Taking Responsibility for Killers Among Us

trayvon rallyShocked by the shooting of a black teenager in Florida and 17 villagers in Afghanistan, the nation busily tears into the psyches of the two shooters, debating what could possibly motivate such outrages.

In the one case, an American soldier, Staff Sergeant Robert “Bobby” Bales, in Afghanistan for his fourth combat tour after having suffered a traumatic brain injury on an earlier tour, creeps into two Afghan villages after a night of drinking, shooting his sleeping victims — nine of them children — and lighting some of them on fire.

In the second case, an armed, 28-year-old Neighborhood Watch captain, George Zimmerman, spots what he regards as a suspicious character — 17-year-old Trayvon Martin, carrying, as we all know by now, a bag of Skittles and a can of Arizona Ice Tea. Details of the ensuing confrontation between the 250-pound man and the 140-pound teenager are in dispute, but this much we know: Trayvon Martin is dead, as are those Afghan villagers.

Much current public debate centers on possible extenuating circumstances. Was Staff Sgt. Bales given an anti-malaria drug known to cause psychotic episodes, especially among soldiers with head injuries? Did the brain injury itself come back into play, or was he unhinged by the sight of a fellow soldier losing a leg in combat earlier that day? Did Trayvon Martin stand his ground and initiate a fistfight with the gun-totting stranger following him from the convenience store? Or did the wannabe cop start the fight that resulted in Trayvon’s death?

Ongoing investigations — which won’t bring any of the victims back to life — may answer some of those questions. But we know, too, that the lives of these two men — Zimmerman and Bales — are likely forfeit. It’s hard to imagine a circumstance where the Army will not mete out harsh, perhaps the harshest, punishment to Bales. And while Zimmerman may somehow walk free — indeed, he hasn’t even been arrested — do you really think his life going forward will know much joy?

And we also can surely guess that you, me, and our neighbors down the street are not likely to shoulder any part of the responsibility ourselves. No, we’ll focus our attention on these two bad seeds and others like them, these misfits perpetrating unthinkable crimes, these alien beings so unlike us. And then we’ll pass more punishing laws, hire more police officers, and stockpile our own weapons to keep us safe from these dangerous killers among us.

But, you and I, we do have a responsibility here. We’re the ones passing laws that make gun purchases easy and encouraging our fellow citizens to arm themselves against the “suspicious intruders” our fear-mongering politicians put before us. And we’re the ones who send our soldiers back into battle year after year after year, fighting wars some of us never believed in — you can see me puffing up my chest, can’t you? — and precious few of us support anymore.

robert bales

Staff Sergeant Robert "Bobby" Bales

You say you don’t support our imperialist wars, our evermore liberal gun laws, and the hatemongering that passes for public discourse? With these new murder victims mouldering in their graves, “saying” does not seem nearly enough, does it?

If you’re not out on the corner of Colorado and Eagle Rock Boulevard every weekend with our nearly 90-year-old friend, Flo Griffen, waving your “Out Now” sign — and I’m not there either, so I have no finger to point — or haranguing your congressman to stop these senseless wars and stop them now, then maybe you have to stand next to Sgt. Bales, too.

Sure, what Bales did was aberrant and it was horrific, but it was also the kind of thing that grows out of the ugliness of war. Civilians get killed, maybe not always murdered in their sleep in bunches, but they have gotten caught in the crossfire of every war since the first caveman picked up a stone in anger. Ask my Dad, who fought in World War II. Ask me, who fought in Vietnam. Ask any in-the-mud combat veteran.

On liberalized gun laws and encouraging vigilantism, presidential candidate Rick Santorum recently blubbered that the “Stand Your Ground” laws in vogue around the country weren’t intended to cover George Zimmerman’s actions. Fool. You pass laws encouraging people to arm themselves and not just sane, well-adjusted people who will take pains to train themselves in proper gun use will hear you. No, some of the listeners will be compensating for inadequacies, as it seems Zimmerman was doing, and some will be just plain nuts, as was Jared Lee Loughner, the schizophrenic who shot Congresswoman Gabby Giffords in the head, killing six and wounding 14.

On Trayvon’s murder, besides the gun issue, thousands and now tens of thousands are demonstrating in the streets not because one young black man was killed, tragic as that was. No, they’re protesting — and especially the black community is protesting — because Trayvon was just yet another black man who was targeted — “profiled” — because far too many of us believe that a black man, any black man, even a slightly built 17-year-old teenaged black man is  dangerous, suspicious, a threat.

dick price

Ask my step-son, a young teacher who had a couple of degrees and owned real estate before he was 30, but can’t drive through parts of his own community without being pulled over for DWB (Driving While Black). Ask my brother-in-law who jogs five miles a day in his suburban community, knowing he may be accused of running away from the scene of some crime because it has happened so often. Ask any young Black man in America.

And that won’t stop until more of us are willing to embrace our neighbors, welcoming diversity into our workplaces, our churches, our homes. That won’t stop until we stop believing racial profiling and unequal treatment is just an issue for our Black and Latino communities. That won’t stop until we stop it, all of us.

Dick Price
Editor, LA Progressive



  1. Jim H. says

    This story has open so many doors !  
    But i still don’t think the american people have quite gotten the call as of yet..

    These type stories aren’t new but with the internet,open media and cell-phones the news is reaching everyone including Internationally…

    Our country has been in a crisis for well over 20 plus years as murder among teens and all nationalities have risen over 60 percent. But it take a Trayvon to get the attention of the world before we stick our heads up and take notice.

    We live in an area to where over 10 deaths have occurred since Christmas with the highest percentage being children from 4 years old to 17 with some of them killing adults and their friends while playing video games.

    Just to share a brief story with you !   Within the last 5 days there was a shooting and the neighbors saw the child dragging the other one out to the trash can in the broad open day light with no regards as too what he’d done…

    By the way i forgot to tell you this was a white on white shooting and they were under 12 years old and the child killed had just moved to the neighborhood.   We had a child under 9 years old that killed his step-mom because he didn’t want to do chores… 

    We have got to come together as a nation and take responsibility for the killings not only in our neighborhood or because they’re black but all over the country..

    Folks it could be you or your family members simply being in the wrong place at the wrong time.  The court systems are overwhelmed with cases with no relief insite…..

    Trayvon Martin was killed by this man !  
    People carry guns because they intend or expect to eventually use them.

    I’m not afraid of the Zimmermans !   I’m afraid of the ones that denied he killed him..

    Those are the ones that will turn their heads and look the other way while someone is committing the crime, until it’s one of their family members or friends AND THEN OMG they want the system to drop all the other cases before theirs and help them…

  2. Hwood007 says

    I spent 20 years in the Army and a lot of time with other races, including blacks.  I also went to the beach with blacks when off duty.  I also have blacks in my family.  I do not know what happened but it seems Zimmerman helped blacks with school work on his own time, if true, how could he be as big a hater as everyone claims?  Based on my job in the  military, I say the truth can often take a while to discover, so give the state some time.

    As a yound school student, I walked through a black neighborhood to get to my home.  I would not do so in that neighborhood now, it is too rough and DDW does not work there either.  In order to help all, send Al home, he always makes it worse..

  3. go99ers says

    I agree with the author that you and I have a
    responsibility here. While you and I don’t believe in the NRA and their agenda,
    and we think racial profiling is intolerable, if we don’t try to ACTIVELY
    change the laws, we are in effect, the ones who will be allowing or enabling
    laws that make gun purchases easy and encouraging our fellow citizens to arm
    themselves against the “suspicious intruders” our fear-mongering politicians
    put before us.

    The fear-mongering is all part of the plan, dumbing
    down “the multitudes” is part of the plan, just like the agenda to privatize
    the social safety nets, break up unions, privatize the schools, make teachers
    look bad, and absolutely make it impossible to tax the billionaires or make
    them pay their fair share.

    We all share a responsibility for Trayvon’s
    tragic death and sending these poor, brain-damaged human beings on their fourth
    trip into a Death Trap. We better make sure that we vote out all those maggots,
    the bought and paid for politicians that have been blooksucking the life out of
    out of Congress. We may not vote for people like them, but enough brainwashed
    people did, and we are responsible, like it or not.

    People have been utterly brainwashed by the
    millions of dollars that are paid to people who go into our legislatures and
    rewrite our laws.  It is happening right
    now.  WE had better make sure that it isn’t
    happening in our own backyard.

    The House of Reptiles doesn’t represent
    people. It represents the monied interests that have bought and lobbied them.

    • says

      I agree with almost everything you said except, “We better make sure that we vote out all those maggots, the bought and paid for politicians that have been bloodsucking the life out of out of Congress. We may not vote for people like them, but enough brainwashed
      people did, and we are responsible, like it or not”.

      If we don’t enact major campaign finance reform legislation, especially after the Citizen’s United decision, it won’t matter how ethical or principled a candidate is — if the corporations don’t want that person elected they’ll fire hose them with negative campaign ads, lies, or worse. We have to reduce the power of money in campaigns. We have to use the power of social media more strategically, support the movement to amend the constitution and support clean money campaigns. Otherwise, forget about it — our system is lost.

  4. Laureo77 says

    It appears that what Zimmerman did was ok with local police.  Most would probably like it if it were Obama, too.

  5. Evelyn Goodman says

    I am with you in everything you have said.
    Listening to Zimmerman’s father, I see a racist far worse than the son, and, of course, it gets handed down, unfortunately.
    Where they get that there was an altercation between Trayon and Zimmerman, I don’t know.  In the photo, as he was taken away by the police, Zimmerman  was completely intact, not bloody at all,  as depicted by those trying to say there was a fight between them.
    It is a tragedy, and I am hopeful that the truth will come out, eventually .
    When will we understand that we all share this earth of ours, and take responsibility for it being a good and safe one for ALL of us?
    Rest in peace, Trayon.

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