WHAT YOU HAVE TO BLEND TO GET A GEORGE ZIMMERMAN
Here's an editorial from the Orlando Sentinel:
You can't say we weren't warned.
Back in 2005, opponents of Florida's first-of-its-kind "stand your ground" law said it wouldn't be long before we'd see shootouts in the streets -- all in the name of self-defense.
Arguments over something as trivial as exceeding the 10-item limit in a grocery store's express lane could escalate to deadly violence.
Prodded by their NRA masters, lawmakers waved off those predictions as exaggerations. Then they overwhelmingly passed a bill that took the "castle doctrine" to infinity and beyond. The "castle doctrine" used to mean you could use deadly force if someone attacked you in your home. "Stand your ground" not only absolved the homeowner of any obligation to retreat, it extended that concept outside the home.
Gov. Jeb Bush couldn't sign the bill fast enough.
And now, seven years later, there's not only George Zimmerman shooting Trayvon Martin, there's a series of killings in Florida in which claims of self-defense are preposterous by any reasonable standard (see the editorial for the enumeration).
Why? Partly because this is how the right operates.
It's not enough to attain a goal (e.g., a homeowner's unquestioned right to self-defense on his property). The right has to twist the knife, piling on provisions until the hated liberals squeal like pigs. Right-wingers in these circumstances are like playground bullies who, not content to have an opponent down on the ground, force him to eat dirt.
The new wave of abortion humiliations being proposed in Republican-controlled state legislatures are "eat dirt" provisions. Arguably, the entire Iraq War was an "eat dirt" war, fought just because the war in Afghanistan didn't upset liberals enough. The next GOP presidency that's accompanied by a GOP Congress is going to result in an "eat dirt" era on an unprecedented scale.
There's more, obviously, that goes into the making of a George Zimmerman. Jesse Taylor talks about some of it:
When you look at Trayvon Martin's killing, it's easy to simply say that George Zimmerman was racist, his actions were motivated by racial fears, and the subsequent police response stems from a wholehearted indifference to the life of a black teenager. I'd argue a lot of that's probably true, but as Ta-Nehisi says, "[T]his is about race along with..."
That "along with" is paranoia. In this case, it's the sort of paranoia that leads to Florida's rather expansive Castle doctrine, which has the rather delightful effect of making "anywhere you have a right to be" your castle....
George Zimmerman managed to call the police department 46 times in the past 14 months to report various crimes. The two explanations for this are that he's the unluckiest man on the face of the planet, doomed to forever witness crime but never stop it (until now), or that he's a paranoid vigilante with a fixation on black men who got sick of having the police do nothing about his repeated, meritless complaints....
An expansive self-defense doctrine turns the expression of paranoid activity into a socially acceptable, excused form of vigilantism.... The paranoiac who fixates on black youth is protected, because feeding a certain form of majoritarian paranoia bears rather awesome political fruit.
The paranoia of George Zimmerman had a large, race-specific fear component, but I'd say it also had elements of pleasure. I see this in what gun fans say all the time -- they like thinking of themselves as besieged, and as people who have the means to defend themselves if attacked. They really want their paranoid fantasies to come true, because it turns what's largely a matter of personal enjoyment (they like guns) into a matter of being heroes of society. They hope they get to stop scary hordes of "urban" marauders from committing horrendous crimes of violence. They hope they have the chance to defeat a liberal/fascist/gun-grabbing government.
In Zimmerman's case, he hoped he could be the Great Neighborhood Avenger. Another important aspect of American culture works into this as well: the universally accepted notion that "one person can make a difference" and that each of us has the potential to be exceptional.
Throw all this in the cultural mixmaster -- the whole range, from self-esteem to bigotry -- and sooner or later someone innocent is going to wind up dead.