Thursday, March 29, 2012

Outside Looking In

I am not following the Trayvon Martin situation.

I know that probably places me firmly in the minority (no pun intended), but I am not paying full attention.  It is not easy to avoid the story.  As we all know, it is everywhere, all the time.  The story has infected every media outlet from cable news to sports talk radio to daily Facebook updates.  Whereas I began as a passive observer of the virus, I now must try consciously to avoid being bitten by the story.  I am working hard to remain an outsider and not become sickened by the entire escapade.  Full exposure sounds like it will make you sick inside.

I know a little about the story by osmosis.  I know about the hoodie controversy (full disclosure: Every member of my family owns a hooded sweatshirt).  I know about the danger that Skittles represent.  I have read some headlines about the Stand Your Ground laws and George Zimmerman’s 911 call and his injuries or non-injuries.  These sound bites have seeped inside, but they lack cohesiveness in my mind.  I haven’t drilled down for more information.  It’s just stuff I know. 

As far as meaningful details of the episode as it unfolded, I am happily ignorant.  From what I gather, I am in good company.  No one really knows what happened since the salient details are being sorted out via rumor, assumptions and innuendo, along with the occasional grainy surveillance tape and the customary scratchy 911 recording.  Only two people know all the facts and one is deceased.  That doesn’t stop everyone else from claiming with certainty that they know what happened that day, or what it means to us.

Some things are clearer from a safe distance, like a forest.  It is clear to me from this distance that Left and Right partisans are actively using this tragedy to support their preordained positions on race issues.  It is an interesting way to approach a sociological inquiry.  First, settle on a conclusion.  Then, find a public incident that involves all of the major characters required to frame and justify that conclusion.  Finally, insist that the incident supports your conclusion without reservation and beyond a reasonable doubt.  The scientific method suggests that the conclusion should come after the investigation, but in our 24/7 culture, that is asking too much.  We’re busy.

The Left is arguing that this shooting proves racial animus in America persists because of deep seeded prejudices that must be exposed to the light of day.  The Left believes that this is now proven beyond a reasonable doubt, thanks to Trayvon’s martyrdom.  The Right is arguing that the Left deliberately brings up race in these instances to gin up momentum for their radical welfare state agenda, and that racial discrimination in America ended on January 20, 2009.  Highlighting race perpetuates the discrimination the Left says it wants to eliminate.  The Right believes that this is now proven beyond a reasonable doubt, thanks to…well, because they said so.  Isn’t it obvious? 

The Right thinks that any mention of race is racist, unless you are detailing the systemic victimization of white males in our modern society.  The Left thinks that not mentioning race is the same as ignoring systemic discrimination, thereby providing silent assent to its practice.  It seems to me that both sides are making a very real issue a bit too hot to handle.  Friction causes heat, and the issues of race, crime, and guns generate a heck of a lot of friction.  I’ll stay ‘cool and aloof’ for as long as I can by not adding my voice to what is already a hot, noisy situation.

Besides, while this controversy simmers through the spring, this is the story that I will be following:

 A WV college student is suing his fraternity alleging that he fell off a deck when a drunken frat brother fired a bottle rocket out of his own anus.  Louis Helmburg III alleges that Travis Hughes’ bottle rocket startled him causing the fall.  The lawsuit states that “firing a bottle rocket out of one’s anus constitutes an ‘ultrahazardous’ activity.” (from The Week)

Now that trial I will follow closely.  It is the penultimate brother-on-brother battle, and I look forward to remaining engaged in all of the proceedings.  It is racially neutral, but still has the sizzle of explosives to spice it up.  And what can be more patriotic than brotherhood, beers and fireworks?
A tale of a bottle rocket being shot from someone’s anus is a once-in-a-lifetime case.  The Trayvon Martin case, or one just like it, will be repeated in this country many more times in my lifetime, I fear.  Maybe I’ll catch the next one.  I can say beyond a reasonable doubt that another one is right around the corner.  (Full disclosure:  I wrote this conclusion before I wrote the supporting paragraphs.)

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