I’m sitting at my kitchen table, writing a letter which you will probably never read. In Perth, Western Australia, where I’m at my table, it’s mid-afternoon. In Florida, it’s early morning. I imagine you’re either asleep, or will be soon. No court tomorrow. It’s over.
I can only imagine how you felt when the verdict was passed. How did you feel? Elated? Relieved? Sad? Frightened? Whatever the emotion, you were able to walk out of that courtroom, and go home — or at least, go somewhere that wasn’t prison. You could be with your family, finally. I’m sure they’ve missed you and are glad to have you back.
I’m guessing you’ve not watched the news or gone online much since you got ‘out’. It’s probably not a bad idea to avoid them altogether, for a while. There are a fair number of people who are… somewhat upset about the decision to let you go, after you shot and killed another person. And there is a whole other group that thinks you were completely justified. I’ll let you imagine how they’re all getting along right now.
The thing is, nobody else knows what happened between you and Trayvon Martin that night. You were there, and he was there, and he’s now dead. So the only person in the world who knows exactly what happened is you.
Does that weigh on you?
Which were the lies or half-truths told in court? What did they tell you to say? What did they tell you to leave out? Do you feel as if justice has been done… or does it leave a bad taste in your mouth?
I really want to know, because I find the whole thing so puzzling. I live in an area where people are shot occasionally, where my neighbours deal drugs, where there are clashes between groups and gangs of different races and backgrounds, where it may or may not be safe to walk home after dark (and I’m not about to take the risk to find out). And yet, I don’t know anyone who has a gun, let alone who walks around with one. I can’t even imagine that there would be a law that says you’re allowed to shoot someone because you feel threatened.
I can’t imagine living in a community where you feel that the police are so unreliable or ineffectual that the Neighbourhood Watch carry guns.
I can’t imagine that kind of fear. It borders on paranoia — except, of course, that some of them really are out to get you.
Did you think Trayvon Martin was out to get you, George? Did you exchange racial slurs, did you fight? Did he taunt you? Did you fear for your life? Do you think back, over those last minutes of his life, and do you wish, with the very fibre of your being, that things had gone differently? That you had just walked away… that you had been somewhere else at that time, that you had never been there in the first place?
I hope you wish that. I hope you are relieved it is over, and that you are glad for your freedom, but I hope you feel regret and remorse, and that you wish it had never happened. Because whatever happened on that night, whatever he said or did, however he made you feel… surely, it can’t have been worth all this. A death — an agonising, awful death — a trial by media, an international outrage, all because of one terrible moment.
The whole thing is a tragedy, most of which falls out of the realms of my imagination, and yet perhaps the greatest tragedy is that I can easily imagine it happening again. Unless the culture changes, unless the laws change, unless people change. It will happen again. And it will be just as tragic and as pointless and as desperately sad, when it does.
I need to sign off, now. I have to get dinner ready and bring in the clean washing. In a couple of hours, you’ll be getting up, having breakfast. Life goes on, until we die, and then it doesn’t.
You are free and alive, George. Please, please: make your life worth something. Make it amazing. Make it extraordinary. Do something else, something incredible, and good, and worthy, so that when the world hears the name ‘George Zimmerman’, they don’t just think of that guy, who killed Trayvon Martin.
Yours in peace,