Writing for Front Page Magazine, Arnold Ahlert castigates his fellow conservatives for acting badly.
In “Framing Trayvon,” Ahlert contends that “many conservatives” have engaged in a “demonization campaign” against Martin—or “Trayvon,” as Ahnert calls him—that runs “parallel” to that promoted against Zimmerman by such “racial arsonists” as Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson. Conservatives “have hastily embraced caricatures of Trayvon Martin, painting him as a vicious street thug who deserved his fate.”
Ahlert insists that Martin sounded like “little more than a rambunctious teenager” whose family and friends describe as “a fine young man,” “warm and funny,” and “a standout athlete with an enormous appetite.”
Where do we begin?
First, Ahlert is correct that, from day one, the “racial arsonists” did indeed rush to demonize Zimmerman. Yet he fails to so much as hint at the fact that the demonization of Zimmerman demanded the idealization of Martin. By now, everyone who’s paid any attention to this case is all too familiar with the media’s tireless juxtaposition of Zimmerman’s mug shots alongside the outdated pictures of a prepubescent Martin.
Had Ahlert mentioned this, it would immediately become clear that it isn’t “conservatives,” but Martin who supplied us with a negative caricature of Martin. More accurately, as details emerged since February of 2012, time has exploded the idyllic caricature of Martin that the “anti-racists” have labored to embed in the popular imagination. The Martin who had that fateful encounter with Zimmerman was a far cry from the 6th grader whose photograph was plastered all over the media for months after the shooting. As Ahlert himself admits, at the time of his death, Martin “used foul language, made obscene gestures on camera, probably smoked marijuana, and engaged in other troublesome teenage behavior”—like getting caught with possession of what was likely stolen jewelry, getting repeatedly suspended from school, and attempting to assault a bus driver.
This brings us to a second point.
Neither conservatives nor anyone else has made Martin out to be a vicious thug, as Ahlert says. What the record shows is that he was a thug of a sort, a thug wannabe, if you will. At the very least, he was thuggish, even if he may not have been a full blown thug.
And we know this, not just from his record, but solely from the fact that he unleashed a torrent of violence upon Zimmerman.
No one disputes that Martin threw the first punch. From what has been determined, it was he who threw every other punch after that as well. To be clear, there was no exchange of blows between Martin and Zimmerman. Rather, Zimmerman was on his back as Martin repeatedly pounded on him.
The difference between a thuggish person who fears for his life and a non-thuggish person in the same circumstance is that a non-thuggish person would have fled the danger. Martin clearly could’ve done as much. The difference between a thuggish person who doesn’t fear for his life and a similarly situated non-thuggish person is that the latter would not have continued beating his antagonist—even if he wanted to and even if he could have done so.
Contra Ahlert, to acknowledge these facts is not to say that Martin “deserved” to be killed. Much less has anyone, least of all the “conservatives” who Ahlert lectures, even remotely insinuated that Martin deserved to be killed because of his lifestyle.
However, to concede the facts is to concede both that Martin did indeed act thuggishly and that Zimmerman was just as justified in shooting him as an elderly woman would be justified in shooting an assailant who had her pinned on the ground while striking her.
Though painful, we mustn’t lose sight of the realities of the Zimmerman/Martin case—even if the Ahlerts of the world insist upon calling them “caricatures.”