THIS murder will change things?

  1. Maria March 18, 2012 at 7:49 am #

    Brought me to tears! I will share this Deb.

    • Deborah Quinn March 18, 2012 at 9:43 am #

      Thanks, Maria, for the comment and the share. I don’t know what gun laws are in the UAE…but in the US, as I’m sure you know, guns are sacrosanct. Human lives, apparently, especially if you’re a young man of color, are maybe not quite so important. Deep sigh…

  2. Dick Horwich March 18, 2012 at 7:56 am #

    I remember Ramsay Clark, speaking at a Brooklyn College graduation, saying, “The biggest social problem we face at the moment is this country’s love affair with guns.” That moment was 25 years ago.

    • Deborah Quinn March 18, 2012 at 9:41 am #

      God. Exactly. Remember when Brady got shot in the Reagan era? THAT was going to change everything, too. Sigh. Sigh, sigh, sigh. That kid’s poor parents.

  3. Mom101 March 18, 2012 at 8:15 am #

    Thank you for this Deborah. Your comment about Obama and the intersection of racial problems and gun laws just chilled me.

    • Deborah Quinn March 18, 2012 at 9:39 am #

      Thanks to you, actually. I’d been thinking these things but then your post showed me a way in to writing about them. Charles Blow’s piece in the Times just blew me away (sorry for the inadvertent pun). It’s a ghastly event…all the more ghastly for being so freaking common. Thank you for the comment.

  4. Lenore Diane March 19, 2012 at 8:04 am #

    Well written, Deborah. Too many thoughts spinning in my head to capture here. A dialogue is needed to make changes. Writing spreads the word – but dialogue is still essential.

  5. Andrea March 19, 2012 at 10:52 pm #

    So well written. I am heart-broken, and saying it so many times isn’t going to change the outcome. Thank you for intelligently wording and sharing your thoughts.

  6. Emily March 20, 2012 at 7:12 am #

    I’ve been following this story from Japan and you’re right, it’s chilling.

  7. Sisterhood of the Sensible Moms March 20, 2012 at 7:18 am #

    Your voice is strong and I applaud you for sharing your opinion and not letting this tragedy go unnoticed. Ellen

  8. Beej March 20, 2012 at 8:39 am #

    It’s sad that the strongest voices for gun control inside this country come from outside this country. Thanks for a thoughtful and very well-written piece.

  9. Missy Olive March 20, 2012 at 9:07 am #

    Thanks for making it real. I wish we had no guns. Just think how many people would be saved this year alone.

  10. Kristin March 20, 2012 at 1:58 pm #

    I’ve been following the developments obsessively for over a week now – and it makes me sick for several reasons and on several levels. Thanks for helping to keep the issue in the forefront.

    And in positive moves forward: A grand jury has been called in the case as of Tuesday (3/20) afternoon.

  11. Ado March 20, 2012 at 1:59 pm #

    Okay, wow, I hadn’t even heard of this child’s death until reading about it here. It is just so sad and I agree with you about all the stereotyping all of us are guilty of doing based on external appearances. I am adamantly opposed to guns being legal, period. Unpopular view maybe – but I’ve heard that a classroom full of children is killed in America per day or per week (I think it was per day) due to gun related incidents. I’ve lived in countries where guns are not legal and not even the police wear them. The criminals use knives instead, or things like blood filled syringes – and you know what? People don’t get shot as much. Kids don’t. Oh how I hate this gun-toting society we have created. Thanks for your post.

  12. Sarcasm Goddess March 20, 2012 at 4:31 pm #

    This is so tragic.

  13. Andi Brown March 20, 2012 at 5:13 pm #

    I feel completely out of the loop. After reading your article I tracked down the story, thank you for prompting me to do so.

  14. Michelle Longo March 20, 2012 at 5:59 pm #

    This story is such a tragedy. Thank you for adding to a very important conversation in such a civilized and intelligent way.

  15. tara pohlkotte March 20, 2012 at 6:41 pm #

    oh yes. This was just so, so sad. And not right. Thank you for raising a voice.

  16. Mayor Gia March 20, 2012 at 7:34 pm #

    SO upsetting. And I agree with pretty much everything you said. I want this guy to be held responsible, damnit!

  17. stephanie March 20, 2012 at 7:55 pm #

    Here Here! This is a hot button issue for me, as well. Why do we NEVER hear anything from either side of the aisle (media & politicians) when some innocent kid (or adult) is killed by a gun? Is the NRA that powerful? Clearly the answer is yes. They dole out money to the right and the left. No one has the guts to stand up to them. Guns kill people. Thank you for writing this!

  18. Runnermom-jen March 20, 2012 at 9:29 pm #

    Geez, I DO live under a rock. I hadn’t heard about this story. SO sad!! What in the heck is wrong with people. I must track down this story and read more about it.
    Maybe it’s better to live under a rock…these tragedies make me sad.

  19. Kim Pugliano @The G is Silent March 20, 2012 at 11:03 pm #

    Wow. I had no idea this happened. Disgusting. The poor mother of this innocent CHILD. And here I am complaining that the boy who pushed my boy down and broke his wrist didn’t get SUSPENDED. Now I am truly humbled. Awesome post Deborah.

  20. heidi March 21, 2012 at 12:20 pm #

    This is horrible. Just awful. Thank you for speaking up and using your voice. It’s a powerful voice.

  21. Susan March 21, 2012 at 12:22 pm #

    “the minefield created when racial politics intersect the politics of gun control” – i think this is a really interesting point. what happened to trayvon martin is nothing short of a tragedy and should open the discussion about gun control (again) (again, again). this is a great, thought-provoking post – thanks.

  22. Kim@MamaMzungu March 21, 2012 at 1:40 pm #

    Just tragic that politicians won’t touch something so clearly unjust as this for fear of what? Being soft on crime? Being anti-gun? Entering into the minefield of racial politics? Thanks so much for bringing your voice and reasoning to this tragedy. I’m hoping other voices join in the outrage!

  23. Kimberly S. (Sperk*) March 21, 2012 at 2:11 pm #

    You raise many valid points and questions. As a mom, I too have fears for my children and empathy for Trayvon’s family. I agree that this is a firearm issue, but it is only the surface. Here, is also racism, fear, anger, and most-likely mental illness. Until we get to the cause of violence, violence will still be present, with or without firearms. Zimmerman could have used his hands, vehicle, a baseball bat….Lastly, I fear the day when citizens have no right to bear arms. That is unless, law enforcement also are weapon free. Thought provoking post. Thanks for the opportunity for dialogue.

  24. anna March 21, 2012 at 8:19 pm #

    you make a very good point about gun laws – or lack thereof – being a major cause of american violence. everything about this case is so sad.

  25. Louise Ducote March 22, 2012 at 6:38 am #

    Thanks for writing about this; it seems that the outcry is getting louder. I live in Texas and it’s an extra gun-friendly state in a gun-happy country. It’s not difficult at all to imagine this crime happening here. Keep up the good work, girl!

  26. Jessica@Team Rasler March 22, 2012 at 10:49 am #

    The gun lobby is just so terrifyingly powerful. And well-funded. I just saw something about how they raised about 200 million dollars last year. It amazes me to think how many children we can feed and educate (rather than kill) for that amount of money.

  27. Lady Jennie April 1, 2012 at 1:54 am #

    So well written and my sentiments exactly.

  28. brand December 28, 2012 at 3:23 am #

    Im not such an expert when it comes to this. Useful read, appreciate your posting this.


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