Mark Greene wants us to understand that George Zimmerman is just one of many who view strangers as enemies, and hold dear the idea that different is dangerous.
Wednesday night a police video was released of George Zimmerman being taken into custody. Some folks say he does’t look like a man who has just been in a fight for his life. I, for one, can not speak to the events on the night which Trayvon Martin lost his life. I was not there. People with a lot more forensic and investigative skills will make clear to us what likely happened that night. But I can tell you this:
George Zimmerman is not alone.
There are a lot of people who believe the things he believes and who behave in the same way he did the night Trayvon Martin died.
There is a man I know very well. He is in his early 40’s. He has three amazing kids and a lovely wife. He’s a loving dad and a caring husband. They live in a community just outside of one of America’s hippest and most economically successful cities. One night at dinner, the doorbell rang. This man got up, in plain site of his family and guests, took a loaded pistol down from the top shelf of the dining area closet, put it in the back of his pants and answered the door. He had a short conversation and then closed the door, replaced the gun in the top of the closet, and returned to dinner.
I don’t know who was at the door. Maybe a guy selling subscriptions to the paper?
This man that I know views the world as a dangerous place. He sees strangers as threats he tracks, not as opportunities to connect. His relies heavily on being armed and he recommends it as the only way to create a sense of security for himself and his family. To my knowledge, he has had little or no association with non-whites. He grew up in a white community, among white people. Much of what he believes to be true about blacks, latinos and others, he learned from white people.
I believe that if he spent time with people of color, bridged the daunting social and political gaps between worlds, his opinions would change and his attitudes would soften. He would see them a decent people, with the same hopes and dreams for their kids as he has for his. But the opportunity has not presented itself. And he is not looking for that opportunity. And so, he speaks the narrative of guns and remaining vigilant to his friends and to his children. And he answers the door armed.
When I was young, they taught me in school that America was the melting pot of the world. But this man I know doesn’t see us that way. People like him see us as a nation under threat. They seek to protect themselves and their children in gated communities, withdrawing from the rich diversity of our global village into rigid social and political bubbles. Buying guns and honing their angry watchfulness for a threat they are sure is coming.
To me, this way of living is a recipe for disaster. It keeps people in a defensive posture, and it keeps them primed to act in aggressive ways against a population of strangers that they believe, somehow, has them under siege. George Zimmerman is not alone. He is part of a large population of Americans who reach for their guns first. And who are primed to resort to deadly force. Because they hold very dear the idea that different is dangerous.
Photo courtesy of iluvcocacola