It’s hard to describe the days following last weekend’s Zimmerman verdict as educational, but we have surely learned some things.
Some are uplifting, some downright depressing. But for what they are worth, here are my ten top takeaways from a crazy week:
1. Sometimes, even in these cynical times, a jury gets it right.
Here in the era of O.J. and the $3 million hot coffee civil suit, it is easy to grow jaded about the failings of our human jury system.
But on rare occasions, under the harsh glare and pressure of public scrutiny, jurors will gather and surround themselves with just the right shields against emotion and irrelevant sideshows.
The Zimmerman jury had to know that an acquittal could well lead to violent reactions. They also had to know they would join the defendant in the crosshairs of vulgar, unhinged critics.
Yet they examined the evidence, ruled on its merits and gave us an inspiring example of our judicial system working properly.
2. Twitter brings out the worst in many.
The hours following the verdict offered a cascade of America at its ugliest and stupidest, all painfully played out in the social media world.
Amid pro- and anti-verdict tweets that weighed in within the range of civilized speech, countless posers, malcontents, idiot kids and idiot adults took the opportunity to grab their 15 hundredths of a second in the online spotlight.
I tried to mitigate my disillusionment by concluding that for every obscene, hurtful tweet that was genuine, at least three were just chowderheads trying to raise eyebrows with cheap shocks.
3. Some people need black to equal innocent and white to equal guilty in order to strike some rough balance against injustices of the past.
This is a curious psychological pathology that suggests that memories of slavery and the Jim Crow era will sting less if we tilt today’s courtroom playing fields against all whites and in favor of all blacks.
This path is doomed, of course, and it damages us along the way, by slowing the progress we are undoubtedly making. Whites willing to cast off that last vestige of racism may hit the pause button on their epiphanies at the sight of angry blacks unveiling their own pernicious prejudice-- the belief that Zimmerman (and anyone supporting his acquittal) are acting out of racial hostility.
4. Al Sharpton and his fellow rabble-rousers do not know the meaning of shame.
I am willing to hear and tolerate their assertion that the jury ruled wrongly, that Zimmerman is a racist predator and Trayvon Martin a hero worthy of honor.
But the moment they seek to further enrage an already unbalanced horde of hopped-up overreactors, that crosses a line into the genuinely sinister.
And for the record, that community of wheels-off hotheads probably contains as many guilt-addled whites as blacks.
5. Many who are calling for “an honest conversation about race” are lying.
Attorney General Eric Holder is not the only phony calling for “dialogue.” Many on the left clamor for more race chat, yet reflexively demonize any who dare to offer a competing view.
I don’t see a lot of tolerance from them for opinions like mine. I have actually valued conversations this week with those who differ, but all participants must display listening skills and goodwill, concepts foreign to the race-baiters.
6. Relying on “history” when facts are fuzzy is a bad idea.
Time after time, I have heard assertions that Zimmerman must have been the aggressor because of “history,” the pernicious notion that past injustices for black Americans constitute a greater likelihood that any racial question today must by necessity feature a white villain.
I have reminded those harboring this flawed notion that they have probably at some point spoken ill of another form of this phenomenon-- “driving while black,” the racist practice of baselessly stopping black drivers of nice cars in some neighborhoods.
Couldn’t a police officer say he was relying on “history?” After all, some black folk have probably stolen some cars over time. Why not presume the next black guy in a Lexus is a thief?
Because it is wrong, that’s why. As is presuming dark motives for Zimmerman because of unrelated events in the past.
7. Emotional cases make people messy on matters of law.
Eric Holder harps on “Stand Your Ground” laws when they had nothing to do with the Zimmerman case.
Jesse Jackson laments that the jury was not made up of Trayvon Martin’s peers when it is the defendant who enjoys that right. And if one stoops to defining “peers” racially, Zimmerman was denied that right as well since the jury box did not contain six “White Hispanics.”
8. George Zimmerman is unlikely to see the inside of another courtroom in this matter.
Holder and President Obama would love nothing more than to enjoy the heroism of a federal civil rights crucifixion, but even in their zealous fog, they know it would fail, and they do not want that humiliation.
Besides, they can throw out incendiary platitudes without the burden of actually prevailing in court.
As for some civil wrongful death action brought by Trayvon Martin’s parents, they just don’t seem like the kind of people who want to tear open their own wounds in a proceeding that, unlike the murder trial, would allow light to be shed on their son’s various misbehaviors.
Having won a million-dollar settlement from a homeowners association surely terrified at the prospect of the larger check they would have written after a Zimmerman conviction, these parents’ best bet is to return to their normal lives, to begin a healing process with the best wishes of a sympathetic nation.
9. Hillary Clinton is already in 2016 pander mode.
She commented this week that no parent should have to worry about a child being shot while walking down a street. Someone should remind her-- and all of those parents she invoked-- that our kids are a lot less likely to be harmed if they do not attack armed people.
10. If you are a fan of Stevie Wonder in Florida, he does not give a flip about you, announcing a performance boycott in any state with Stand Your Ground Laws, which are surely not the fault of the majority of his concert attendees.
That’s quite a few states, but a largely empty gesture since Stevie scarcely tours these days in the traditional sense. His tour calendar currently contains one U.S. date for the rest of the year-- Central Park in September.
Bruce Springsteen offered up some onstage piffle this week, but don’t look for the still-active Boss to stomp on his own financial toes with such stunts.
There is one more lesson likely to unfold this weekend as some number of protesters spill onto the streets of various cities to fill their otherwise empty days. That lesson is that we have miles to go before we are a nation that deals with race issues like grownups-- and we are mired in adolescent angst by those who cannot accept that it is 2013, not 1963-- or 1863.