The Worthlessness of a Human Life

DSCF0169 - CopyTrayvon Martin is dead, and George Zimmerman, the man who admitted to shooting Martin, has been found not guilty of 2nd degree murder in Martin’s death.

There is no justifiable reason for my ever having to have written that sentence. I didn’t know Martin, I don’t know Zimmerman; from what I’ve been able to learn about the two of them, neither one of them is or was someone with whom I would have knowingly, willingly associated. Not because there is or was anything inherently “wrong” with them, rather that there just seems to be little if any common ground – there simply would have been very little chance of our paths crossing.

Now, however, not only I but every man, woman, and child in North America who has radio, television, or internet access knows the names of those two men, and the incident in which the two of them had their rendezvous with their own personal destinies. Why is this so? Because of the media circus and political “event” that were manufactured around an altercation, the details of which remain somewhat ambiguous, between those two men which led to Martin’s death at the hands of Zimmerman.

And that never should have happened.

No, I don’t mean Martin’s death – that was a tragedy, yes, but it was the consequence of two young hot-heads, each determined to prove who was “da man” to the other, both hopped up on that mix of testosterone and machismo that seems to be the near-exclusive province of those who are in combination young, stupid, and/or immature. That was a confrontation the like of which I believe was predestined to be played out by each of them, if not together then separately.

No, what should have never happened was that I should have ever become aware of the existence of either Martin or Zimmerman, or that Martin’s existence was ended by Zimmerman. There was no good and sufficient reason that I should have ever known about it. I live hundreds of miles from where the incident took place. Equally violent – and tragic – confrontations take place on a weekly – sometimes daily – basis much closer to where I live. So why did I find out about it? Why was I compelled to become aware of Martin and Zimmerman and how their destinies collided and only one of them walked away from it?

That is the real tragedy of the death of Trayvon Martin. The fact that I was forced to become aware of it. I was forced, along with you, and you, and you, and all the rest of you, to be aware that an altercation occurred on February 26, 2012 between these two men, whether any of us gave a damn about it or not. We had no choice. And that is the tragedy.

Don’t get me wrong – it’s well and truly tragic that Trayvon Martin was killed. The death of any young person, and especially under such incredibly stupid circumstances, is always a tragedy. It’s equally tragic that George Zimmerman has to spend the rest of his days knowing that he took someone’s life. Unless he’s an utter sociopath – and I’m not offering an opinion there, neither explicitly, nor by implication or inference – that knowledge will mark his soul and gnaw at him forever.

The real tragedy is that both men were deprived of every single shred of humanity they possessed by people and organizations intent on using one or the other or both of them to advance agendas, racial, social, legal, political – and financial. They were immediately reduced to ciphers, the whole of who and what they were completely marginalized as being irrelevant. They were transmogrified into representing a specific culture within the general population. They became avatars for subsets of the national community – roles they had never embraced in their real lives. They became simply “the black guy” and “the white guy.” Nothing more. And they would never be identified without a racial tag attached to them, as if their race summed up the whole of who they were.  Never mind that both men were someone’s son, brother, boyfriend, buddy, classmate, uncle, whatever. Instead, all identity, all individuality was leeched away from them as if such things were inconvenient – or were brought forward only when it was convenient, when reminders of Martin’s or Zimmerman’s humanity would serve the agendas of one side or the other. Instead they were completely dehumanized, the better to serve the purposes of outsiders who neither cared for nor had an interest in the actual welfare and well-being of either man. They became worse than pawns, they were reduced to the status of tools. And tools, as we all know, are always discarded eventually, when their usefulness has ended.

Somebody is dead, people!   A person — a human being  — is dead!   Shouldn’t that have been the focus here?   And yet that simple, heartbreaking reality became entirely marginalized by the fact that Martin was black and Zimmerman is white.  Trayvon Martin wasn’t even allowed the dignity in death of his personal humanity, because that death and that identity became completely overshadowed by an immense racial pissing contest!

The taking of a human life – surely the greatest tragedy of all, for the victims are not limited just to the dead – became a secondary consideration as a horde of navel-gazing pundits, beginning with the President of the United States and ranging down through the Attorney General, to Fox News and MSNBC, to Al Sharpton, Jesse Jackson, Geraldo Rivera, and Bill O’Reilly, to the NAACP and the likes of Ted Nugent, all began waving Martin’s bloody hoodie in an effort to rally support for their causes or encourage belief in their version of not only what happened, but why. A government/media carnival sprang up, complete with midway, barkers, sideshows, even refreshment vendors. Even Martin’s mother got into the act, trademarking her son’s name so that she could collect royalties off of any commercial use of it. (“Gee, thanks, Mom! I’m so touched by how you intend to remember me! Maybe you could have brought back a little dignity to my demise and simply sued the other people who wanted to cash in on my name, rather than cashing in yourself?”) A street brawl between two knuckleheads was transformed into some sort of metaphor for race relations in the United States, or the case for or against gun control, or whatever cause the incident and George Zimmerman’s subsequent trial could be used to promote. Never mind how tortuous that transformation had to be, as long as the cause was served, the agenda advanced. And am I the only person who finds it almost painfully ironic that “the white guy” doesn’t identify himself as a Caucasian, but rather as a Hispanic? Can there be any more explicit indicator of how skewed this entire affair ultimately became?

The question hangs begging, then: what have we discovered as a result of the Trayvon Martin/George Zimmerman Affair? The only conclusion of substance that I can see is one that almost makes me sick to my stomach to have to write: that the value of a human life has been reduced to how much its extinction or preservation can benefit a particular political cause or social agenda. Face it people, the way things stand right now, the only way your life or death will mean anything will be determined by how it can be used by the politicians, the media, and the racial watchdogs.

So, pilgrim, what are you going to do about it?

I’m Daniel Allen Butler, and that’s the way it is.