George Zimmerman got away with murder and will again walk the streets. That is not the issue.
Three-thousand people have died via gun violence since Newton including Trayvon Martin. That is not the issue.
Despite President Barack Obama’s election, we are not even close to living in a post-racial society in 2013. That is not the issue.
The media has had a field day covering nothing but the Zimmerman trial for the last ten days while ignoring major world events that should have been covered. That is not the issue.
So, what is the issue in the aftermath of the George Zimmerman verdict? Simple. The overarching issue related to the Trayvon Martin case boils down to this: Americans today are outraged over the wrong things.
Currently, millions of Americans are outraged over the George Zimmerman verdict. A self-appointed neighborhood vigilante took it upon himself to racially profile a young African American male. He called 911 and was told not to engage with the alleged “suspect”. He did so anyway. He chased down and confronted the African American male. A conflict ensued. The African American male was killed while Zimmerman had a few scratches and cuts on his head. The case never would have seen the light of day had it not been for Anonymous, the internet activist group who brought the case into the national media’s eyes. The prosecution fumbled and bumbled the case. The jury acquitted Zimmerman of second degree murder and manslaughter. Case closed.
As terrible as the verdict is, what’s even more disheartening is how Americans in 2013 buy into the media narratives and engage in what we will call “selective anger”. Each and every day, Americans are killed by gun violence. Yet it took the slaughter of 26 young children and school employees for the public to momentarily get behind meaningful legislation to help curb this problem. Even then, withe something as simple as background checks, which nearly 90% of the American public supports, the Senate still caters to public interests and refused to pass the legislation. Those senators that refused to support the bill took a momentary hit in the polls. However, the American public has a short memory span and odds are these senators will enter their re-election time period with their vote being termed ancient history in the political world.
The overriding issue with the gun violence issue is that the American public has a short attention span. Remember that we are currently the generation of reality TV, smartphones, and Facebook. Americans today become involved in an issue as long as it is prevalent in the national news media. The problem with that sentiment is that with the 24-hour cable news cycle, the national news media are trained to move on to a new issue as soon as the current one loses steam. In the coming couple of days, expect to see a wide range of hosts and cable TV pundits address the aftermath of the George Zimmerman verdict. Come Thursday and Friday however, expect to see another entirely new news story take the place of George Zimmerman as the story will have lost its luster by that point in time.
So, what should Americans be concerned about today? Issues that directly affect their lives. As we saw with the Arab Spring, when a population directly brings a singular issue to the forefront of the national political debate, the elected officials have no choice but to respond to the will of the people. For America to succeed going forward, we cannot have multiple issues sprawling across the political landscape. With the age of information at our fingertips, Americans have the ability to research and become well-educated in public policy issues of the day. In the internet age, there are enough resources for the American public to know not only the issues at hand but also the pros and cons of the issue and how the major political parties are addressing the issue. For real change to occur, Americans need to be united in their beliefs and their call of action.
What the Trayvon Martin case showed us is that the collective will of the American people can be powerful and moving if done correctly. However, if is is showcased in a way in which it is retroactive rather than proactive then no major issues will be resolved. The American public has a sense of justice and what is right and wrong. However, it should have never gotten to the point where we, as a population, are protesting an event long after the fact that it has happened.
In order for true change to occur, Americans need to be united in their call to action and it needs to happen before and not after an issue has occurred. Then and only then will we see meaning action on the part of our government officials.