The Trayvon Blues
Founded and preserved by acts of aggression, characterized by a continuing tradition of self-righteous violence against suspected subversion and by a vigorous sense of personal freedom, usually involving the widespread possession of firearms, the United States has evidenced a unique tolerance for homicide.
-David Brion Davis
Homicide in American Fiction 1798-1860
The Trayvon Martin story is not going to go away. It was a narrative event waiting to happen, and the story only gets richer with meaning as time goes on. There are the obvious racial aspects, but the most important elements are about police power versus citizen power -- and who can get away with shooting whom.
Since the police and the various paralegal and wannabe versions of police are the first-line of contact between individuals and The State the incident's outcome is important in the struggle between citizens’ rights and state power.
So far, the police and a flawed criminal justice system are winning most of the battles.
The Supreme Court just ruled five to four that police departments and jail officials have the right to strip search anyone once the person is ensconced in their clutches. These five male robed eminences agreed it was just fine for a police officer to make you stand in a room buck-naked, lift your nut sack, bend over and spread your cheeks. The officer doesn’t need a reason, other than having you in his control. It’s an elitist ruling ripe for abuse.
Then there’s the realm of cameras versus guns and handcuffs. The other day Boston cops arrested a TV news crew for filming outside a hospital, something TV crews do all the time when a news story ends in an emergency room. The cop told the photographers he had the power to overrule their First Amendment rights. While the cop had the muscle power, he did not have the legal power. Still, fact on the ground, the TV crew was removed.
In another case, two kids are videotaping in the parking lot of a Houston Walmart and a cop tells them to stop because he thinks he was in the shot. He was. The kid with the camera correctly tells the cop that he has the right to videotape police officers. The cop becomes hysterical and threatens to taser him if he doesn’t stop. (See below.) The photographer wisely backs down.