Thursday, June 13, 2013

A Question for the Jurors: Is George Zimmerman Evil?

The trial of George Zimmerman for shooting and killing Travyon Martin has begun with the selection of jurors. It promises to be a spectacle where dividing lines of race, as well as competing notions of what constitutes “justice”, will play out on a national and global stage.

The public debate over George Zimmerman’s innocence, and the a priori assumption by no small number of white folks (and some others), that an unarmed teenager named Trayvon Martin fleeing for his life from a stalker somehow posed an existential threat, is a reminder of how black people are viewed as inherently violent and dangerous. Historically, and in the present, this attitude has excused all form and manner of violence.

Black teens walking down the street can legitimately be shot dead, because as Fox News notes they have a “street attitude." Rodney King, a man beaten and subdued by almost a dozen police officers, was viewed as somehow “threatening” to men armed with guns, batons, and tazers. Black young people who are walking while holding a puppy in their arms can be beaten and choked by police because of “dehumanizing stares”—apparently this is a superpower that only black people possess, along with the ability to transform candy, ice tea, and other harmless objects such as wallets, cell phones, and house keys into deadly weapons.

In trying to work through the legal puzzle that is George Zimmerman’s shooting of Trayvon Martin and the absurdity of what has come to be known as “Stand Your Ground” laws, basic questions about human nature have not been asked.

I will remedy that oversight.

Thus, my question. 

Is George Zimmerman evil?

This is not an appeal to religion and god. Nor, is this question about a red man with horns and a pitchfork who punishes sinners, or a some deity who sits up in the sky rendering judgment on people’s deeds be they good or bad.

The evil I speak of is the banality and mindlessness of taking another life without the thought of consequence or action. This evil is indifferent. This type of evil also imagines itself as the victim and the unfairly persecuted.

For example, in Errol Morris’ TV series "First Person", he interviews the world famous forensic psychologist Dr. Michael Stone.

There, Dr. Stone describes evil-doers in the following way: "The interesting thing about evil is that those who commit it do not often think of it as evil...other people think of it as evil." 

The valorizing of George Zimmerman by the Right-wing media and its public, and how he seems to be genuinely surprised at the consequences of vigilante murder, would seem to fit Dr. Stone’s observation quite well.

Philosophical and moral questions of what constitutes good and evil are necessarily complex, nuanced, complicated, difficult, and provocative. This should not prevent us from trying to develop criteria for deciding if a person, from a clinical perspective, is evil.

As a helpful aid, Dr. Stone has developed a scale he describes as "The Gradations of Evil" that lists in ascending order 22 degrees and types of evil.

His scale includes two measures which I suggest are apt descriptions for George Zimmerman on the night he killed Trayvon Martin.

Number 4 "includes those who have killed in self-defense, but had been extremely provocative toward the victim for that to happen."

This result would make George Zimmerman an "impulsive murderer" on Dr. Stone's scale.

Number 12 are “power-hungry psychopaths who kill when they are ‘cornered.’”

This result would make George Zimmerman a "semi-psychopath" on Dr. Stone's scale.

The courts are not in the practical business of arbitrating if a person is evil or not. However, this does not mean that George Zimmerman is spared that description or title.

Some jurors may also be asking themselves if George Zimmerman is evil as they come to a conclusion regarding his guilt or innocence.

George Zimmerman may in fact be evil; he may also be “innocent” in the eyes of the law.

The American people should be prepared for such an outcome. 


pjwhite said...

This American person is NOT prepared for George Zimmerman to be found innocent. I am a 50 year old straight middle class white lady, and I will RIOT if George Zimmerman is acquitted. I also think that Marissa Alexander should be released YESTERDAY.

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chauncey devega said...

No riots please. Upsetness and pressure yes. And being prepared for what may very well come--an acquittal--absolutely.

Do you think he is evil?

pjwhite said...

I don't like the word evil. I think George Zimmerman has lost his connection to his humanity. When we lose that we are capable of anything. So I guess I would say he is "lost" and has, therefore, become dangerous to other people. I don't like to call people evil (although I do it all the time in reaction to things that upset me) because I am afraid I will lose my humanity. More than I want George Zimmerman to be punished, I want Trayvon Martin's humanity to be honored. I want his mother's grief to be honored. The initial cold-blooded dismissal by the police department of Trayvon Martin's murder terrifies me. I want to feel like a precious human being living among other precious human beings. I don't want to feel like my humanity is always hanging by a thread, dependent upon the prejudices of the people around me. I want our inherent human value to be solid and secure. Otherwise, there is no safety in this world for any of us. (And I promise I will only riot on the inside if Zimmerman is acquitted. But, oh, that will hurt. I cannot even imagine how Trayvon's parents are surviving this ).

afna-mcjny said...

Chauncey, you should swing back to the side of your post. The comments are interesting. I found one poster's attempt to rebut my post to be an example of how racism is still a near and dear friend to some whites that they can't let go. Ultimately, equality, in all of it's forms, diminishes skin color based privilege, Thus it is a real threat to the system. Even when the subject matter is equal accountability and punishment under law. And my state's laws are quite clear in this matter. IF the data released to the public is accurate, george zimmerman murdered another human being and then covered it up as best he could.

chauncey devega said...

Will do thanks for the heads up...and for always offering up interesting comments too!

Lewis Orne said...

If there was any doubt with regards to George Zimmermans racing
profiling of Trayvon Martin, this chapter titled "Who are the true
racists" from his fathers new book “Florida v. Zimmerman: Uncovering
the Malicious Prosecution of my Son, George.” should clear that up..
This man used to be a judge !!

Robert Zimmerman wrote:

Black Caucus. “[A] pathetic, self-serving group of racists… advancing
their purely racist agenda.” He later adds that “all members of Congress
should be ashamed of the Congressional Black Caucus, as should be their
constituents.” And finally: “They are truly a disgrace to all

“[S]imply promotes racism and hatred for their own, primarily finical,
interests” and “without prejudice and racial divide, the NAACP would
simply cease to exist.”

NAACP President Benjamin Jealous. “[W]hat I would expect of a racist.”

Trayvon Martin’s funeral director. A “racial activist and former head of the local NAACP.”

Benjamin Crump, Natialie Jackson and Darrly Parks, attorneys for Travyon Martin’s family. “The scheme team.”

The National Basketball Players Association.

Black Chamber of Commerce.

National Association of Black Law Enforcement Officers.

National Black United Fund.

United Negro College Fund.

SabrinaBee said...

Sure, he's evil. If you can call a psychopathic, sociopathic, snake in the grass, evil. This process has certainly been something to watch. Just reading reports of jurors' justification is disturbing. This grieving mother is sitting right there and they are cold, callous and uncaring as they take and excoriate a teenage young man who, whatever else he might have done, was simply going to the store that night.

The thing is, if he is acquitted, that will send a message to whomever else may want to eliminate a black man for walking in their neighborhood. I can't pray because I don't believe in it, but I certainly send out wishes every time I get a whiff of GZ, that he sees justice for what he has done. Maybe there is some karmic energy in the universe that makes it so.