The Trayvon Martin Case: I Don’t Know

By | March 29, 2012 | 0 Comments

Was George Zimmerman justified in shooting Trayvon Martin? I don’t know.
Was Martin merely walking with a bag of Skittles and a bottle of iced tea when Zimmerman accosted him for no reason? I don’t know.
Is it possible that Martin thought Zimmerman was stalking him, and Zimmerman thought Martin was acting suspiciously, so the whole thing was a tragic misunderstanding? I don’t know.
If President Obama had a son, would he look like Trayvon Martin as the president claimed? I don’t know.
What difference does it make if someone looks like the president? Does his empathy depend on whether the person looks like him? I don’t know.
Doesn’t the president realize that extra consideration for those who look like him is the essence of racism? I don’t know.
If President Obama had a son, would he also look like the thousands of young black men who are murdered annually, mainly by other young black men? I don’t know.
Why is it more worthy of note by the president and the media if a young black man is killed by someone of another ethnic group rather than by one of his own? I don’t know.
If President Obama had a son, he probably would not look like Allen Coon, a 13-year-old who was set on fire with gasoline by black teens yelling, “You get what you deserve, white boy.” Allen survived, but was this the reason the president did not comment on this case as he did on the Martin case? I don’t know.
Is it true that Zimmerman was on the ground and Martin was on top, beating him, as a witness reported? I don’t know.
Is it true that Zimmerman had a broken nose, had blood on his face and the back of his head, and wet grass stains on the back of his shirt? I don’t know.
Is it true that Martin knocked Zimmerman down with a punch to the face, then repeatedly bashed the back of his head into the sidewalk? I don’t know.
Was it Zimmerman who was screaming for help, as a witness claims, or was it Martin, as was first reported? I don’t know.
Under Florida law, and under moral law, does having your head bashed into a sidewalk evoke fear of death or great bodily injury, which justifies the use of deadly force in response? I don’t know.
Under Florida’s “castle” law, you can stand your ground if you are attacked, but does this also mean that you can pursue the attacker? If so, does it apply to Martin as well as to Zimmerman? Did Martin believe he was pursuing his attacker? I don’t know.
Zimmerman is described as a “white Hispanic,” as half Peruvian, or as Puerto Rican. Which, if any, is correct? I don’t know.
Is Zimmerman a racist? Is he is also a registered Democrat? I don’t know.
Martin is described in the media as having weighed 140 pounds. Few high-school football players are that small − was he a kicker? I don’t know.
Martin is also described in the media as having been 6 feet 2 inches tall. Is this true? I don’t know.
The photos of Martin in the media were taken when he was younger. Why isn’t a more recent photo available? The photo of Zimmerman makes him look like a thug. Why isn’t another photo available? I don’t know.
Was Martin’s record “spotless,” as claimed? Or had he been suspended from school three times and recently “took a swing” at a bus driver? I don’t know.
Was Martin found at school with a screwdriver and 12 pieces of jewelry as reported? I don’t know.
The New Black Panther Party is offering a $10,000 reward for Zimmerman. Isn’t this similar to a lynching? Isn’t offering a reward “dead or alive” illegal? I don’t know.
Director Spike Lee Tweeted Zimmerman’s home address (actually the wrong address). Isn’t this an invitation to violence? And since the media report that Zimmerman is in hiding, isn’t this an invitation to violence against his family? I don’t know.
Will this tragedy inhibit people from participating in a neighborhood watch, and will they relapse into apathy about crime? I don’t know.
Are the coordinated demonstrations for Martin across the country spontaneous, or are they organized by Democrats to energize Obama’s leftist base? I don’t know.

There are many things about the death of Trayvon Martin that I suspect. But there are very few things I know. Still, I have the ability to say, “I don’t know.” I find that this makes what I do say more persuasive.
Some time ago, I was in the lunch line at a university medical center. I couldn’t help overhearing three medical students in line behind me. They were boasting about the deep knowledge of the professor who went on patient-care rounds with them.
One student remarked, “And he even says, ‘I don’t know.’” The student was impressed with this ability, which he apparently found to be unusual.
I said, “Excuse me, but are you talking about Dr. Smith (not his name)?”
The student replied, “Yes, how did you know?”
I explained, “He’s one of the few people around here who ever say, ‘I don’t know.’”
The three students nodded in agreement.
I heard Dr. Smith lecture before a large audience. In answer to a question, he replied simply, “I don’t know.” And in answer to a comment, he replied, “I never thought of that.”
True, an internationally known authority might feel more freedom to say, “I don’t know.” But perhaps one reason he became internationally known was his ability to admit, “I don’t know.” A lesser man would gloss over his own ignorance, and thus have no impetus to remedy it.
The first step toward knowledge is the admission of ignorance. If I can’t say, “I don’t know,” I have no motivation to learn anything new. If I can’t recognize a gap in my knowledge, I feel no pressure to fill it. If I can’t distinguish what I know from what I suspect, or imagine, or hear rumors about, then I am truly ignorant. And if I have no motivation to remedy my ignorance, I will remain ignorant.
Many people feel that if they admit they don’t know something, this somehow reduces their credibility. No, it increases their credibility. I once knew a man who was experienced in a particular area. But I found that he answered questions with the same smug self-assurance regardless of whether his answer was provably correct, arguable, or provably false.
This man was useless. If he said something with which I was unfamiliar, I had no way to know whether it was true. But if he said something which I knew to be true, I began to doubt it. That is, after listening to him, I knew less than I did before. His remarks were negative quantities of knowledge. He never said, “I don’t know,” or even, “I’m not sure but I think that…” He was often wrong but never in doubt.
If President Obama had said, “We do not yet know all the facts about the death of Trayvon Martin, and until we do, let us keep calm,” he would have done the nation a great service. If the president simply had refrained from commenting, he would at least not have added fuel to the fire.
Instead, Obama remarked that if he had a son, the son would look like Trayvon. This clearly was intended to raise sympathy for Martin, and to evoke anger at Zimmerman. But it will make it harder to get a conviction, or if Zimmerman is convicted, it will make it harder to have the verdict stand up on appeal. Who would not have extra sympathy for a dead young man who looked like the president’s own son? How can an impartial jury be possible?
Inflame an already tense situation? Make it harder to have Zimmerman convicted? Increase racial tensions? All this means less to Obama than his own reelection. This episode is calculated to stir up the Democratic base, especially African Americans, who have been rather apathetic about him recently.
Race, class, gender − the classic leftist triad. Race: The Trayvon Martin case. Class: The 99% versus the 1%. Gender: The Sandra Fluke affair. In each case, the president injected himself − the operative word being himself.
All of us, especially those in public office, would do well to wait until we know all the facts before commenting on sensitive topics. All of us, especially those in public office, would increase our credibility by having the courage and intellectual honesty to say, “I don’t know.”
Dr. Stolinsky writes on political and social issues. Contact: You are welcome to publish or post these articles, provided that you cite the author and website.

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