When we lived in New York City I worried about my kids’ safety. A lot. The windows of our apartment used to frame the World Trade Center. And then it was gone. One minute there, the next, gone. I was pregnant with my son on September 11th, 2001 and when he was born it was hard for me not to feel that something or someone could come and take him away at any moment. When he went to nursery school I would periodically look out my windows in the direction of his school to make sure I didn’t see a plume of smoke, ready to run and get him if needed. I wrote about it here. When my children went to elementary school, a public school in lower Manhattan, I worried about their safety more. There was one security guard stationed at the front door, but she didn’t do anything aside from smile when you came in. There was nobody checking identification, no need to prove you had business in the school, and I had seen delivery guys coming and going without being stopped. It would be so easy for a terrorist to enter that school, I thought. But like everyone else who lives in a big city that has been the target of terror, I hoped for the best and tried not to think about it too much.
When we visited the school where my children would enroll once we moved to Connecticut, my first thought was, “They’ll never find them here.” The threat of terrorism was not at all a motivation to leave the city, but the germ of paranoia had embedded itself so deeply in my subconscious, the thought popped into my head totally involuntarily, just for a second, and was immediately replaced with wonder at how pretty the school was. Surrounded by rolling fields, forsythia, and distant views, the little school is perfect. And perfectly safe. Of course seven months later twenty six people were murdered in a similar school the next town over. There’s really no safe place.
At our former school in New York, the big one with no security, my son’s fourth grade class was studying the Civil Rights movement when Trayvon Martin was shot. The teacher talked to the class about the case, and used it to enhance their Civil Rights curriculum. They could all relate to Trayvon, even if it was just because they liked Skittles, too. And then we moved. We took the kids by the pretty school, we drove down rambling twisting country roads, past dairy farms and enormous yards where people kept alpacas and sheep, past fields of wildflowers, we took them to what would be our new home. My son was quiet in the back of the car. He had seen something that frightened him. It was this.
I explained that just because there was a neighborhood watch, it didn’t mean we had bought a house in a dangerous neighborhood. But I didn’t get it. He was afraid of the neighborhood watch. He was afraid of George Zimmerman. I explained Zimmerman was an angry man who unfairly targeted Trayvon Martin because of his own ignorance, and he had been arrested. Now I’ve got to somehow explain to my son that the man who shot and killed a kid who was out buying Skittles, got away with it, that a jury found what he did wasn’t even against the law, and I don’t know how to do that, because I don’t understand it myself.
Stand-Your-Ground laws don’t make any kind of sense. Nothing about George Zimmerman going free makes any kind of sense. If he was worried about his own safety, why did he get out of his car? Why did he stalk Trayvon? If I saw someone in my neighborhood that frightened me, I wouldn’t get out of my car and chase them down to shoot at them. Only a delusional madman would do such a thing. Why was he allowed to carry a loaded weapon to begin with, given his prior arrest for assaulting a police officer, and the restraining order against him for domestic battery? What the fuck is going on here?
We can all post support for Trayvon’s family on Facebook, sign petitions online, and take pictures of our kids wearing hoodies, but I don’t think that is going to make one bit of real difference. That’s not going to change laws. The only thing that can fix the myriad problems we face as a nation is the one thing that matters most to most Americans. Money. I’m not talking about spending money to fix this. I’m talking about NOT spending money, specifically in Florida, Texas, and all other states that continue to violate the rights of minorities, children, and women. Other than that I’m at a loss. Now I’ve got to go talk to my son.