Monday, April 23, 2012

I am Trayvon; I am also Zimmerman. Sorta.

I guess one reason I keep getting scolded for my views on the Zimmerman/Martin incident is that I can see myself as either man, in a superficially similar situation. I can put myself in either man's shoes.

I'm guessing from the reactions that most people can picture themselves walking along, minding their own business and being followed and cornered by a gun-wielding, testosterone-crazed enforcer thug. And then being shot in the ensuing encounter. Yeah, I can picture myself in that situation without much trouble at all.

However, I can also picture myself getting into "legal" trouble (and being crucified by pundits everywhere) for confronting a trespasser (not on my property, mind you, but not on his own property, either) whom I suspect might be up to no good; feeling threatened enough by his demeanor and attitude when I confront him that the fact he isn't carrying a gun doesn't mean much and at some point I feel I have to shoot him to protect myself, and doing so.

And this is just me, as I am right now, without any (recognized) authoritarian baggage or beliefs.

Has no one besides me ever felt threatened by a person who wasn't pointing a gun at them at that moment? Before guns were invented, were people- bad guys and good, alike- always "unarmed"?

Does no one else see things this way at all? Can I really be that out of step with the rest of my species? If so, I apologize for poking the possum.



  1. The MSM has completely distorted this event from the beginning.
    The more detail that comes out, the more it looks like Zimmerman acted in a completely reasonable fashion.
    There is no evidence that Zimmerman initiated contact with Martin. There *is* some evidence to the contrary.
    Just because Martin turned out to be unarmed doesn't mean that you would be able to ascertain that fact easily, or at all. If this event unfolded like the one witness asserts, and like Zimmerman claims, no living person committed a crime, and I believe that will be the outcome of this court case. The facts simply don't support a murder2 charge, and I doubt they can even begin to support a manslaughter charge.
    In any case, Kent, I wouldn't expect to see things the same way you do in all cases; my background and experiences is radically different from yours, I would bet. Our perceptions are always colored by our experiences.
    We shall see.

  2. Hi Kent,

    Keyword: Confront. Very un-ZAP-ish.

    If GZ hadn't gone looking for trouble, he wouldn't have found it. Classic thug, cop wannabe.
    If TM had left his hoodie at home, pulled his pants up, tucked in his shirt, and turned his ball cap straight, he might still be alive. If you look like a gang-banger, expect to be treated as one.

    This is just a tragic tale of two assholes who found eachother, with predictable results. I don't weep for either one.


  3. Well, Dave, here's my thoughts on that.

    What does "confront" mean?

    1) Meet (someone) face to face with hostile or argumentative intent.
    2) Face up to and deal with (a problem or difficult situation).

    I don't see that to confront someone is necessarily an initiation of force. I have done so myself with no force- or even threat of force- involved. Also, I have been confronted on more than one occasion because I look different, and, although I may have felt defensive (and absolutely did NOT like it) I was not aggressed against in any way.

    If I suspect someone of theft, aggression, trespass, or destruction of property I would not be violating their rights in any way to confront them about my suspicions as long as I kept my hands to myself and did not threaten to initiate force against them. There is no initiation of force until I place my hands on them or otherwise threaten to use force. If I am mistaken in my reason for confronting them, then no foul. To sit by and do nothing if you have reason to believe someone's life, liberty, or property is at risk seems unnecessary according to the ZAP and also doesn't seem very responsible.

  4. Hi Kent,

    Good points. You've given me a wonderful opportunity to consider the meaning of my words. I'm not as polished as you, but here goes:

    You wouldn't call facing up to and dealing with a problem a "confrontation." That word is used exclusively for two parties about to do battle.

    I equate aggression with initiation of force. Self defense is not aggression unless it turns into revenge.

    Aggression is most definitely an initiation of force, else we should call it ZIP, not ZAP.

    If TM was just walking down the street munching Skittles and not looking through someone's car window, crowbar in hand, then GZ was the aggressor. If GZ was minding his own business and gawking at daisies, and all of a sudden TM cold-cocked him, then TM was the aggressor.


  5. I just copied and pasted the definition of "confrontation" this time; that one isn't my own.

    You are exactly right about "initiation of force" being identical with "aggression".

    I would say that in any confrontation, the potential is high that aggression will ensue, but it isn't inevitable. In the confrontations I have been involved in, it would have been easy for an actual initiation of force- aggression- to occur. Yet, it usually didn't. Someone de-escalated the situation before it came to that. "About to do battle" is a lot different than after the first shove has happened. In one there is great risk of aggression occurring (yet no one has "started it" yet); in the other is already has (so someone is now guilty of initiation of force).

    And, I agree with your assessment of the Martin/Trayvon scenario, which is kind of along the lines of my previous post on the subject. The point is, I don't think we will ever know for certain who was innocent at the moment the trigger was tripped.

    However (and this is where I am coming to suspect most of the disagreement lies), I don't think that following a person is necessarily an act of aggression/threat as many people seem to automatically believe it is. It depends on what Zimmerman saw happening before he began following Martin.

    Once again, none of us will ever know for sure. Only one living person knows what really happened.

  6. Oh, and "hostile or argumentative intent" is not aggression. It can lead to it, but until someone has touched the other person, or is threatening to do so in a credible way, you can yell and scream all you want and it can't harm the other person. No one has "aggressed" at this point.

  7. Kent,

    In confrontation, while the threat of aggression is not physically the same as aggression, ethically it's the same. There is intent but perhaps no follow-through.

    "I don't think that following a person is necessarily an act of aggression…"

    I think it is. Once a "suspicious" person has left the scene of his suspicious activity, to follow him is an act of aggression. It's the same difference involved between stopping a robbery and shooting the fleeing robber in the back.

    I've heard parts of GZ's 911 call. I don't remember him mentioning any specific activity that would warrant following TM. If GZ had told the dispatcher that he saw TM looking through someone's back window, I'd be more sympathetic to GZ.

    "…none of us will ever know for sure."

    Agreed, and you made several excellent points that caused me to look up from the screen and wonder. I'm now wondering if only a victim has any right to injure his attacker, and then only at the time of the attack. Because the victim is the only one that knows the whole story.


  8. "...while the threat of aggression is not physically the same as aggression, ethically it's the same."

    It seems you are saying there is no difference between thinking of an act and following through with the act. If this is true, then it seems to me the reverse would also be true. If you see a person drowning it would be just as ethical to think of saving them as it would be to jump in the water and pull them out- and you wouldn't risk your own life that way. There have been times I really wanted to punch someone in the face, but I didn't. Should that person be able to sue me for assault, and win?

    "Once a 'suspicious' person has left the scene of his suspicious activity, to follow him is an act of aggression."

    Seems like being responsible to me. As long as he is still in an area that you are responsible for (whether explicitly or implicitly), anyway. If he is doing something suspicious "here", you can assume he will continue to look for his opportunity "there"- until he finds what he is looking for. To wash your hands of it as soon as he walks away, if you really have reason to think he is up to no good, seems irresponsible. Now, did Zimmerman have any real responsibility over the area he was watching? You'd have to ask the property owners that question and accept their answer.

    "It's the same difference involved between stopping a robbery and shooting the fleeing robber in the back."

    You don't recover your stolen property if you allow the fleeing robber to get away. "Legally" you are prohibited from shooting a fleeing robber- ethically you have no obligation to allow him to run away with the loot just because he has turned his back to you. However, if he doesn't possess any stolen property the game has changed and shooting him in the back would be wrong since there is no longer any threat of him attacking you AND no property to prevent him from leaving with. Were I on a jury I would never convict someone for shooting a fleeing robber (or a fleeing rapist) in the back. Once he gets away you do end up with the conundrum of "how do you really know he is the guilty person?" Better to stop him before he is out of your line of sight.

    So that gets back to your last thought: "I'm now wondering if only a victim has any right to injure his attacker, and then only at the time of the attack. Because the victim is the only one that knows the whole story."

    I would say, yes. The victim, or a witness on the scene, in any case. Which is why you need to stop the bad guy before he leaves and opens the possibility of doubt and mistaken identity; back turned or not.

    Now, how much of this really applies to Zimmerman? Once again, it depends on what Zimmerman actually saw Martin doing.

  9. Hi Kent,

    I, at least,certainly wasn't trying to scold you. I do disagree, however, on some key points.

    First, I'd like you to elaborate on this statement, "Were I on a jury I would never convict someone for shooting a fleeing robber (or a fleeing rapist) in the back. "

    Personally, I've come to the conclusion that were I ever on a criminal jury, I'd never vote to convict for anything. This is because the 'justice' system is so corrupt as to be a joke(something this case displays if nothing else), and that the prison/probation system is simple evil, root and branch.

    That doesn't mean I think it's remotely acceptable to shoot a thief in the back-do you think that it is? Don't you, as the person owning the property, have the responsibility to secure it? Theft is not, after all, an act of violence, is it? So who is 'initiating' force?

    In the case of rape-or other serious violent act, like homicide- don't you think shooting the fleeing rapist in the back constitutes retaliation rather than self-defense? Is there a time limit on such a thing, or will the Black Panthers be justified when they find Zimmerman-in prison or out?

    How do you shoehorn shooting a rapist in the back with the Non-Agression Principle, by the way? I've never been able to, part of why I really don't put it on near the pedestal you do.

    I've been at a total loss as to why so many people have decided to defend Zimmerman's actions. This is in no way a clean self-defense case-he shot an unarmed man who was, in fact, NOT doing anything wrong prior to Zimmerman's intervention. Seems counter-productive to go to the mat for such a person.

    This is particularly true when we learn, from police testimony at his bond hearing, that Zimmerman confessed to murder. He was in his vehicle(in one of his several versions of events)when Martin approached him. He then got out. Martin was then shot a considerable distance from the vehicle.

    That's a murder confession. He left a defensive location with a weapon, and killed a man. No wonder that story changed. I rather doubt that's what really happened-but that is one version of what he told police.

    I've had an awful lot of experience with fights, with hearing stories and justifications for fights, and with restraining people in my life-I was a bouncer for 7 years. Fights just don't go down the way we are hearing from Zimmerman-it is wrong in every detail.

    My personal opinion, backed up by the 911 calls and a witness that claims to have seen a chase, is that Zimmerman tried to 'arrest' Martin and hold him for the police(who don't forget were supposed to 'call him' rather than come to a specific location.) That looks easy on TV, but in real life it is extraordinarily difficult. I would, for instance be able to put one man on the ground-or even two- and hold him there for a few seconds. BUT, people don't always stop struggling, particularly when they have no idea who is attacking them-I would say than in order to hold one man on the ground without cuffs for any length of time would take at least two people, and would be better with three. The very last thing I would want to have is a firearm anywhere in the vicinity.

    Admittedly that's speculation, but it does fit the evidence.

  10. Kent,

    If the threat has the same effect(submission) as a pounding, what's the difference, ethically?

    To pursue a fleeing criminal means that your defense has failed, and you are now seeking revenge. Your notions of "responsibility" are yours alone. Every man has to decide for himself.

    As for the jury thing, I'm with Mike. And I agree with everything else Mike said.


  11. Mike- I probably should have said if I were arbitrating, rather than if I were on a jury, because I agree with you. The "justice system" is a disaster, and I probably wouldn't convict anyone of anything.

    Yes, I think it is acceptable to shoot a fleeing thief in the back as long as he is in possession of your stolen property. It would be better to stop the theft earlier, whether by securing your stuff better or by confronting him during the theft, but lets face it- some thieves are good at what they do and if they want something of yours, they will get it. To say that it's theirs if they manage to grab it and run is not a very ethical position, in my opinion.

    In this case the thief is not initiating force, but as I have pointed out many times, the ZAP is necessary, but not sufficient. There are wrong acts that don't initiate any force. Theft/fraud and sometimes trespassing, for example. In fact, those may be all- that's all I can think of at the moment. If they were not wrong, it would never be OK to shoot a thief or a trespasser even if you caught them in the act- regardless if they were fleeing or not. And, no, I don't think it would be OK to shoot a fleeing trespasser in the back- there is nothing for you to regain since what you need to regain- your property without the trespasser standing on it- he is returning as fast as possible.

    With a fleeing rapist: In my opinion until he is out of sight it is not retaliation or revenge to shoot him if that is the only way you can catch him. After he has escaped the scene of the attack I don't think you are justified in shooting him. In that case arbitration is the right choice. So, yes, in a way I believe there is a time limit, but it's more of a spacetime limit.

    I think the Black Panthers would be justified in helping Martin's family seek restitution (as if that were possible in the case of a death), but, since they (which they never were) and Zimmerman are no longer at the scene of the attack, not in shooting him.

    A rapist, even if he is fleeing, has already initiated force. Yes, you could say the attack is over and that shooting him now would be an initiation of force. I'm not claiming this would be the ideal solution, but that I would not "judge" against someone who has just suffered (or witnessed) an attack who does so. There are consequences that an attack sets in motion- one of those is an extreme emotional upheaval. Don't want to risk it? Don't rape. So, while it might not be strictly "right", it would be perfectly understandable, and in my mind, excusable.

    Were I arbitrating such a case I might rule that the shooter owes the rapist $1000 for shooting him, and that the rapist owes his victim $100,000 for the rape. And, if the shooter was someone other than the rape victim, that the victim owes the shooter $10,000 for coming to the rescue. This is just an example of how I might divide up the debts.

    To be continued...

  12. Continued...

    I don't see very many people at all "defending" Zimmerman, and that is certainly NOT what I am doing. Once again I think Zimmerman and Martin were both bad characters. I just don't understand why some people seem to think Martin was so squeaky-clean and beyond reproach. And Martin didn't have a gun, but that doesn't mean he was "unarmed". Just under-armed for the circumstances. I wish he hadn't been, then maybe this discussion wouldn't be necessary.

    When you start talking about what Zimmerman confessed to, or what the cops say, you introduce a lot of uncertainty into the mix. First of all, if Zimmerman confessed to murder, why didn't the cops arrest him then? You can say "because cops lie and play favorites when they like the outcome", but that means you should probably discount the rest of what they say, as well. Also, while you and I know it is stupid to ever speak to a cop, I also know that in a high-stress situation (fearing arrest; just having survived a fatal encounter; second-guessing yourself; being questioned by cops) people can start to babble and tell confusing versions of what happened. They may lie out of fear, or may be really confused.

  13. Dave- If there really is a threat, then there is no difference. That's why the ZAP says "...nor to advocate or delegate (the initiation of force)". Those qualify as a threat.

    If there is a tense situation, but no actual threat is made, then there is a huge difference even if one person ultimately backs down and the end result is superficially the same (absent the physical pounding).

    Trying to regain what was taken, as long as you can see the thief still fleeing from you, is not revenge. Once he ducks into an alley, you can't know that he didn't stash your property and shooting him is no longer guaranteed to restore your property to you. Then, catching up to him and shooting him is revenge. At this point your only options are to let it go or seek arbitration.

  14. Two people can stand nose-to-nose, screaming insults and hating one another, but until one of them threatens to knock the snot out of the other, makes a move to do so, or actually does touch the other, no force has been initiated.

  15. This whole thing is just media manipulation. Why is the black on white crime never reported like this. Zimmerman isn't even white, but this whole thing is trying to make people feel "white guilt"... There is way worse stuff going on that isn't being put into a national light, no matter the race of whoever is involved.

  16. ... And, I could well be totally wrong about all of this. I am just trying to explain how I see it, think about it, and even feel about it. Take it for what it's worth.

  17. Kent,

    Just a quick rejoinder, per you comment; "In this case the thief is not initiating force, but as I have pointed out many times, the ZAP is necessary, but not sufficient. There are wrong acts that don't initiate any force. Theft/fraud and sometimes trespassing, for example. "

    So why isn't smoking marijuana wrong, based on the above prescriptions? Do tell me the difference between that and theft? Who decides, and why?

    I'll present more on the more interesting aspects of this issue shortly.

  18. Theft harms another person by taking their property without consent. Smoking marijuana doesn't even affect, much less harm in any way, anyone other than the one individual who is smoking it.

    All of the things that are wrong hurt someone other than the individual who is acting, who has done nothing to deserve to be harmed at this particular moment- they are "innocent".

    And, "who decides?" The person being harmed. "Why?" Because they are the only person who is in the position to decide.

    Now, if you robbed someone and are running off with your loot, you may declare that it is now "your property" and that taking it back without your consent would harm you (this is The State's claim about everything it "owns"). But, since you stole it, you are in debt and that debt needs to be paid. If you don't like that deal, don't steal.