A few weeks ago an internet blogger named Andrew Breitbart died suddenly. A lot of progressives didn’t like Breitbart because of his abusive tactics, his tendency to publish things that later turned out to be untrue and the total lack of respect that he showed to people with whom he disagreed.
But at the time of Breitbart’s death, most progressives bit their tongue and refrained from criticizing the man. After all, it didn’t seem proper to speak ill of a man whose wife and children are still suffering from the shock of his death. So out of respect for the man’s family, if nothing else, most progressives opted not to disparage Breitbart and some, like Lawrence O’Donnell, spent a lot of time saying kind things about him.
After seventeen year old Trayvon Martin was shot to death recently, you might think conservatives, who had no reason to dislike the young man, would afford his family the same respect. But you would have thought wrong.
In addition to coping with the horrific death of their teenage son, who still had his whole life ahead of him, and the fact that their son’s killer was never arrested, Trayvon’s parents also now have to endure the endless array of conservative commentators and bloggers who relentlessly denigrate the young teen.
What I think is most shocking is the glee with which conservatives are trashing the memory of this child. They’ve circulated fake pictures of him on the internet. They’ve analyzed every problem he’s had at school and every comment he ever made on Twitter to find some way to suggest he was a bad kid – as if to suggest he deserved to die.
Conservatives now repeat George Zimmerman’s version of events as if it were gospel, despite the contradictions of witnesses; and they suggest that the young, unarmed teenager got exactly what he deserved. Unfortunately, we’ll never hear Trayvon Martin’s side of things. George Zimmerman made that impossible.
Most of us never knew who Trayvon Martin and George Zimmerman were before this tragedy. We can’t say much about either person’s character. A lot of what we hear about what happened on that day is disputed.
Here is what we do know that is not disputed. Trayvon Martin, a skinny, unarmed teenager was walking home from a convenience store with candy and iced tea. George Zimmerman watched him and followed him in his car. He called police and said the boy looked suspicious. He complained that “These assholes, they always get away.” When the teenager started running, he was concerned that the young man might get away. Meanwhile, Trayvon was talking to a friend on his cell and said he was walking faster to get away from the guy who was following him. Despite the fact that police were on their way and that he was told not to follow the teen, Mr. Zimmerman continued to follow him.
At some point, he got out of his car and approached the teenager. Exactly what was said and what happened, we don’t know, but about a minute later, Trayvon was dead with a gunshot wound in the chest.
Based on those facts, there is a lot of reason to suspect that Mr. Zimmerman took the law into his own hands. He made it clear that he didn’t want the young man to get away. As long as he was in his car, Trayvon posed no threat to him. But when it looked like he might get away, Zimmerman got out of the car and went looking for the kid, even though he knew the police were coming.
Yet based on those same facts, conservatives have concluded that Trayvon was the attacker and Mr. Zimmerman was the victim. They are quick to re-Tweet or repost to Facebook any negative unconfirmed rumor they hear about Trayvon and anything that supports Mr. Zimmerman.
But why is there such eagerness to relentlessly attack and denigrate a dead teenager who never was known to harm anyone? Have his parents not already suffered the most horrible fate any parent could imagine? Is Trayvon Martin’s death not enough of a price to pay?
For all I know, this tragedy may have had nothing to do with race. But you can’t help but wonder why the right-wing is taking such an obscene joy in maligning this young man. What could inspire such hatred?