July 22, 2013

Letters to the editor: Bias, flawed law at fault in Martin case

As a matter of law, George Zimmerman was rightfully acquitted of the criminal killing of Trayvon Martin. Yet Martin was wrongfully killed. Society is left with a wrong without a remedy.

click image to enlarge

An image of Trayvon Martin and a bullet shell keychain are seen at a protest in Los Angeles on July 15 in response to George Zimmerman’s acquittal in the fatal shooting of the teenager in 2012.

2013 File Photo/The Associated Press

The fault is twofold. First are the endemic vestiges of racism in our culture. The second is the Florida statute that allows a person who fears for his safety to use deadly force on his perceived assailant.

Racial stereotyping led Zimmerman to accost Martin as the first in a chain of events ending with the killing of the unarmed boy. Had Martin been white, Zimmerman wouldn't have suspected the worst of him.

How many of us, as whites in a largely white society, in spite of our best educations and enlightened humanism, are totally free of some form of stereotyping of black kids? It's naive to think that Zimmerman, a product of a small-town Florida gated community, is race-blind.

The facts educed at trial show that Zimmerman approached Martin and an altercation followed. Under Florida law, once a person feels threatened, he's justified in using a gun to remove the perceived threat. Whether Martin or Zimmerman began the fight doesn't matter.

Picture yourself in a fight. Whether you are winning or losing, you think that the other person not only wants to hurt you, but may possess a weapon. Unfortunately, there's no middle ground. You use whatever weapon you have.

I am a large white male. Some could be intimidated if we should approach each other on a dark, deserted street where there has been a recent spate of muggings.

It's conceivable that if I got too close to an armed person, that person might be frightened enough to shoot, especially if I were black. In Florida, the shooter would not be criminally responsible.

Daniel Harris


Quebec train tragedy poses questions for Maine's future

Thank you for your coverage of the derailment and explosion in Lac-Megantic, Quebec. Since I am in Nova Scotia this summer, I listen to reportage on the CBC every day, and, as Canada's neighbor, Maine needs to know what is happening next door.

It should not be lost on anyone living in the United States or Canada that the oil cars that destroyed Lac-Megantic run through many Maine towns on their way to New Brunswick and the Irving refinery.

It also should not be lost on anyone that the type of crude being transported is highly volatile and laced with chemicals that endanger air, water and lives. There is no way for this product to be safely shipped through any of our communities. The rail and pipeline infrastructures in both of our countries were never designed to handle these substances nor the volume now being rushed to market.

The companies that operate these carriers, whether pipeline or oil, are not given to self-disclosure. Case in point: As we in Portland and South Portland well know, it was citizen investigation that revealed the plan for the additional two 70-foot smokestacks to be erected on Bug Light where tar sands oil could be offloaded into tankers in Casco Bay.

The powers that delegate these actions that so affect our lives need to hear our voices loudly, clearly and often. If we don't educate ourselves, speak up and act proactively, the other shoe will invariably drop on another beautiful little community.

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