As a person who suffers from SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder) typically I hate winter. This is the first time that I can’t wait for it. I’ve been working about 14 hour days, 7 days a week (plus on call 24 hours) between the campground and transcription.
It’s summer, so business is at its most intense in the campground. Tons of people, many drunk and the heat is making everyone, including myself, a little edgy. We have tons of great owners here who are really nice, but some of these people… ugh… My neighbor came in last night after closing because he wanted to do some night fishing and otter trapping. Only actual campers are allowed to wander around after night and no one is allowed to catch otters. He drunkenly informed me that he was going to “report me to Social Security” for mistreating him. One of us clearly has a fundamental misunderstanding of the SSA’s role in society.
Too few remember that only months ago there were drug deals at night, hypodermic needles in the grass and creepy half-naked people hanging out by the shower that shout at you in foreign languages. Any given day, I probably get yelled at once, complained to half a dozen times and lied to maybe 5-6 times. Though most people are giving really positive feedback. Now people feel safe and the place is getting fixed up. The main issue is that my predecessor at least tolerated and most likely participated in much of the criminal activity around here.
I did receive a compliment for “chasing out all those queers.” An old lady thanked me for that. She’s a customer and a neighbor of mine, so I couldn’t really respond to it. Well, that and I have no idea how to respond to that anyway. She told me she used to just watch the bathrooms through her binoculars from her house. Yeah, no, that’s healthy. I didn’t have the heart to shatter her erotic fantasy that every two men who go into a men’s room are making passionate love in the shower. All the Christian Right ever seems to think about is gay sex and bestiality.
The only problem now is that one of the pool monitors has a habit of letting people in if they come up with a particularly inventive excuse or some sob story about how they’re half-dolphin and if they don’t get in the pool their skin will dry up and they’ll die. The other day I came down to check up and found a bizarre atmosphere in the pool. There was a guy with his wife and his kid near the pool. His wife and kid were already out and he was taking pictures of the kids in the pool. I noticed that some of the regulars who I know pretty well are watching him like a hawk. One of the other fathers looked like he was about ready to smash his beer bottle and stab this guy.
I struck up a conversation with this stranger because my gut said something was wrong with him before I even saw the nasty looks or the picture taking. Turns out he wasn’t supposed to be in the pool. He’s not an owner or sponsored by one. So I told him he had to leave and they started screaming at me. The wife started waving a piece of paper in my face that she said was proof, but she wouldn’t let me read it. They stormed off and I talked to the other people there. One of the regulars recognized him as her neighbor. A registered sex offender.
So afterward I got online to check it out because I can’t take anyone’s word for it even if I know them. It’s a small community and rumors spread like wildfire. He could have the same name as a sex offender. Or it could be one of those situations where like a drunken frat boy passes out in a park or a 22-year-old with a 17-year-old and her parents freak out. Terrible mistakes one and all, but we don’t have enough prison space for 7 billion idiots. Gravity and the vacuum of space were designed by nature to make sure we never get off this blue-green prison.
Turns out that this particular creep was convicted of lewd and lascivious conduct with a 13-year-old and assault of said child and he was in his mid 20’s. Plus, like I said, as soon as I saw him, there was something so wrong about him. He’s banned from ever entering here again, though his family is allowed in. They are very upset with us for banning him.
It brings up difficult questions of safety versus freedom. He committed his crime 20 years ago. He went to prison and paid his dues. The system says he’s rehabilitated. There’s even the possibility our organization will get sued for banning him. Discriminating against sex offenders. We’re not too worried about it because it’s a tough case to win.
Outside the law, every fiber of my being says this man is not better. Maybe he hasn’t done anything yet, but he’s little or no different from the person who committed that crime. I don’t think he should ever be allowed around children. Ever again. Even the people in the pool who didn’t know about his record said he was really creeping them out.
It made me think of the movie Girl With the Dragon Tattoo. I know the American version included this scene, but I can’t remember if the original Swedish version did. I’ve seen both and recommend both. I liked the Swedish version the best, but the American version was extremely faithful to it. Anyway, there’s a point a character is invited into the house of the killer. The killer points out that the character suspected something was wrong, but they didn’t want to be impolite and walk away. We formed the social contract to increase our chances of mutual survival, but sometimes the niceties of the contract outweigh our natural survival instincts.
On the other hand, we have a legal system to mediate between us and the potential criminal population for a reason and who am I to say this guy at the pool has no right to go with his family for a swim?
The shooting of Trayvon Martin is a good example of civilians crossing the threshold between maintaining order and promoting chaos. I’m not sure how I feel about the verdict. Honestly, if I was the one picked to decide Zimmerman’s fate, I probably would have let him go too. Beyond a shadow of a doubt is the basis for guilt or innocence in our country and in my conscience. I can’t say for certainty what happened, so I would rather free a criminal than jail an innocent man. At least for murder. Had it gone the other way and Zimmerman went to prison, I can’t say I’d be calling for a re-trial either.
No matter what happened that night, it was a tragedy. A young man lost his life and moreover is having his character questioned postmortem, when he can’t defend himself. Bringing up things said on social media, school transcripts and the fact that he smoked pot. I never did drugs. Too nerdy and neurotic for that, but some of the things I said online over those formative years would land me in hot water now and potentially a few watch lists. Some people like to dismiss his death by writing him off as a common hoodlum. Of course he was, he was a kid.
There was that Time Magazine article saying that 58% of current young college students have narcissistic traits. The argument being that this new generation emerging today are selfish and egotistical. The problem here is two fold. First, it’s studying college kids. I know only a handful of people who can afford college. So, it’s an upper income bracket (which is plain sad in its own right), one that has a higher likelihood of spawning spoiled brats. But far more importantly, every generation of teenagers and young adults are egomanics and narcissists. It’s the defining trait of being young. The reason for this is that personal hardship is what breeds character. If you’re young, healthy and fearless, the world is laid out before you. It’s only after you’ve watched your dreams turn to dust and blow away and went through some part of your life where you truly needed other people to survive that you realize how important human connection is and how selfishness will destroy you. They say no man is an island, but most people started out believing they could be.
Then on the opposite side you have Zimmerman. An amateurish student of the law and an amateurish enforcer of that law. Neighborhood Watch carrying guns? Now there’s a quagmire. What’s the point of a Neighborhood Watch without guns if the cops aren’t around? What’s the point of police if we’re using vigilantes?
Zimmerman once admitted that to avoid confrontation he never identified himself as a member of the Watch and that he pursued Martin because he was out in the rain, which law-abiding citizens never go out in. I too have gone walking in the rain in a hoodie and yet also never burgled a house, so Zimmerman’s scientific method is flawed. He strikes me as a very over zealous defender of his community. Working security here I can say that it’s a truly dumb idea to not identify yourself as such. And he got out of the car. If he wanted to avoid confrontation, he would have stayed in the car. Zimmerman made a series of mistakes that night and it led to him killing a person. At the very, very least he should never be allowed to have a gun ever again and he should be banned from ever serving in Neighborhood Watch. He should have mandatory counseling too.
Finally, we have to look at the enviornment: The Retreat At Twin Lakes gated community. It was not the first suspicious person Zimmerman tried to stop. Apparently, it’s a high crime place. I guess when they built the walls and gates they trapped some criminals inside. By the time he ran into Martin, Zimmerman was obviously quite frustrated with the slow response time from the police and all the criminal elements moving into his neighborhood. I can sympathize with that feeling of helplessness and how it could easily drive someone to this sort of reckless action. I’ve often had to confront stranger kids and adults at night in the campground who sneak in. Alcohol and drugs can always be an agitating factor, so you never know what you’re going to get.
If I did have a gun, I would feel a little safer. However, that might also give me enough confidence to get myself and others into real trouble. Did having that gun give Zimmerman the courage he needed to confront Martin when he had no need to? Leading both down the path that would end in one of their deaths.
One thing I know for sure is that the “stand your ground” law is ridiculous. Florida’s legislature turned their state into the Wild West. Earlier this week they accidentally made it illegal to have computers while attempting to ban online slot machines. It was legal to have sex with animals until recently and the bill failed to pass twice. Thankfully unrelated to their bestiality problems, there are people riding manatees. In the same state where sex with animals is considered a divisive subject, they made it illegal for any two humans to commit any “unnatural acts.” What’s an unnatural act? That’s for the judge to decide, but to be safe make sure it includes an animal, unless it’s a porcupine, since that would be illegal there. Prudes. Florida is an idiocracy, providing serious competition for South Carolina, Texas and Arizona as our country’s dumbest state government.
I wouldn’t call Zimmerman a murderer based on the evidence I’ve seen. However, that shouldn’t absolve him of responsibility. He made bad decision after bad decision. Now no one knows whether he escalated the fight once he hung up with 911 and Martin was defending himself. The evidence is inconclusive. But at the very least, Zimmerman played a pivotal role in creating the situation and he should be punished accordingly and prevented from ever being able to do this again.
Martin’s family thinks Zimmerman is responsible, Zimmerman’s family thinks Martin caused it, Geraldo Rivera thinks it was poor fashion sense, the state of Florida thinks feeling vaguely unsafe is a decent reason to start shooting people, the NRA probably thinks Martin should have had a gun too, and on and on it goes. Personally, I think it’s the culture of fear. We are all suspicious of each other. Now I’m in a job where I get paid (in housing at least) to be suspicious. We’re all worried about strangers. Anyone we don’t know is an unknown element that could be trouble, even though statistically most people knew their killer, rapist or molester, and let them get close. Even a lot of thieves are family, friends, neighbors, acquaintances, employees or hired help. In other words, the guy you see walking around at night in the hoodie in the rain is statistically less of a threat to you and yours than you and yours.
This potential pedophile in our pool and the fact that the police can’t/won’t help has driven home the place of civilians in their own protection. I’m not the fighting type, but when I see him a familiar primal terror-turned-hate-over-years boils up in me. The abuse I suffered at the hands of my father was a hand me down from his uncle who molested him as a boy. My mother’s sister was molested by their father. Her sister’s son raped his own sister and went on to likely molest all seven of his sons. My grandmother’s sister married a man who molested their two daughters until he drank himself to death. They all got away with it. Not one of the criminals I just mentioned was punished for it. I’ve chased this guy away from our pool, but if he’s taking pictures of kids, that means he’s likely on the hunt again. He might be out there now looking for a new victim.
Zimmerman proved he couldn’t be trusted with the responsibility of a gun and the authority of a civilian watch. Can any of us be trusted in all circumstances that we could encounter? Can the police be trusted? What about the military? Maybe the updated version of “He who is without sin” is “He who is without prejudice pick up the first gun.” Each new gun is a Pandora’s Box and I’m not quite sure a consolation prize like hope is worth all the horrors that escape.
“Here’s to alcohol: the cause of, and solution to, all of life’s problems.” -Homer Simpson – it works as well for guns these days.