A generation ago, a highly-successful Tom Wolfe novel and mildly-successful movie starring Bruce Willis and Tom Hanks by the above-mentioned name told the story of a fictional white Wall Street billionaire suffering the loss of status, money, reputation and family amid a tragic accident involving the death of a black teenager and the attendant media circus and show trial which followed.
The protagonist in Wolfe’s novel, Sherman McCoy (played by Hanks in the movie), is an only mildly sympathetic character. He’s arrogant and irritatingly naive, and he puts himself in a precarious position by doing something he shouldn’t; namely, skulking around with his mistress. That activity leads to tragedy, in which the mistress (played by Melanie Griffith in the movie) gets lost in a bad neighborhood driving McCoy’s car, is confronted with a pair of aggressive black teenagers and ultimately runs one of them over, killing him. McCoy opts to attempt to cover up the incident to protect the mistress and himself, gets burned when the story becomes sensationalized in the media and the political class turns it into a witch hunt, and that leads to a murder trial which McCoy only barely escapes a guilty verdict in through the surreptitious dissemination of a recording of the mistress admitting it was she, and not McCoy, who was driving the car.
But among the rogue’s gallery of Bonfire players, McCoy is positively glowing with virtue. There is an irresponsible media which distorts and fabricates the story into a racial imbroglio, a cadre of race-hustlers grubbing for publicity who fan the flames by threatening riots if a villain can’t be punished, a low-life district attorney and equally shameless prosecutors out for political gain who latch onto the case as a vehicle to ingratiate themselves with the mob and various other self-interested players of dubious virtue which move the tawdry story to its conclusion.
Does this sound familiar to you in light of last night’s verdict in the Zimmerman trial?
Most of the actors are present, though the 2013 version of Bonfire of the Vanities has appropriate changes. First, as life follows art the Zimmerman case had to be a true story – at least in pertinent part. Second, there couldn’t in this impoverished day and age be a billionaire protagonist – we’ve all but banned billionaires from the scene, so the modern exemplar must be a struggling, near-unemployable millennial lacking the skills or capability to succeed as his father had. And third, while this version of Bonfire desperately needed a privileged white lead character, none was available in 2013 – so instead we’ve settled on the fictional construct of “White Hispanic” to make do for the narrative.
But while the characters aren’t quite the same, the result certainly is. Zimmerman was found not guilty last night after a year-long ordeal and a two-week trial which should never have happened. The police in Sanford, Florida saw his actions and the death of Trayvon Martin as a clear case of self-defense, and thus declined after a short but relatively intense inquiry to make a defendant out of him.
But that wasn’t enough for the Al Sharptons, Jesse Jacksons and Ben Jealouses of the world. After Trayvon’s parents hired a race-baiting attorney of their own who brought in the experienced ringers, a political prosecution ensued. The respected police chief who knew the case was self-defense was summarily dispatched, and the cowardly governor was pressured into appointing as a special prosecutor in the case one Angela Corey, a disreputable and corrupt Arab female facsimile (naturally, given the changing of the times) of F. Murray Abraham’s Jewish male slimeball District Attorney Abe Weiss (warning, this clip isn’t safe for work)…
Note the short clip of Reverend Bacon, brilliantly played by John Hancock? Does that remind you of anyone?
The fact is, as in Wolfe’s masterpiece there are no heroes in this Zimmerman saga.
Trayvon Martin was not the angelic, innocent child the media and the race-hustlers portrayed him to be. Remember when the idiot congresswoman Frederica Wilson donned her pink cowboy hat and let loose with this bit of inane hyperbole?
Well, whether it was racial or not Wilson was right – Martin was profiled. He was profiled accurately. Zimmerman spotted him immediately for what he was – a young thug who posed a threat to the neighborhood.
Trayvon Martin’s phone was full of text messages, pictures and videos suggestive of drugs, violence and criminal behavior. Trayvon Martin was on his third suspension from school. There is evidence Trayvon Martin had burglarized homes and/or school lockers…
In October, a school police investigator said he saw Trayvon on the school surveillance camera in an unauthorized area “hiding and being suspicious.” Then he said he saw Trayvon mark up a door with “W.T.F” — an acronym for “what the f—.” The officer said he found Trayvon the next day and went through his book bag in search of the graffiti marker.
Instead the officer reported he found women’s jewelry and a screwdriver that he described as a “burglary tool,” according to a Miami-Dade Schools Police report obtained by The Miami Herald. Word of the incident came as the family’s lawyer acknowledged that the boy was suspended in February for getting caught with an empty bag with traces of marijuana, which he called “irrelevant” and an attempt to demonize a victim.
Trayvon’s backpack contained 12 pieces of jewelry, in addition to a watch and a large flathead screwdriver, according to the report, which described silver wedding bands and earrings with diamonds.
Trayvon was asked if the jewelry belonged to his family or a girlfriend.
“Martin replied it’s not mine. A friend gave it to me,” he responded, according to the report. Trayvon declined to name the friend.
Trayvon was not disciplined because of the discovery, but was instead suspended for graffiti, according to the report. School police impounded the jewelry and sent photos of the items to detectives at Miami-Dade police for further investigation.
It’s not necessary to go into a full recitation of all the things that were wrong with Trayvon Martin. It’s safe to say that not only was he an at-risk kid, but that Zimmerman’s instincts were spot-on when he reported the suspicious youth to the authorities.
But this is no brief for Zimmerman.
One thing the prosecution did get right in this case was to call him a wannabe cop. Zimmerman’s excellent attorney Mark O’Mara even said as much in last night’s post-verdict press conference.
But Zimmerman was never to, and now certainly will never, be a police officer. At the time of the incident, he stood 5’7″ and 160 pounds. He’d spent a year and a half in a failed attempt at martial arts training; with all that time put in his instructor still wasn’t comfortable putting him in the ring with anyone else for fear of his safety. He’d applied to several police departments and had been turned down. The neighborhood watch was the best he was ever going to do.
This couldn’t have been unknown to Zimmerman, and yet after he correctly marked Martin as a threat to persons or property in that neighborhood, as the latter commenced to skulking around eaves of houses on a rainy night, and noted his physical characteristics (Martin stood a solid five or six inches taller than Zimmerman, and was infinitely more athletic), he still got out of his truck.
The only thing George Zimmerman had at his disposal to protect him from what could happen in a violent confrontation with a young thug he saw as a threat to that neighborhood was his gun. Prudence dictates in such circumstances that you don’t get out of your truck. You wait for the police.
No criminal liability attaches to Zimmerman for what he did, and it shouldn’t. But that doesn’t change the fact that he’s the poster boy for what not to do. If you’re able to defend yourself against Trayvon Martin without using your gun, then you can walk around the neighborhood like you’re Chuck Norris. If you’re going to get sand kicked in your face, you stay in your truck.
That Zimmerman didn’t, and ultimately had to take a life, will stay with him until his dying day. As it should. He was not guilty of murder or manslaughter, but he’s morally culpable for ending that life.
Because but for Zimmerman, it’s entirely possible that Trayvon Martin could have become a husband, a father, a pillar of his community.
Don’t laugh at that. Sure, Martin was a punk and he was on the road to prison. We don’t deny that. But what if Zimmerman had winged him on the shoulder or in the stomach? What if Martin had survived the incident? Could that have been a wake-up call which changed his life?
Could Trayvon Martin gone into the military and perhaps found the discipline he so lacked at home and at school? Could he have been scared straight? Could he have found Jesus?
These things aren’t unknown. They happen. There are lots of troubled kids who find their way to virtue and decent society. Trayvon could have been one of them but for Zimmerman shooting him in the heart.
And that’s why we shouldn’t celebrate this verdict. Yes, it is preferable to the political verdict the race-hustlers and the media liars worked for, and yes, our rights as citizens – black, white, Hispanic, Native American and Asian – are better protected as a result.
But celebrate the death of a teenager? No.
We should be disgusted at every phase of this horror show. A generation ago Bonfire of the Vanities was a worthy literary contribution for warning us precisely what was possible, and the Zimmerman case became a real-life copy.
What that says about us we’d rather not see written.