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Sunday, 14 July 2013

Thoughts for the week: standing witness for the dead.

A couple of months ago I would have said that nobody in the western world would get away with killing a child.

I would have pointed out that stalking and shooting an unarmed adult would be grounds for a prison term, at the least, let alone a teenage boy.

I would have thought that nobody who has a functioning brain cell would look at a couple of stupid pictures (and I thank whatever deity runs my live that Facebook and the rest of the social media circus hit well after my own teenage years, because there are some things that are better left forgotten), and decide that killing this kid was justified. Because, well, hunting down and shooting a boy isn't usually acceptable, no matter how much candy he had on him. Wearing a hoodie and being dark-skinned shouldn't be a death sentence in any country.

I would have said that the sad little man who declared himself tin god, and passed a death sentence on a teenager in the street because he didn't like the look of him, would spend a good long time pondering his new cell-mates, because if you climbed out of your car and walked after me with a weapon, I'd damn well take a swing at you if you ran after me.

I would have said that stalkers don't get to use the self-defense charge.

When I get it wrong, I get it very, very wrong indeed.

I have no idea whether Trayvon Martin's family have the strength or the resources to bring a wrongful death suit. If they do, and this is their choice, I hope they win. Because nobody should have the right to hunt down your child in the street, shoot them to death at close range, and walk away without repercussions.

I do not care whether or not he was on drugs, got into fights, or posted pictures with rude hand signs. If you're going to shoot someone for that, you'd have to take out half of Hollywood, never mind 90% of the teenagers on social networking sites.

I care about the fact that he was young, that he was unarmed, that he was walking back from a shop with candy he never got to eat, a bottle of iced tea he never got to drink. I care about the fact that this was needless, senseless waste.

I care about the fact that I can think of several ways to bloody my own nose and get wet grass on my back, and abrasions on the back of my head. I can't think of a way to get repeatedly hit by somebody that won't leave them with torn up knuckles that go beyond a single small abrasion on one finger.

We can't change what happened, not the fact of this young man dying on wet grass, or the outcome of the jury trial.
But we can remember. We can state categorically that was done was wrong on every conceivable level. We can tell people that walking in the rain is not a crime. We can tell people that being a teenager in a gated community is not a crime, no matter how much certain aspects of society wish it was.

We can tell the world to stop blaming the victim. And when the justice system fails, when the very concept of justice is rolled in the mud and left to lie weeping, we can stand as witness for the dead.