Monday, March 26, 2012

Up in Arms

It's been a while since I've written anything for this blog. I think I should just plan a hiatus for the middle of winter, when SAD seems to kill everyone's motivation, including mine. Or, maybe it's just that there's little to write about in winter, when people try to celebrate made-up holidays (Valentine's Day, Stupor Bowl, etc) and the biggest story seems to be the weather -- either too much winter or too little of it. The Republican primary was supposedly the big story, but the reality is that we have half the country deluding themselves into thinking that a change of letter from D to R behind the title of President is going to even marginally affect what is going to be a foregone conclusion for the long hangover the country is starting to enter. Romney vs. Obama seems to be the upcoming battle for the other words, an argument over using non-existent corporate dollars vs. using non-existent government dollars to oil the gears of the giant consumerist machine.

While the primary is forgettable, the Treyvon Martin shooting is worth taking a look at. Much to the chagrin of people who tend to whistle "Kumbaya" past the graveyard of reality, race relations still don't seem to have entered the phase where we can be united in American xenophobia, but still find reasons to turn on each other with depressing regularity. The media has been busy trying to make the situation fit the "template" of what a "hate crime" should be like. According to them, Zimmerman (who seems to be Hispanic) shot Martin (who seems to be African-American) in a fit of vigilante-ism gone wrong (or right). National outrage has been accompanied by what look suspiciously like calls of "eye for an eye" justice, with a Dead or Alive bounty being offered for Zimmerman's head, and talking of forming a black militia.

These situations are never as cut and dried as they appear to be, of course. Is Zimmerman a racist? Was Martin looking for trouble? Maybe and maybe, but I wonder if these two people that weren't even north of 30, with much of their life ahead of them, had thought much about their own place in the national narrative. Long buried in the national discourse on race has been the simmering racial tension between blacks and hispanics, both considered to be "minorities," with theodd piece leaking out now and then from front-line places like California . These tensions are not going to subside as our sinking economy and failing national system creates greater and greater pressure to try to get a share of the pie before it's gone.

Think about it for a minute. We are going to enter a future where we are going to have to figure out how to best cope with dwindling natural resources, especially the all-important oil, and come up with a plan for dealing fairly with each other. At the same time, we can't even stand back as a nation long enough to let a full investigation of a shooting run its course. And, even if it turns out that Zimmerman acted without cause, or Martin attacked Zimmerman, does this affect what we should think of our neighbor because they have a little more or less melanin than we do? Do the actions of an individual represent the entire group, or that individual?

Worse, we're entering the "long hot summer," and it looks like it's going to be a truly long and hot one if our above-average temperatures keep on going. What happens when people are already angry and miserable and a not-guilty verdict is returned, or a grand jury even refuses to indict? The outrage doesn't seem to be confined to one city, like it was with Rodney King and L.A., but across the nation, and it seems to not be exclusive to blacks, but across racial groups, in a season where the second incarnation of OWS seems to be stirring, and maybe a reboot of the Tea Parties if the health care ruling turns out badly. Stay tuned.