Several months have passed since a jury in Florida acquitted George Zimmerman of the charges of second-degree murder and manslaughter in the shooting death of Trayvon Martin. The decision was sadly unsurprising to many. But to many, including myself, it still filled our hearts with anger. Many of us felt the decision was unjust. After the trial, we were left with nothing but the bitter irony of one’s life undeservedly lost and one’s innocence undeservedly gained. The worst case scenario for Trayvon Martin supporters following the trial was to watch George Zimmerman walk free. Which is exactly what he did.
I have wrestled with my own emotions, repressing the pent-up anger I have towards Zimmerman’s “innocence”. My opinion of the jury’s decision is that it was a systematic failure of due process (They were clearly misled by the jury instructions). Yet, despite my strong feelings, a small part of me is convinced that it was for the best. Here’s why.
Following his acquittal in July, Zimmerman hoped to fade back into society, unnoticed. However, despite his efforts, Zimmerman has been arrested not once, but twice for violent domestic disputes.
In September, at the home of Zimmerman’s parents-in-law, his estranged wife Shellie called 9-1-1 reporting that Zimmerman had smashed her iPad and punched her father in the nose. Zimmerman was not charged following the incident. Allegedly, there was video evidence of the fight on the iPad, which was conveniently destroyed beyond repair. The argument occurred only days after Shellie announced she was divorcing Zimmerman due to his increasingly aggressive behavior and also because she was starting to doubt his innocence in the death of Trayvon Martin (her words, not mine).
Two months later, it happened again. This time, at the residence of Zimmerman’s (now ex) girlfriend–Samantha Scheibe. This time, he was charged with aggravated assault plus one count of misdemeanor battery. Zimmerman allegedly pushed Scheibe out of her home after threatening her with a shotgun and then barricaded himself inside until police arrived. According to the judge, there was an unreported incident ten days earlier wherein Zimmerman choked Scheibe after a similar dispute.
Most people (normally, including myself) look at Zimmerman’s recent behavior and are refueled by anger, as the truth slowly reveals itself; a truth they have known all along. It has become increasingly clear that Zimmerman was likely the aggressor on the night he shot Travon Martin. Subsequently, causing insult to injury months after the trial ended.
I shared this sentiment at first. Even though Zimmerman had finally been charged with a crime, even though the judge banned him from using firearms, it was barely recompense for the life he took away and the lives he changed forever.
It should be known that I’m inherently cynical about almost everyone and everything. But despite my cynicism–in rare form–I am optimistic. Because, if anything, this proves we [supporters of Trayvon Martin] were right. I consider all of those around the country who supported Zimmerman (a lot more than you would think). People who actually searched deep-down within themselves and came to the conclusion that it was justified for a man to pursue and kill an unarmed teen out of suspicion. I consider these simple-minded American folk–in lieu of recent events–and I smile. I think about the jurors–who are sitting at home watching this on the news–and I smile. Because now they must witness how wrong they were. Now they must bare witness to the true character of a man they wrongfully defended.
If Zimmerman had been found guilty for the murder of Trayvon Martin, he would have been locked away for the world to forget. In accordance, he would have ostensibly become a martyr for everyone who defended him. Sure, hypothetically, justice would be served if he spent the rest of his life in prison. But the perceived ambiguity surrounding whether or not Zimmerman was actually the aggressor that evening, would continue to perpetuate the same uncertainty surrounding Trayvon’s death. Instead, Zimmerman’s persona has been revealed: someone who is (undoubtedly) gun-obsessed, irrational, and violent. The prosecutor’s couldn’t have painted a better picture themselves.
A reaffirmation of our beliefs is a small victory in the grand scheme of things (not to mention, self-satisfying). In a way, the recent events are disheartening. Because Zimmerman’s behavior only confirms what many of us have believed for so long. It’s easy to become further enraged about the fact he was acquitted in the first place. But, at the same time, I believe it’s subtle retribution. If the jury couldn’t incriminate him, at least he’s doing it to himself on public display. It’s certainly better than Zimmerman simply fading into obscurity, enjoying his freedom unhindered.
The big problem with a disguise is that, however hard you try, its always a self-portrait. In other words, George Zimmerman can’t stop himself from being George Zimmerman. Perhaps, having to live with himself, is an existential punishment to fit the crime.
To all those who might one-day contemplate the fate of someone like this:
Think hard about your decision. This is what being wrong looks like.
UPDATE: Zimmerman charges dropped (New York Times)