Guns and Cowardice and George Zimmerman
I had trouble sleeping last night after the George Zimmerman verdict was announced. I don’t generally say things like “the jury got it wrong,” because I trust in the idea that if I’m not in the courtroom and don’t see all the evidence, then I can’t really know that. But I’m willing to do it here based on one simple piece of unchallenged evidence. George Zimmerman started the chain of events that led to Trayvon Martin’s death. It doesn’t matter if he meant to, or if he had malice in his heart–he confronted a young man who was doing nothing more than returning to his home, and that young man died at his hand. That he will be considered, in the eyes of the law, innocent, is a great travesty.
I don’t own a gun. I almost bought one once, when I was living on a farm in rural Louisiana where wild dogs occasionally came onto the property and harassed the cows. When I asked the pawn shop guy for suggestions, he said “buy a 20 gauge. A 12 gauge will kill them and then you have to clean up the body. A 20-gauge will kill them, but they won’t die until they’ve limped off into the woods.” I think it was the callous casualness with which he said that which made me decide not to buy one. I know now that I’ll never own one. I refuse to own a machine whose primary function is to kill something or someone.
I have my father’s temper, and I try to keep it in check the way he tried, but there are times when I can feel the rage build and I want to explode. It’s like one of those old cartoons where the character’s head becomes a tea kettle, and the skin color changes to red and moves from bottom to top until a whistle forms out of his forehead and the chaos begins, all flailing arms and sound effects. I usually manage to calm down without breaking something, but I can feel it in there, lurking–the desire to do violence is potent, and in a rage, the potential consequences just don’t matter. It’s also because of that temper that I refuse to own a gun. I’m scared of myself, of what I might do if I had access to something other than my body in a moment of rage.
A gun is a weapon of cowardice. It’s a range weapon, one which allows the inflicter of violence to do damage without coming into direct danger, unless the potential victim has a gun as well. Carrying a gun is an act of aggression. It is a warning that says “I can harm you with deadly force before you get close enough to lay a finger on me.” Unless you’re carrying a concealed weapon. Then you’re not trying to deter violence–you’re waiting for a moment to inflict it.
One of my favorite movie moments from one of my favorite movies is the scene from Mystery Men where the “heroes” of the film are confronted outside the bar where they’ve just been celebrating their first victory by the Disco Boys. (If I could find the clip on YouTube I’d post it.) The Disco Boys are pointing guns at them, and even while the unnamed super team is cowering from the guns, they’re still mocking the Disco Boys, because guns are a weak-ass super power. You use a gun because you have nothing else. And this is coming from a team who features a guy with a shovel, a guy who throws silverware, a guy who farts on command, a woman with a bowling ball with her dad’s skull in it, and a kid who only turns invisible when no one is looking at him. Oh, and Ben Stiller. That’s harsh.
George Zimmerman was and is a coward, so scared of his own shadow that he carried a gun with him in order to feel protected in a world where he had little, relatively speaking, to fear. And now he gets to carry his gun once again. And now more people, just as scared as George Zimmerman, will feel emboldened to carry and use their guns any time they’re frightened. We should all be afraid of that.
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