Ever notice how bizarre dream logic is? In dreams, the strangest occurrences are accepted as fact and are left unquestioned. Take one I had a few nights ago. I was sitting with a group of writers reading one another’s poetry. When the meeting ended, I decided to lock my poetry journal in a rectangular silver safe. This particular safe, despite being somewhat small, had several compartments. I chose one, deposited my notebook, and locked the door. Then I accidentally pushed a button and out a hole in the side came, of all things, bread dough (multi-grain with sesame seeds, not sure if organic or not). I realized the dough was my journal with all the poems in it, transformed. Upset that I’d lost my poems and also embarrassed at what had happened, I didn’t want my fellow poets to know, but ended up making a joke out of it, saying, “What just happened would make a pretty funny poem, huh?” At no time did I question how a notebook full of poems could be transformed into bread dough. It seemed perfectly reasonable in the dream. That’s dream logic for you.
While contemplating this dream upon awakening, it occurred to me that this strange frame of reference, this dream logic, when something outlandish is accepted as normal, is precisely what we have in the George Zimmerman case. How else to explain how a 17-year-old unarmed black youth carrying a fruit drink and a bag of Skittles could be stalked by a 28-year-old white Hispanic man with a gun who then shoots the unarmed boy, doesn’t get arrested for 44 days, then gets acquitted of all charges? What kind of universe are we living in? Precisely one like one you might encounter in dreams (or more appropriately in this case, in nightmares). In this strange universe, George Zimmerman’s right to defend himself against an unarmed boy is sacrosanct. What about Trayvon Martin’s right to defend himself against a man following him with a gun? No mention of that during the trial.
And strange indeed is the avoidance of any reference to race during the trial. Judge Debra Nelson decided at the beginning of the trial that the word “profiling” — but not the phrase “racial profiling” — could be used in opening statements. Prosecutor John Guy insisted that the case was not about race, despite the fact that in his closing statement, he made an obvious reference to race when he asked the jury to consider a role reversal: would Trayvon Martin be convicted if he had followed and then shot George Zimmerman? Yet Mr. Guy then went on to finish his statement by reminding the jury that the case was not about race. Well, if not because of his race, then why was Trayvon Martin profiled and followed? Because he was a teenager wearing a hoodie? No, because he was a black teenager wearing a hoodie. If Trayvon Martin had been white, it’s highly unlikely George Zimmerman would have called 911. Just consider this fact: all of Zimmerman’s calls to police about suspicious persons involved African-Americans.
Another curious figure in this strange universe is Juror B-37, recently interviewed by Anderson Cooper on CNN (her face blacked out), who claimed that “George” (as she repeatedly called him) had been “frustrated” by all the break-ins that had been occurring in his gated community. Because he was frustrated, and (get this!) because it was raining (!) and a strange teenager was walking and looking into people’s windows, George Zimmerman then decided to take action. Well, we only have George Zimmerman’s word that Martin was looking into windows. Even if he was, so what? It was dark, and the insides of houses would have been lit up. I often go for walks at dusk in my neighborhood, and I sometimes look in windows (from the street, mind you), my eye caught by a particular wall color, or an interesting lamp or painting. I’ve never been followed by a neighborhood watch volunteer, and certainly not one with a gun (by the way, who ever heard of armed neighborhood watch volunteers?) But I, of course, am a older white woman with grey hair. If I were a boy of Trayvon’s age and race, maybe someone would have called 911 . . . or worse.
The defense claimed that George Zimmerman was walking back toward his car (note: in order to walk back to his car, he had to have gotten out of it to follow Trayvon Martin in the first place)when Martin came up to him, pinned Zimmerman on his back, and assaulted him. We’ll never know what really happened, but even if this account of events were to be true, there needs to be some penalty for someone with a gun going after an unarmed black teen who had been walking in a community minding his own business. Bottom line is, George Zimmerman should have never followed Trayvon Martin, and he certainly should never have followed him with a gun. Once he did that, Trayvon Martin had every right to defend himself. The fact that George Zimmerman was declared not guilty is a travesty of justice. The fact that the prosecution shied away from talking about race and the obvious racial profiling that led to Trayvon’s death is also a travesty. The not guilty verdict also sets a very bad precedent. How many other George Zimmermans are out there (so-called neighborhood watch volunteers or not), secure in the knowledge that if they stalk and then shoot an unarmed black teenager, they’ll get away with it? Strange universe, indeed, and I wish I could wake up and find it all to be just a . . . nightmare.