Thursday, March 29, 2012

William and Trayvon

I don’t know what it is about Orlando, but recently we seem to be in the national spotlight for less than desirable things. What was once all about teacup rides and Incredible Hulk roller coasters has become more sobering storylines about mothers killing their children and getting away with it. We went through a tumultuous summer last year being transfixed on the Casey Anthony trial which culminated in a not guilty verdict over the Fourth of July, and subsequent cries of unfairness of a system with apparently heinous loopholes that would permit an alleged child killer free.
Now we have the shooting of an unarmed teenager by a wannabe cop in Sanford.
Here we go again.
George Zimmerman killed Trayvon Martin. He confessed to the shooting. He is, or will be, claiming self defense. He felt this young black man-child posed a threat to him even though it was Zimmerman who was the pursuer. It was Zimmerman with the gun. Martin was armed with Skittles. Zimmerman claims Martin jumped him and broke his nose, and thus was justifiably in fear for his life. So he killed him. This we know. We also have a video tape of Zimmerman arriving at the Sanford Police Department with no blood on his face or clothes, and his nose looking pretty much intact.
Now, we really do not know what happened beyond that. There were only two people who saw it, and one of them is dead. However, what we now have coming out from all angles is speculation. That’s fine, that happens. In the absence of verifiable proof, people speculate. Something has to feed the 24/7 news cycle.

But something else is starting to surface, and it is something very alarming and very wrong. Trayvon Martin’s character is being debated. Reports of being suspended from school repeatedly have surfaced. Reports that he was essentially a thug-in-training. A whole line of totally irrelevant to the fact that Zimmerman shot him information. Information that is designed to paint Zimmerman, not as a make-believe cop with an itchy trigger finger but instead as someone doing society a favor. This picture is starting to become clearer, and it will likely be used for whatever defense Zimmerman must use to defend his actions.
I have another name for you. William Schroeder.
You probably do not know who William Schroeder is. Perhaps it will help if I mention the other names that he is connected with: Allyson Krause, Jeffrey Miller and Sandra Scheuer. Still drawing a blank? Then I will give you one more: The Ohio National Guard. Here’s one more: Kent State University. May 4, 1970.
Schroeder was one of the students killed by the Ohio National Guard during the Vietnam War protests at Kent State. Schroeder was guilty of nothing more than going to class at the most inopportune time, at about 12:15 p.m. on Monday, May 4, 1970. That is him, with the box around him, books in hand, part of the group that the Guard fired into. That picture was taken about ten minutes before he was killed.
In the wake of the Kent State shootings, we were informed that this was a rioting mob. That there were snipers on rooftops – and perhaps in the crowd – that endangered the Guard’s lives. That, therefore, the shootings were justified. History ended up showing, however, that there were a total of 67 shots fired that day and all 67 were by the Guardsmen. The final tally was four dead, nine wounded, and none of them Guardsmen. In the aftermath, a lot of spin was attempted, from the President of the United States all the way down to the Mayor of Kent, to portray the shootings as justified. That order had to be restored. That, hey, a few dead radicals…so what.
Look at that picture of William Schroeder again. Do radicals wear windbreakers and carry books?
Keep this story in mind as the George Zimmerman case unfolds. Because we are not a country that remembers our past very well. Trayvon is going to be vilified. As his grieving mother said “They killed my son. Now they’re trying to kill his reputation.” We will be led to believe that Zimmerman was simply doing his job, and Trayvon got what was coming to him.
When I go to the the May 4 Memorial in my visits back to the campus where I spent eight years of my life pursuing and obtaining two college degrees, I am always left with the same conclusion:
These kids did not deserve to die.
And neither did Trayvon Martin.
After all the talking heads have talked, that’s the bottom line. This is not about wearing hoodies or walking though a neighborhood after dark or being suspended from school. It is about abuse of force.
Both William and Trayvon were the victims of it.

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