All week I’ve been getting hooted off the web over at Facebook for saying that there is more than one way to read the Trayvon Martin killing case. I do not dispute some of the essential issues or demands. It is clear that he set off George Zimmerman just by Walking While Black, and that the police department should be investigating this without ceasing. George Zimmerman should already be under arrest, because he clearly did not behave like a person under fear. He pursued and killed a helpless victim.
But I’m not hearing that pursuit as others are hearing it. I’m flashing back to a schizophrenic family member who pursued another family member, for no apparent reason, for such a long time that restraining orders were necessary, and state borders were involved. That pursuer had a hard-core commitment to safety in his family, but the danger was all in his head. A real danger, calling for guns and vigilance.
Misinterpretation of neurological issues has serious implications for everyone. Someone who should have been evaluated after assaulting a police officer and implementing a lifestyle of hyper-vigilance without boundaries was released because for some folks, “Yeah, it can look pretty scary around here.”
That’s the racist — not the person with neurological challenges, but the folks who disregard the person with the condition, one way or another, in favor of their favorite script about racism. I do believe that Zimmerman should have been arrested before or should be arrested now. But when he is, I would like to see a full and unbiased neurological evaluation.
And I would like a society with enough flexibility, enough commitment to scientific significance, to deal with what the scientists have to say.
Here’s what a determination of mental illness would not do:
It would not end Zimmerman’s legal liability: I believe in “Guilty but Not Mentally Incompetent.”
It would not lessen the severity of his sentence, other than removing the possibility of a death sentence. It appalls me that the man who shot James Brady and Ronald Reagan gets out from time to time, and possibly for good. If you’re cured, you’re ready to serve the remainder of your life sentence.
It would remind us all that when guns get into the wrong hands, innocent people die and the shooters often victimize themselves.
It would remind us that anyone’s mental healthiness is everyone’s mental healthiness.