Wednesday, March 21, 2012

I Can't Breathe

Like everyone else in the country, I have been riveted by the story of Trayvon Martin, the beautiful young boy who went out for some Skittles and an iced tea and never came home again. It is particularly poignant for me because it comes months after the murder of a young member of my family, my cousin Al. Al was only two years older than Trayvon. Unlike Trayvon, Al did not go out to buy Skittles. He went out to buy drugs. Unlike Trayvon, Al was white. So unlike in the case of Trayvon, Al’s shooter, who was black, was arrested two days after the murder. 

I don’t blame Al for his murder, even though he was involved in an illegal transaction. The murderer had a grudge against him and would have used a bag of Skittles to lure him in if he could have. I don’t feel sorry for Al’s murderer. He is a person who saw murder as a defensible solution to an interpersonal problem, which makes him a menace to society. I want justice for my cousin. I think that’s the least he deserves.

I also want justice for Trayvon. I think that’s the least he deserves, too.

I have no idea what Trayvon’s parents are feeling, but on some level, I know what murder can do to a family. Murder turns the universe into a malevolent place. Murder is not just a sudden, horrible death, it's a personal, sudden, horrible death. Murder is intentionally cruel. Murder rips your heart out. 

It’s horrible when someone hated a person you love enough to consider that person not worthy of life. What must it be like when the murderer considered your loved one not worthy to live not because of who they were, but what they represented?  Murder turns the universe into a malevolent place when it’s caused by something, no matter how trivial or unworthy of blame, the victim did. Even more does murder turn the universe into a malevolent place when it’s because of who the victim was.

I look at Trayvon’s picture and I almost can’t breathe. There is at least hope for justice for my cousin, although he deserved so much more. He deserved to live out his life. Where is the hope for justice for Trayvon? He deserved to live out his life, too.


  1. I have been absolutely appalled by Trayvon's murder ever since I first heard about it. It's almost impossible for me to understand how a gunshot death in a residential neighbourhood with only two people involved could go so spectacularly uninvestigated.

    What I find most appalling though is that the police didn't even bother to try and identify the victim, despite him having a phone on him. Such incredible indifference amazes me - I would have thought it was basic police work to find out who had been shot. Then again I come from a place where gunshot deaths are fairly rare, and any non-suicide deaths are usually reported widely. A man being shot in broad daylight in a middle-class residential area here would be lead item news, even if he didn't die.

    To have an actual death and for the police to not even make the attempt to identify him really makes me wonder just how many gunshot deaths they have in Florida.

  2. According to this link:

    Florida has 11.1 gun related deaths per 100,000 of population. Florida has a population of over 19 million people.

    Louisiana (where I live) has a firearms death rate of 19.5 per 100,000. We're in the top 3 in the country, after the District of Columbia and Alaska. Yippee. Georgia, where my cousin was murdered, has a rate of 13.4 per 100,000.

  3. Australia has a rate of 2.94 per 100,000 according to Wikipedia, and I can't find any data more recent than the paper cited there. The vast majority are suicides - as always - 2.34 deaths/100,000, with 0.44 deaths/100,000 being homicides, and 0.11/100,000 being accidental. So doing the maths, roughly 646.8 firearm-related deaths, of which 514.8 were suicide (not usually reported), 24.2 accidental and 96.8 homicides. All 121 of those deaths would be reported, but more so in the state where they occurred unless they were a mass shooting or notable in some other way.

    The US overall has 10.27 deaths/100,000 with the breakdown of 4.14 homicides, 5.71 suicides and 0.23 accidental. That is... quite a high homicide using firearms rate. (I'm guessing our homicides are predominantly knife-based incidentally - it's a lot easier to get knives than guns here. Just walk into the kitchen.) Assuming the homicide:suicide:accidental breakdown is roughly the same across the US I'd have thought the Florida police would have had a lot more experience and expertise in dealing with identifying people who had been shot.

    *sigh* I'm trying to convince my parents that the US is generally a safe country in which to travel. My mother remains spectacularly unconvinced, and is certain that she'll be shot soon after entry*. This in spite of other members of the family including myself apparently managing to travel and live there and return unscathed, even after driving on the other side of the road for long periods.

    Murder is such a horrible, unnecessary crime. The least that can be done is for the deaths to be investigated and justice to be done. As imperfect as that can be.

    *Mind you if she aggressively asks people to stop smoking in non-smoking areas the way she does here I can certainly see how the situation might arise.

  4. And in one of those weird coincidences it's just been on the news that two teenagers were accidentally shot while rabbit shooting. Well that'll stuff the statistics up for next year! Both in hospital, both likely to recover.