There has been a taste of the Old West from the beginning of this case coming to national attention, with George Zimmerman as a would-be Wyatt Earp and Trayvon Martin as Billy Clanton, the teenager who died on the streets of Tombstone, Arizona in the Gunfight at the O.K. Corral.
True, it's hard to call it a gunfight with only one gun and one gunshot, but the way George Zimmerman describes it they each had an equal chance at it:
"I had my firearm on my right side hip. My jacket moved up and he saw it, I feel like he saw it, he looked at it, and he said, "You're going to die tonight, motherf*cker." And he reached for it. He reached like I felt his arm going down to my side. And I grabbed it, I just grabbed my firearm and shot. One time."That's hardcore sad but the swearing is hilarious. Cable news hosts squirm with reporting words they would get fired for saying, even under the breath heard across the room at a noisy cocktail party. You see the palpable fear of losing their multi-million dollar salaries just reporting the words. Run the tape, run the tape, so I don't have to say it!
I grew up with a grandfather who religiously used bywords like "sugar" and "dognabbit" and a father who could very creatively string together swears without ever using the "N" word, the "C" word, or either of the "F" words, such as "bastard sons of bitches!" Once I was having a little trouble with the Case VAC while raking hay on a hot August day, and my grandfather came over the terrace as I was banging on the carburetor while cussing up a blue storm. No words were taken in vain, I meant every murderous one of them.
Yes, I take more after my father than my grandfather or these cable news hosts. I had a 17-year-old intern computer programmer working with me several years back who would often break out giggling while I was working with him on computer problems. It took me half the summer to realize his giggling started every time I took out my computer frustrations by swearing. I spent the rest of the summer taking unfair advantage of that fact.
Swearing has become unoriginal. I give George Zimmerman no points for saying "f*cking punks - these assholes always get away" under his breath while on the phone with the police. Nor for Trayvon Martin telling his friend who was a girl but not his girlfriend, "this n*gger is still following me." Didn't these guys know the NSA was recording all their cell phone scat?
"Creepy ass cracker" on the other hand is brilliant. That's how Trayvon Martin is reported to have described the man who the more-PC paper of record New York Times called a "white Hispanic" who was following him in his truck around a small neighborhood. Think about a guy following you like that who is talking the whole time on his cell phone, presumably about you, all the while leeringly peering over his steering wheel at you.
I should disclose that about 30 years ago, something like that happened to me. I was walking home to my apartment in Allston, my first summer in the city after growing up in small town farm country. A car began trailing me, and when a car trails someone who is walking it has to creep along real slow. I went into a 7-11, in the hope of shaking my tail, but the guy got out of the car and followed me in. I bought a candy bar and a coke (skittles and Arizona iced tea had not yet been invented) and walked out.
The man followed me out, got back in his car, and crept along about a quarter block behind me as I headed on toward the apartment I had just recently moved into. What to do? I didn't want to walk all the way home, because then the man would know exactly where I lived.
If the man had gotten out of the car it would have been go time, fight or flight. I didn't have to decide. At that point, one of my housemates appeared out of nowhere (being still several blocks from home) and spoke to the driver, who then sped off.
I don't put a lot of stock in one guy referring to the other as a "f*cking punk" or as one of "these assholes". Nor in the other referring to him in turn as a "cracker" and a "n*gger". In another context that might be racist, but in this case both guys saw a person acting suspiciously. As a country, though, we are stuck on the racial angle. That's sad.
Or maybe it's just the cable news networks who are stuck. I'm sure a lot of America has not bothered to turn off their video game consoles to tune into the trial. Here in Boston we have the ongoing Billy Bulger mobster trial, the Aaron Hernandez arrest, and of course ongoing developments in the Boston Marathon bombing case. Not to mention Edward Snowden and Paula Deen.
What's sad in a smaller but ultimately more important way is that Trayvon Martin lost his life. "Thou shalt not kill" the Bible says in Genesis but takes back a little in Leviticus.
I think that the witnesses in the Zimmerman trial are mostly telling the truth, as they remember seeing or hearing it. It's a tougher case to me than whether George Zimmerman was getting his headed pounded into the sidewalk or just roughly ground into it. Zimmerman was defending himself, that much is clear. But was he in the right to kill?
The legal question I think this case will come down to is guilty or not guilty on the manslaughter charge based on who the jury finds initiated the use of deadly force. Was it:
(1) The guy who got out of his truck with a gun strapped to his hip to follow the other guy or the guy who may have thrown the first punch at his pursuer.
(2) The guy who took the mixed martial arts classes or the guy who was using "MMA" more effectively. Isn't that what we used to call street fighting?
(3) The guy who said "you are going to die tonight" or the survivor who conveniently claims the other guy said that.
(4) The guy who the survivor says first reached for the gun or the guy who drew the gun and fired.
(5) The guy who used the worst racial swear words or the guy whose side creates the most reasonable doubt.
All the cable news shows want to talk about is racial swears and reasonable doubt. That sad display has become a little too easy, apparently it holds a portion of the audience in an angry suspense that keeps them tuned in and brings in the ratings and advertisers. Even so, it's sadly hilarious to watch the hosts and analysts make utter buffoons of themselves.
Meanwhile, I spent an hour or so Saturday afternoon wandering around the Home Depot in Watertown, not too far from where the Boston Marathon bombers were caught. Seeing every color and category of American, and a few non-Americans, restored my faith that we're not all going to kill each other over something stupid. That is, not all of us are.