In human history a moral victory is always a disaster, for it debauches and degrades both the victor and the vanquished.
Oh, I wish I was in the land of cotton.
Old times there are not forgotten.
Look away, look away, look away Dixie Land.
—Daniel Decatur Emmett
Ah, the South. Lincoln’s great mistake; not allowing a full and complete secession from the Union to stand, providing the free-market mechanism to eventually take from it the power, ideology and half-baked customs that has been the bane of the American existence for lo these many decades. By crushing the South militarily, it not only cost the 16th president his life, but it left the defeated with a sense of martyrdom and the pangs of vengeance which has filled volumes of American literature, sordid history and rancorous expression for 147 long years. Since, the South never disappoints when it comes to shenanigans of all kinds—political, social, racial, religious; it remains our witless cousin; the one the money people like the Kennedys or the Romneys would keep in the basement and feed dog food and tell the neighbors was a bad rumor.
Oh, but the South is not a bad rumor. It is real.
Well, as real as the South gets.
Apparently in our southernmost state, Florida, a certified legal and binding prefecture of these United States—where law breeds a hazy mystical sludge and civil rights are up for debate on color, sexual orientation, gender, religious affiliation, patriotism, media outlets and celebrity—you can kill another citizen and not be incarcerated. Joining Texas, South Carolina and Mississippi for this nation’s highest under-prosecuted murder rate and by far highest hate-crime per capita, the Sunshine State takes front and center this week for its ham-fisted legislative racketeering and obligatory confederate axiom to shoot first and figure out the motivation much, much, much later.
26 days later by the time of this writing.
The shooting of a 17-year-old African American boy named Trayvon Martin by a civilian that carried the vague title of Neighborhood Watchman, which in the real world and not that of the South means vigilante, has yet to include an arrest. The alleged killer, George Zimmerman, who has a criminal record and a history of domestic violence, reported on a 911 call that Martin “looked suspicious” and then for reasons only known to Zimmerman gunned the boy down with nothing more than a bag of Skittles and a can of iced tea on him.
Whoops that end in the death of a citizen, whether black, white, green or purple, whether teenager, infant, cross-dresser, priest or octogenarian in the real world and not that of the South usually ends in at first a manhunt, and especially in this case, wherein there is a full admission of guilt, an arrest.
What is keeping Zimmerman a free man is a very interesting law (not in the real world and only that of the South) passed by the Florida state legislature and signed into law by its then governor, the honorable Jeb Bush in 2005. Called “Stand Your Ground,” this law allows citizens to carry automatic weapons and use them at their discretion if feeling threatened. According to statistics released by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, since the law was enacted seven years ago, justified homicides in Florida have jumped threefold.
Yes, and while I have to say that I am certainly on the fence about such a law in that if it had been available to me, along with an automatic weapon of my choosing, in the Bronx from 1962 to 1972 and Central New Jersey from 1972 to 1982, and certainly in Westchester, New York from 1982 to 2001, and here in the great mountains of New Jersey from 2001 to the present day, there would be a phalanx of bodies piled up behind me from the proverbial here to the probable there. Oh, yes. I felt threatened, was threatened, and beyond that all-out assaulted by every manner of cretin known to civilized man. Having the opportunity to shoot these people might have appealed to me then, especially if the law allowed it, and the law, in Florida (not in the real world and only that of the South) indeed does.
Okay, so maybe as Zimmerman and the confused and beleaguered Sanford city local government and police force maintain, he was threatened, assaulted or put down by a 17-year-old kid and his buddies armed with sugar water and fruity candy, then maybe, according to the law, he has a case. He has done nothing wrong. Justice? For what, protecting his personage against onslaught—real or imagined? Remember the law clearly states that all one needs is to “feel threatened” by someone “looking suspicious.” Justified killing on a feel and a look is regional dialect for not in the real world and only that of the South.
The South shall rise again.
So now, as with Louisiana during Katrina and Texas during Waco and Mississippi during the ‘60s with the murders of Medgar Evers and Martin Luther King Jr., burning of black churches, killing of voter rights protestors—sheesh, I have no room for all of Mississippi’s bullshit—and on and on and on, the federal government, already broke, and the American citizenry, always the collective fall-guy for this nonsense, will have to pay for a proper investigation.
This is, after all, Florida, which gave us the constitutional crisis known as the 2000 presidential election (orchestrated by, you got it, the honorable Jeb Bush) that took federalist comedy to new lows. But even for a fairly screwed up political system, this is a pretty substantial clusterfuck. Dead kids are bad for business. Dead black kids, well that’s bad for everyone everywhere, especially in the South.
Look, no one is claiming that if such a law were to make it through the New York state legislature or in Minnesota or Massachusetts or Illinois that people wouldn’t be “feeling” like shooting each other “under suspicion” hourly. This is not merely a South problem it is humanity’s problem, however the environment, the aura, and the acceptable social behaviors of these states and their region of origin do not legally sanction such arbitrarily deadly behavior.
This is what goes on in the South.
James Campion is the Managing Editor of The Reality Check News & Information Deskand the author of Deep Tank Jersey, Fear No Art, Trailing Jesus and Midnight For Cinderella.