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.
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.