Saturday, July 27, 2013

Word of the Day: IMBALANCED

I have had a couple of things rattling around in my mind on which to comment, including the misguided decision by Rolling Stone magazine to make a pseudo-rock star out of Boston marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, in an attempt to be provocative, by putting his picture (in a Jim Morrison-like pose) on its cover.  That is bad enough, and I completely disagreed with it, but I decided to direct my comments in a different direction.

It was two weeks ago today that the verdict was handed down in the George Zimmerman trial for the murder of seventeen-year-old Trayvon Martin, in which his defense was Florida's "Stand Your Ground" lawThe law states that anyone who feels directly threatened to the point of their life being in imminent danger may fire a weapon at their aggressor.  A jury of six women returned a verdict of not guilty to the charge of manslaughter.  To say it was a controversial decision would be an understatement.  

It was a controversial verdict for several reasons.  First, a number of things, brought up and not brought up in the trial, pointed to Zimmerman's guilt.  Those included his not really being on a neighborhood watch patrol, carrying and using a weapon while "on watch" (Florida's law allowing the carrying of firearms is irrelevant to this point), and willfully ignoring the 911 dispatcher telling him to not follow Martin.  The only major point of dispute, in my mind, was a recording of someone else calling 911, in which screaming for help is heard in the background...the screaming stops as soon as the gun goes off.  Was it Trayvon Martin or George Zimmerman screaming for help?  (To me, it truly sounded like someone younger screaming, so I believe it was Trayvon Martin, but it was admittedly hard to tell.)

To that point of dispute, it could have been Trayvon screaming for help just as likely as it could have been George Zimmerman screaming for help.  We weren't there, but why is it impossible to accept that perhaps George Zimmerman was screaming for help because Trayvon Martin was scared and defended himself? 

Zimmerman followed Martin, which included him getting out of his car to do so, which makes Zimmerman the aggressor.

Second, there was a racial factor, real or manufactured, to the verdict.  The five female jurors broke out this way: five white, and one Hispanic.  George Zimmerman is Hispanic and has a fair complexion.  Some Hispanics, certainly not all but some, have a somewhat darker complexion.  Zimmerman's complexion is quite fair, not a rarity among the Hispanic community, which led some people to refer to him as a "white-looking Hispanic" or simply a "white Hispanic".  Why did just "Hispanic" seem insufficient to some people?

Many people felt that, to put it bluntly, the almost all-white jury let a Hispanic man who was fair-skinned off the hook for murdering a black teenager.  The response to that verdict has shown the racial divide that still exists today.  To anyone who feels that it didn't show that divide, but merely created a new one, or created an opportunity (and I'm getting blunt again here) to allow black Americans to get "uppity", let me contrast this verdict with another one from last year...also in the state of Florida.

Marissa Alexander had remarried, but the relationship between her and her second husband, Rico Gray, was a physically abusive one.  Both she and Gray had restraining orders against one another.  In a physical altercation on August 1, 2010, that escalated to Gray threatening no one was going to have Alexander if he couldn't, Alexander got away from Gray and went into the garage to retrieve her gun from her car's glove compartment.  She re-entered the house -- which, in and of itself, makes her ill-advised decision to cite Florida's "Stand Your Ground" law invalid -- and fired a warning shot in the house when he refused her demand for him to leave. On May 11, 2012, Marissa Alexander was sentenced to twenty years in jail for aggravated assault.

Marissa Alexander is black.

In both instances, Florida's controversial "Stand Your Ground" law was cited.  Neither George Zimmerman nor Marissa Alexander really could lay claim to the law.  Even if Trayvon Martin did physically attack Zimmerman, which it appeared he did, Zimmerman was the initial aggressor.  It was his actions that started the chain of events leading up to Martin's murder.  Period.  If Marissa Alexander was so scared of her husband, and if she was able to get away from him, she should have left the property.  Period.

Kill someone, get off.  Fire a warning shot that hits no one, get twenty years in jail.  I know Lady Justice's eyes are blindfolded and she holds the scales of justice, but these two cases show a clear imbalance.  Just as these two cases had "Stand Your Ground" as their basis, it is Florida's "Stand Your Ground" law that is the basis for the imbalance here.  The law must be repealed.


Saturday, July 13, 2013

Phrase of the Day: THEY FAILED

An eleven year old girl with dreams and aspirations talks about what she wants to be when she grows up.  She wants to go to school to become a doctor.  As many eleven year olds are, she is vocal about going to school to become a doctor.  After a while, pretty much everyone in the town knows about it.

However, she is met with resistance.  Not the kind of resistance you might think of (i.e. being told she's not good enough, lack of money, lack or denial of financial support), but something far worse.  On October 9th of last year, when the girl is fourteen, on a school bus heading home, she was shot in the head and neck...just for wanting to be educated.

The eleven year old girl is Malala Yousafzai, a Pakistani girl who stood up to oppression and subservience.

Under the iron fist of the Taliban, girls wanting to be educated are forced into secrecy, with both them and their teachers risking death every day in doing so.  The school she attended, run by her father, was one of the final underground schools that defied Taliban orders until it was forced to close.  

Malala's persistence gained her growing recognition, as well as growing resentment from Taliban leaders.  From outside of the Taliban, her efforts earned her respect and admiration.  From the Taliban, her efforts gained her a bullet to the head that almost ended her life.  There is no doubt a documentary about her that was filmed three years before her being shot brought even more attention to her cause.

After being shot, she was treated at two military facilities in Pakistan: one just over 100 miles (168 kilometers) from where she lives, the other just over 150 miles (247 kilometers) from home.  Six days after being shot, she was moved to Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Birmingham, England, for further treatment.  In January of this year, she was released from the hospital, even though future surgeries will be necessary.  

All of this has been prologue to yesterday.  Yesterday, on her sixteenth birthday, Malala addressed the United Nations, which included several youth delegates on what was called Malala Day at the UN, continuing her message of promoting education for girls in Pakistan.  Her powerful speech can be seen below.

An amazing young girl became even more amazing.  Her passion for education for everyone is clear.  Education is a right, not for some, but for all.  In her own words, "We cannot all succeed when half of us are held back." 


Thursday, July 4, 2013

Some music for Independence Day

Today, here in America, we celebrate Independence Day, also referred to as the 4th of July, marking our breaking free from British rule and declaring a separate, autonomous state.  For this occasion, here's some music.  Enjoy!