Monday, August 12, 2013

A Lesson George Zimmerman Never Learned

Usually I trend toward indifference on high-profile court cases, like the George Zimmerman trial, when the constant media coverage kicks in.

However, this case was different. I was and continue to be enthralled on many levels.

My anger toward Zimmerman and his supporters persists. Regardless of what the jury’s "not guilty" ruling indicates, Zimmerman’s inappropriate racial profiling, unnecessary gun-toting, and his obvious hypermasculinity (which allowed him to ignore the 911 dispatcher’s advice for restraint) are deserving of some sort of just punishment.

This Zimmerman case reminds me of my involvement in a criminal chase. I have shared this following story from time to time with my students and long before the Martin-Zimmerman incident. I wish Zimmerman had heard it before he played sheriff in pursuit of Trayvon.

I once was in the vicinity of a mugging by a pathetic, forty-something crook--who stole the purse of a senior in a McDonald’s parking lot. I had heard the victim scream, “He took my purse!”  Without much thought, my own machismo kicked in and I began to give chase after the perpetrator. The foolish mugger fled across an open 100-yard parking lot.  I had a clear view and was quickly gaining ground on him.

In telling my students this story, I usually ask them at this juncture what they think happened and what they would have done in chasing the mugger. My macho students predictably and consistently jump in with strong opinions and predictions of a smack down on the mugger at large.

To the disappointment of the hero seekers, the distance between the mugger and I was great enough to provided plenty of time for me to think and check my emotions. I started to worry about what would happen if I caught this guy.

My virile students usually ridicule me at this point in the storytelling. They desperately desire a movie-like hero and old Mr. Strieker was not delivering.

I remember thinking during the chase how getting killed or in a violent altercation with the potentially dangerous mugger was not worth whatever was in the purse. Humbly, I believe my life as a father, husband, son, brother, teacher, friend, and neighbor was worth more than the valuables in the purse, hero accolades, and any boost to my "manliness."

Like Zimmerman in pursuit of Trayvon, I had time to call 911 as I pursued the mugger.  The dispatcher was just terrific. She was already aware of the mugging from other calls.  Like the dispatcher who spoke to Zimmerman, my dispatcher followed the script by confirming my location, the direction I was heading, and then advised me to keep my distance from the fleeing crook.

Unlike Zimmerman, I followed the dispatcher’s instructions. I slowed my pace, but kept the crook in sight. I was able to see the apartment complex where the mugger retreated and to accurately direct the police upon their arrival. In short time, the professionals had apprehended the mugger. The cuffing of this forty-something mugger was a pitiful scene I still remember vividly.

I share my criminal chase story in class not to promote myself, but rather as a rejection of the Rambo-like attitude adopted by Zimmerman and too many other young men in our society. American culture fails terribly at teaching a manliness and courage that promotes a reasoned mentality and controlled emotions. For Trayvon’s sake, this is a lesson I wish I had a chance to teach Zimmerman at a younger age.

No comments:

Post a Comment