Catch Me If You Can

Saturday, March 24, 2012


Dear Mr Zimmerman:

There is heavy news coverage about your decision to shoot and kill a young black man in your gated community in Florida. It appears the young man, Trayvon Martin, was returning to his father's girlfriend's house when you saw him walking, believed he was suspicious, and called the police. In your account, this led to you following him (against the advice of the police dispatcher), him attacking you and you shooting him in self-defence.

Clearly, Travon Martin caused you to feel unsafe. This death is a tragedy -- but I also want to continue a dialog asking "what does it mean to feel safe?

Here's something everyone can agree on: It's a terrible feeling to be scared in your daily life. You cannot live a free life as a human being when you feel unsafe in your home, unsafe in your neighborhood, unsafe in your city. When you believe danger to your body or property will happen at any moment, you have nightmares trying to answer the question "what if?" You imagine the worst and try to prepare for the worst and never know if you've done enough to keep your life safe.

Believe me, I know how you felt when you saw a young black teen wearing a hoodie walking around your neighborhood. When you frantically called the police about the disaster that was about to happen because you saw Trayvon Martin's body, I can relate. Because we are a culture of nightmares. Whether that nightmare is a mushroom cloud at your doorstep or a welfare queen spending your paycheck to drive a Cadillac -- you and I and everyone else run from our nightmares before we even think of chasing our hopes.

Because we live in a world where people are pumped up on nightmares like a drug, most of us learn to avoid being someone else's nightmare. We don't go to the bank wearing a Halloween mask on Christmas Day. We don't show up at the airport dressed like a Borg. We try not to give other people nightmares.

But here's what I want you to understand George Zimmerman. What if there was nothing you could do to avoid being somebody's nightmare? What if, no matter what you do, you're almost always going to run into someone who sees you as a nightmare? This is what life is like for a lot of young men. What if you are a young man -- and you have cut everything off of your person and jumped through every hoop you know to signal that you are not a nightmare . . . and still, many people see you as a nightmare.

Nightmares are not true. Despite the nightmare industry whether it's journalists or politicians or products who live to dramatize and exaggerate the exceptional moments when fear is realized, despite the clamor of voices urging us to say "yes" to nightmares and "no" to our highest hopes-- Franklin Roosevelt was right: "The only thing we have to fear is fear itself." We must say "no" to nightmares.

Mr. Zimmerman -- I am very sorry that Trayvon Martin was your nightmare. I don't know what he could have done to not be your nightmare. But even more than that, I'm very sorry that you. were his nightmare.


Tay Zonday

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