Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Trayvon Built My Hotrod

It's amazing how one's entire world can be transformed by the happening of a single event thousands of miles away. That has certainly been the case for the wives of war veterans and the fathers of highly successful children; it's the case in times of victory and defeat, glory and calamity. And for a two week period in July, 2013 this was the case for my cellmate and me. We were restricted to our cell for an institutional lockdown, but we might as well been in a Seattle coffee shop discussing the news while George Zimmerman's trial captured the media outlets and gave our minds something to zoom in on.

Those days went by fast for us, waking up to some Robin Meade, flipping to the Glenn Beck radio show, a little Melissa Perry-Harris and throw in some Fox News when these dropped off the trail coverage, nothing held the day like the divisive issues in Sanford, Florida. For us, this trial was not one of race as much as it was one of special interest groups influencing a political atmosphere that can subvert laws and ruin people's lives. For us, this trial was as much about the media's presentation of Zimmerman and Trayvon as it was about our own perception of right and wrong, just and unjust. After all , we are white convicted felons doing long sentences.

We were let off lockdown a couple days prior to the verdict being read. Almost as soon as the doors were cracked and inmates were scurrying to the showers or phones or email, a tense current ran beneath the entire english speaking population. The prison's atmosphere quivered with anticipation of an injustice to come. Everyone had spent the lockdown as we had-intermittently locked on liberal television news or conservative talk radio programs.

What initially shocked me about the verdict were my friends and family who, spewed the CNN and MSNBC bylines as if they were accepted academics. I wouldn't have been anymore pleased had they mimicked other news officials, but for them to have only one version of the case-that a "pyscho, wannabe-cop stalked a 16 year old boy who was merely walking home after buying tea and skittles, confronted him, incited him to fight and then shot him" was very disheartening. It surprised me so much because I have long felt that if something will engage me emotionally and make me question the integrity of the social order I am taught to serve and defend, I want to fully understand it-from both sides, especially the side that I agree with least. Anything less is reflective of the causes that led to my lazy life approach and incarceration. I naively expect greater things from those for whom laziness and crime and entitlements were not the first choice.

The popular media represents the left-liberals and independents who favor special interest group's, affirmative action, federal intervention programs and a general philosophy of equal opportunity, regardless of specific disparities. The less popular media on the right represent a conservative agenda that bequeaths all philanthropy issues to a wealthy and powerful elite which, in the end becomes an American aristocracy.

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