Spike Lee has been accused of tweeting an address thought to be where George Zimmerman is hiding out; the purpose could only be to encourage vigilante violence; the address was wrong, the house belongs to a different ‘George Zimmerman’, and is lived in by his elderly parents who have now had to flee.
This is partly true: actually, someone else, a California woman, tweeted this wrong info, and many people, of whom Lee is only one, Re-tweeted it. This doesn’t make his actions innocent, but it is a bit unfair to blame it all on him, just because he’s the only Celebrity involved, and thus the sensationalist Press keeps insinuating that it’s all about Spike Lee. On the other hand, I do think an apology, or some kind of remorseful statement, would be appropriate, and I suspect we’ll hear one soon.
There’s more, of course. This terrible event has stirred up American conversation, and I think, in general, that that is all to the good – if we can keep from hopelessly falling into the hatefulness, rudeness and incivility that have marked so much of the American conversation in recent years. It disturbs me that Zimmerman has been ‘tried and convicted’ by many people in the Press and the Public. I remember a few years ago when a group of kids on a Duke athletic team were similarly ‘tried and convicted’ by the Press and the Public, and eventually it was shown that the accusation was a hoax. I remember the same kind of thing, with the same outcome, regarding a young girl in New York City back in the 1980’s. So it disturbs me that the new Black Panthers have put a price on the head of someone who has not been convicted of any crime, just as it disturbs me that this address was tweeted around for no other purpose than to encourage violence against someone who has not been convicted of any crime. I, for one, would like to see Zimmerman arrested and charged with something – so that he can either be found guilty or exonerated.
Of course, the big difference between this case and the Duke and NYC cases, is that those accusations turned out to be hoaxes: in this case, a child has died – this case ends badly no matter what the facts turn out to be. The only ‘positive’ that might come out of all this, is the conversation it has started. An undercurrent of American life, that many people try to ignore by passing it off as “oh well, things used to be worse”, has now risen to the top of our national consciousness. The fact is, to a great extent, we are afraid of each other, we don’t really like or trust each other, and this is no way to live.
I worry that if George Zimmerman turns out to be innocent of anything other than self-defense (and this may or may not be the case), we will use that to stop the conversation. But in the long term, Zimmerman’s guilt or innocence is not the point. The way we look at each other, the way we feel about each other, the way we live with each other in fear and violence – that’s the point that mustn’t be lost.
The first step to healing negativity, is to bring it up into the light and see it for exactly what it is. This seems to be happening. Perhaps something good will come out of this and honor Trayvon’s memory.
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