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Tuesday, 23 July 2013 09:47

The Loss of Empathy and the Death of Shame

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ANN DAVIDOW FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

TrayvonHoodedFINALNo matter how often it is explained as a self-defense issue or how often we are told that George Zimmerman was afraid of someone he perceived to be a thug, there is no way any rational person should be convinced that his life was in danger and that prior events in the neighborhood justified his gunning down a young boy who was simply walking back to his father's house on a rainy night.

The defense team is credited with brilliant footwork and Zimmerman's inconsistencies disregarded , no doubt due to the basic flaw in the defense theory of the case - that once you accept the stand-your-ground premise and allow Zimmerman's account to go unchallenged, you're pretty much finished. It reminded me of the absurd contention by the defense team in O.J.'s trial that forensic evidence had been disturbed by "wind currents" in the lab. So much for the "Dream Team," and yet O.J. was declared not guilty, in part one must assume because the police in Los Angeles had such a bad reputation in the minority community.

In the Zimmerman trial a different racial climate prevailed, but it was just as perverted. Defense explanations were confusing and for the most part irrelevant. Much time was spent describing where Zimmerman's gun was holstered and how hard it would have been for Trayvon to find and shoot it. But it was time wasted, since it seemed obvious early on that there was no need to invent a scenario predicated on the assumption that Trayvon had to discover where Zimmerman's gun was kept. Obviously Zimmerman kept it ready to be fired at will - not to worry. How could it have been otherwise? Yet in the time-honored tradition of reality deniers bemused interrogators to keep after 'the truth' until they find a version they like.

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And although many of us knew in our heart of hearts that we'd been had once again by the slick storytellers of the day, it took a lot of telling and re-telling to begin to set the record straight. Of course time can never be re-calibrated so that innocence and guilt are framed in ways that help the sad and disillusioned understand how in the world an unarmed youth should need to stand down while someone else "stood his ground" and put a bullet through his heart. Apparently nothing short of lethal force could be applied to stop the boy with skittles and ice tea as he walked home in the rain that night.

But it was more than a little sobering, indeed chilling, to learn as the days went by that there were so many instances of profiling and so many black men who suffered the indignity and fear that attaches to racial profiling. Grown-ups who had never spoken of their treatment before included members of the media, politicians, and everyone in between.

Even now, there are those who cannot face up to the reality of black lives, and either make light of Stevie Wonder's pledge, for example, not to perform in places where "stand-your-ground" laws remain in effect - like Bill O'Reilly who said Wonder wasn't exactly box-office magic anymore - or the ever-poisonous Ann Coulter, who voiced her approval of the Zimmerman verdict with a "Hallelujah." Along with an inability to understand and empathize with the suffering of others, we seem to have lost the capacity for shame.

(Photo: The Martin Family)