It is said that one should not judge another without first having walked in their shoes. Well, I've walked in both Trayvon Martin's and George Zimmerman's shoes. Walk now with me below the mangled fleur-des-lis, and I'll try to explain.
I attended a small liberal arts college in the late 70's, in a small, (we're talking "one dog" small), town in West Virginia. One evening, while at the only bar in town, I realized that a young co-ed, (she shall remain nameless, here and forever more), was falling down drunk. Not wishing to see my school-mate meet with injury, I insisted on escorting her on the approximately one mile walk back to her dorm. On said walk, we stopped to sit on the front steps of the only general store in town. After she regained some modicum of stability, we proceeded. Well, it so happened that later that night the aforementioned general store was broken into and robbed.
Having been born and raised in the area, I had known the owners of that general store for nearly my entire life; known them well enough to have had them extend me credit for tuna and mac-&-cheese and eggs and such. I would have no more need to steal from them than I would to steal from my own grand-mother. Yet, I became the number one suspect for the act of this crime by virtue of being seen sitting on the store's steps by one, over-zealous campus security officer, (note: NOT a credentialed police officer). In other words, a rent-a-cop. Why do I describe him as "over-zealous"? For this reason: a few well-known bands were coming to the college to play a Woodstock style festival concert at about that time. My older brother, who was a county EMT, had a conversation about the impending concert with this security officer. The officer's comment on this was, "Yep. Can't wait to crack some hippie skulls". He wasn't joking.
I was eventually exhonerated after having to go to the police and give statements and such, but for a couple of weeks my name was sullied before my neighbors, my professors, even before some of my family members who lived, and still live, in that area. Most distressing to me was that my name was sullied before the owners of that store during that time.
Fast forward three years..."Dutch" Reagan is the POTUS, and on the economy, he has pretty much said, "Move to where the jobs are". Since all of the mines and factories and all the supporting work for them was drying up in West Virginia, that's just what I did. Houston was "Boom Town" in 1981.
I arrived in Houston as a 5'4", 116 lb former music major from north of the the Mason-Dixon Line and guess what job I got...yep, a job as a rent-a-cop. Hell's Bells, they gave me a 4/10 shotgun, handcuffs and a badge with no training whatsoever! Inappropriate as the day is long, 'ya think?
My job was to guard a new housing developemnt that was being constructed next to a new housing devolopment that had just been constructed and was already populated. I checked in trucks that delivered stoves and refrigerators and air-conditioners and lumber and what-not, and then made sure that nobody stole thos things during the night. Really though, how was I, given my physical stature, supposed to actually stop anyone from taking what they wanted? I decided that the shotgun and the handcuffs and the badge were just for show. My ability to do my job would be up to me and my comportment of myself.
One night as I sat at my post, I observed a young man walking across the site. I approched him and said, "Hi, what's up? Can I help you get out of here"? He looked at me, and seeing my badge, said, "Sir, just trying to get to my friends house". "Fine", I said, "I'll walk you there if you know the address". So that's what we did, and I learned that his name was Harry and he learned my name, and I met his friends Jerry and Bonnie, and their neighbors at Bonnie's birthday party, and I ended up becoming a friend and was welcomed into their homes on many occasions afterward, and you need to belive me when I say that as a displaced Yankee all alone in Texas I needed those people as much as I have ever needed anyone.
That's all it took; just to be friendly instead of confrontational.
Now as for judging another...
Years ago I was unduely thought of as being a criminal without having done anything wrong, simply because someone wanted me to be a criminal.
Years ago I became friends with an entire neighborhood because I wanted and needed friendship, and realized that the only way to get that was to first be friendly.
That's how I judge myself.
Trayvon, I feel so bad for you and for your family. You were seen as a criminal when you had done nothing wrong, simply because someone wanted you to be a criminal. That's how I judge you.
Goerge, I feel bad for you because you are an over-zealous rent-a-cop who doesn't know the value of just being friendly, and you ended up killing a young man because of that. That's how I judge you.
We are all in this, together. May God have mercy on our souls.