Trayvon Martin will not go gently into that good night, and the poor kid’s ghost can and will haunt us, it seems, until justice is done.
His shooter, the neighborhood watch captain George Zimmerman, has been arrested and charged with second-degree murder, so the wheels of the legal system, however slowly and imperfectly, are grinding forward.
But we can’t shake the death of 17-year-old Trayvon. That’s partly because it was senseless and avoidable. And also in part because his shooting is being ridden like Seabiscuit by everyone to benefit their respective political sides and agendas.
Figures such as Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton want to use the Martin shooting to say that when it comes to race, little to nothing has changed in America over the past 20, 30, or 50 years. Gun control advocates want to say that the shooting proves that America is awash in the blood of gun violence egged on by Second Amendment fundamentalists.
But neither of those things is true.
While there’s still a lot of work to be done, race relations are getting better, as is clear from the majority of black, white, Latino, and other respondents in poll after poll. Electing Barack Obama as president doesn’t give us a free pass on the nation’s ugly history, but it’s a pretty good indicator that things aren’t the way they used to be.
And gun violence in every way is way down from where it was just a few decades ago, when most states and localities started to allow more people to own and carry guns. That’s true even in Florida, which liberalized its gun laws years ago, leading people to worry it would become “the Gunshine State.” In fact, Florida’s death rate from guns is average for the country.
I’m saddened by Trayvon Martin’s death. I don’t think that George Zimmerman should have pursued him and confronted him after calling the cops.
But I also think that we can only negatively compound the tragedy if we insist on making it embody trends that are actually moving in positive directions.
About 2 minutes.
Produced by Joshua Swain. Camera by Jim Epstein. Written by Nick Gillespie and Kennedy, who also hosts.