Can George Zimmerman be Both Killer & Hero?

This Blog covers many topical events, often drawn from the headlines. But some readers have noticed that I have had nothing to say on a high-profile news story concerning an interracial shooting and the subsequent trial of George Zimmerman.

In case you have been living under a rock or are reading this posting more than 10 days after the trial (the maximum duration of human retention), then let me refresh your memory:

  • Zimmerman’s community has recently experienced break-ins and robberies
  • He participates in a community watch (with zealous over-enthusiasm)
  • He is licensed to carry a concealed gun
  • He called 911 about a suspicious individual
  • He decides to investigate on his own
  • Approaching an unarmed African American youth, the two get into a fight
    (the trial was all about who started the fight)
  • Zimmerman kills 17 year old Trayvon Martin, later claiming self defense
  • The victim was lawfully living with a relative in the same community and was walking home after buying candy from local store

George ZimmermanZimmerman claims that he exercised his right to defend himself from mortal harm. A great many people say that he was never threatened and had no right to shoot.

Yes, I have refrained from comment — and yes, of course, I have an opinion. But it’s not black and white (an unintended pun). That is, it is not sufficient to create a “For-or-Against” piece in my über-opinionated and superlative style (some would say it is a smart-a*s style).

For the record, I followed the news as it unfolded and I watched the trial on television. I didn’t write in AWildDuck because the trial was inconclusive and rife with contradictory testimony. No matter what is your position on Zimmerman, it’s difficult to imagine any decision other than acquittal. Of course, this doesn’t mean that he is innocent.

And so this posting is not about the justice or lack of justice for Zimmerman. Rather it is about something that happened just this week…

Mark Gerstle-s

Mark Gerstle: Off my lawn!

Four days after George Zimmerman was found “Not Guilty” of 2nd degree murder in the killing of Trayvon Martin, he was dodging the press and, potentially, a mob of angry armchair jurors turned vigilante. (Certainly, he has reason to fear mob justice). But still, he manages to get out and about…

This week, Zimmerman pulled two motorists to safety from an overturned car on a Florida highway. The car was in immediate peril from traffic and could have easily burst into flames. Mark and Dana Michelle Gerstle were very appreciative. In fact, they were so appreciative that they scheduled a news conference to publically thank Mr. Zimmerman.

At least, that’s what they planned. After thinking about it (and perhaps consulting with friends, colleagues or a three year old), the Gerstles cancelled the public show of appreciation and refused comment or requests for interviews.

I won’t argue with their right to chase reporters from their lawn. A gaggle of hungry reporters can be as unpleasant as a swarm of paparazzi. But why would Mark Gerstle cancel a public statement of appreciation that he had initiated? Did George Zimmerman say or do something after the fact? No! Apparently, they are concerned with either what he did before the fact – or perhaps they honestly fear for their safety. They have suggested that they don’t wish to contradict popular sentiment and that individuals angry at Zimmerman could transfer hostility onto them.

I say Hogwash! Mark and Dana Gerstle are ungrateful b*stards. My opinion is unrelated to the Trayvon Martin shooting or the Zimmerman verdict to acquit.          Continue below photo…

I4 at Rt 46: The crash was less than 1 mile from the shot that killed Trayvon Martin

Can one individual be both evil and heroic?

If accurately reported, then the Gerstles have misguided advice or thinking process…

If they appreciate what Zimmerman has done and if they would have announced that appreciation in the absence of notoriety, then they should do so—regardless of popular sentiment, or their own opinions on his infamous shooting.

That is, even if one believes George Zimmerman is a racist and a murderer, they should not withhold recognition of meritorious behavior (in this case, an act of valor), if that act is unrelated to other aspects of his life.

I am not convinced that George Zimmerman had cause to kill Trayvon Martin, and I am reasonably certain that he profiled and even stalked the youth. The verdict in Florida does not sit easy with me. But none of this has anything to do with his successful effort to rescue individuals trapped in an overturned vehicle after a motor vehicle accident.

What on earth are the Gerstle’s thinking?! Do they really believe that acknowledging Zimmerman’s selfless act lets him off the hook for killing a young man? Do they believe that acknowledging his lifesaving intervention will cause rioters to target their home? Do they fear that it will appear that they are endorsing the Florida verdict to acquit?

None of these fears are relevant or even reasonable. The Gerstles are unappreciative clods. They should look deep within their hearts and ask themselves if they would have preferred to stay in that car.

So sayeth Ellery. What’s your take?

Here is an ethical conundrum…

Would I stick by these convictions if, say, Hitler had committed an individual act of heroism in the midst of the Holocaust?

No…Probably not. I realize that this presents a logical contradiction and a moral dilemma. But Hitler’s acts were not committed in the ‘2nd degree’. For populations that he targeted (a lesser species in his mind), the premeditated monstrosity of ethnic and social cleansing was justified. Although difficult to explain, a seeming act of kindness from the hand of a monster has no merit or historical consequence, because he has no sense of kindness.

But set aside my take-back on the Nazi angle. I wonder what readers think about the decision by Mark and Dana Gerstle to rescind recognition for a man who quite possibly saved their lives. You already know what I think. How about you?