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Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Stand Your Ground

As the media try to convict George Zimmerman for such offenses as telling his wife to wear a bulletproof vest while she goes around town, thanks to the frenzy that the media continues to look for wood to pour on the fire it started, using the tragedy of Trayvon Martin as its kindling, two other cases have also popped into the public eye: the trial of Jerry Sandusky, and the death of Jesus Mora Flores.

No matter whether George Zimmerman ends up in prison, thanks to a jury that would have decided to get the stench of Casey Anthony out of Florida jurisprudence and just convict SOMEBODY in a famous case, or whether the judge realizes that it's not a sign of depraved indifference toward human life (a key element in second-degree murder by Florida law) and throws the whole thing out, sending Zimmerman home, or something in between, his life is over.

No, he's not dead, but he will have the same shadowy existence of Casey Anthony, hiding in a house and (maybe) blogging about how he can't do anything or go anywhere.

Maybe he deserves it. Or maybe justice is more elusive, more slippery, than anything we can mete out in a news cycle. But when Trayvon Martin's mother abruptly backed off from her eerily accurate portrayal of the situation as a "tragic accident," this matter officially became a cause for the Powers that Be to use, rather than a horrific confluence of bad decisions.

But the trial of Jerry Sandusky and the death of Jesus Mora Flores also bring the question of justice back to the table. Who is Flores, you ask? Well, he allegedly grabbed the 4-year-old daughter of a rancher in Lavaca County, Texas (a bit east of San Antonio) and headed for a "secluded area" on the property. When the rancher found out, he went and called for his daughter. When she screamed, he ran to her. A few minutes later, Flores was dead. The sheriff's department investigated it as a homicide, but the county prosecutor decided not to press charges.

The question has flown across the blogosphere...should this rancher "get away" with killing the man that he saw abusing his daughter?

So, you see your daughter being molested...are you supposed to ask the guy to stop? Or just yell at him? Or call the police and wait for them to get there?

Which, of course, brings us to the Jerry Sandusky trial. As Rick Reilly poignantly asks, why is this trial even happening? Why are these abuse victims being forced to testify -- and be cross-examined -- about the horrors of their childhood? Is hearing all of this, and then waiting for a jury to say what everyone already knows, justice for anyone? Will a life sentence in protective custody be justice? Or would it be a power outage in the general population one night, with Sandusky in the middle of the rec room when the lights go out?

The law is one of the mechanisms that we use to keep order. It's a hamhanded mess at times, but only because we are flawed as individuals. We lie, we make excuses, and we want to simplify what happens to other people into five-word sentences or, when possible, pictures and YouTube videos. We also want revenge, in as grisly a fashion as possible.

But then we second-guess each other. We wonder if what we did was really right, or whether or not people in horrifying moments could just have done something different. After all, if Mike McQueary had picked up a folding chair in the locker room and brained Sandusky when he saw him in the showers with his victim, Victims 1 through 10 would not be going back through hell now.

But what if Sandusky had been with his victim in the shadows between two buildings? And wearing a hoodie? And a different ethnicity? And the victim had run away before the police could show up? Where would McQueary be today? Would Joe Paterno still be coaching? Would he still be alive?

That's the problem with living the way we do. We want things to be simple, to be easy. We want what we want, when we want it. Unfortunately, we forget that the people we use are also individuals, not tools for our bidding. We also forget that when tragedy strikes others, and the Today Show or Bill O'Reilly package that tragedy for our consumption, that there is often far more at work than we will ever take the time to consider.

Three cases....three sets of unanswerable questions.

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