Much has already been said about both men, through pictures and words. Martin's most famous photo shows him as a smiling fifteen-year-old (the date the picture was taken, like so much else in this case, is disputed). Zimmerman's shows bloody injuries to the back of his head. Jonathen Capehart of the Washington Post wrote some famous and influential opinion pieces that added to the racism fury, and many others have cited different reasons that the entire case is rife with racism-- against Martin, against Zimmerman, maybe against them both.
The people of the United States don't need a Big Brother to manufacture their Two-Minute Hate. They are perfectly capable of creating their own.
There are people who make their living distorting facts and fancies into useful illusions, and like the mercenaries of old they may sell their services to whomever can afford them. Such persons, in and out of lawyers' offices, have thrown more mud into an already hazy divining pool. Martin's school record was brought into light, including a suspension for having an empty baggie with traces of cannabis in it. Also shown was that Zimmerman was on prescription meds. Martin might have gotten into fights at school. Maybe Zimmerman hated African-Americans. The prosecution says he did. The FBI says he didn't. Footage from the 7-11 was compared to Martin's famed "red T-shirt" photo in an attempt to shake off the "innocent child" image the first photo conjured. Forensic evidence showed that Zimmerman was in a fight (they call it "defending himself"). A witness says she saw Martin on top of Zimmerman, hitting him repeatedly. There has been disagreement as to who, exactly, was recorded screaming for help.
None of this shows the one important element in the whole puzzle. That being: who started the fight.
This isn't a relatively clear-cut case of a SWAT team in full gear breaking into an apartment and gunning down an old man armed with a steak knife, or of a sniper shooting a woman holding her child as she's trying to surrender. This is two young men (one seventeen, one twenty-eight) getting into a nighttime brawl, one of them killing the other.
If someone were to attack me, they shouldn't be surprised to find themselves on the ground being battered senseless. Likewise, if I have a weapon and I am satisfied that its use is the only way to survive when they attack me, rest assured I will use it. Neither circumstance makes me the instigator. Thus, neither of these men can be safely assumed to be the culprit.
Further, pot use doesn't make someone a thug, being on meds doesn't mean a person is unstable, and chasing after an alleged criminal, regardless of how ill-advised the act may be, doesn't make someone an assailant. Likewise, screaming for help doesn't mean you're innocent; it just means you're getting beaten. Or, it might mean you know you're being recorded, and you think you're being clever. It really doesn't matter who screamed.
We live in a time and place where the Victim is most often seen as the hero of the story, and placed on a pedestal for their pains. It's a sad state of affairs, but there it is. The person who kills in self-defence, with few exceptions, is only a hero if they were terrified beyond all reason, preferably broken by what they were "forced to do", and hopefully threatened with rape. Otherwise - even if restraint genuinely would have meant death - society oft condemns those who destroy their attackers as frightening, hateful, uncontrolled Beasts.
On February 26, 2012, Zimmerman and Martin got into a fight. Zimmerman killed Martin.
The petitions followed. Then the media and the lawyers descended, each side building pedestals to prove that their boy was the Victim, and pasting horror-masks on the other fellow to show he was the Beast. It would be a lovely world if law offices and information-smiths existed only to inform, and to see that the truth was revealed to the world. But in actuality, lawyers make their living by doing what they can to control and sometimes suppress information before court even convenes. These people, and those who work with them, must trust in the adversarial system to use them like cogs in a greater machine to find and reveal the truth.
But any system is as corrupt as the worst people can make it, and as the majority of people will allow.
Thus, various agencies have surrounded the case with so much illusion, hearsay, innuendo, and half-truths that we will likely never know who started that tragic fight. And after all is said and sifted, that's what it was. In and of itself, it was a fight.
There is a saying among martial artists: "When two tigers fight, one may die... but both will be hurt." People do die in fights. It's a sad truth, but there it is. People die in fights. Starting a fight doesn't make you racist, or a thug, or any number of things these men have been called (although it does make you stupid).
Some people chose to associate a conviction of Zimmerman as a victory for civil rights. They believe that the killing must have been racially motivated, and that any acquittal could only be caused by further racism. Others have maintained that it was plainly self-defence, and therefore acquittal was the only justice possible. There is enough fear just in the trial alone to keep the flames burning over Trayvon Martin's grave for years to come, on both sides. The trial may be over, but the war has only begun.
If Martin started it, then he got what he paid for.
If Zimmerman started it, then it's a damn shame Martin didn't get the gun away from him.
But after all is said and sifted, all we know - all we can know - is that two men got into a fight and one of them died. And that in the aftermath, two families have had holes punched in their lives that will never be mended.
So, if you truly feel the need to get involved with a case so shrouded with smoke and mirrors, set aside your Two-Minute Hate. Because no matter how compelling one theory or another might be, you don't know who the Bad Guy is. None of us do. Therefore, if you must do something, do something constructive. Send the survivors your support, and if you're into prayer, pray for them. And work towards a society where the question of racism becomes one of absurdity.