Sunday, March 25, 2012

Stand Your ground

The Treyvon Martin case and Florida's “Stand Your Ground” law are currently in the eye of the constant media storm. Florida's “Stand Your Ground” law is interesting and I have been thinking about what it means. And the concept as well as thinking about the specific situation. Like everyone else I have an opinion on the subject.

The basic concept is the difference between “provocation” and “assault”. When is an act provocation or an assault?

Did you know an act as simple as clenching your fist at your side can be considered an act of assault? Assault does not require physical contact. Pointing a gun, knife or fist at someone is an assault. Touching someone is typically considered battery and can also be considered an assault. Truthfully the delineations between provocation, assault and battery is very gray. There is no black and white line.

Typically the legal system in the United States takes the position that the average person does not have the right to protect themselves from an attack. The average person is supposed to call the police, who may or may not come, and cower or retreat from whatever they are afraid of.

Is someone who throws a rock at you trying to kill you? Maybe, maybe not. Rocks can kill. Is someone pointing a gun at someone trying to kill them? Maybe, maybe not. Guns can kill. Is someone pushing someone trying to kill them? Maybe, maybe not. Pushing someone can kill them.

The idea of self defense is that a person must have a reasonable fear that they or someone else is in immediate danger of bodily harm or death.

If someone pushes someone does that represent an immediate danger of bodily harm or death?

I have to say yes. In fact if someone is making any kind of assault against someone else, even to the point of trying to make them flinch, the person making the overt hostile act is endangering the life of the other person. This is actually similar to the definition of assault. If a person is being assaulted I believe they have a reasonable fear of bodily harm or death.

How often does a push or a slap result in death? Not often. Very rarely. Is it reasonable to take deadly force if someone pushes or slaps someone? In my opinion it is. The reality is that we cannot know what a person who is pushing or slapping another person is thinking. We know that pushing and slapping are overt acts of hostility that are unacceptable. Are they examples of deadly force or a precursor to deadly force? In my opinion they are all examples of assault and as such people have the right to defend themselves against the assailant.

In the Treyvon Martin case Martin was followed by Zimmerman. Is following someone wrong? Is it an assault? Does it place the person being followed in fear for their life?

In my opinion it does. Trayvon had the right to stand his ground, under Florida's “Stand Your Ground” law, and confront the person following him. Does the person following now have the right to shoot the person confronting them? Not in my opinion. By following Treyvon, without any previous confrontation, Zimmerman became the aggressor. Essentially Zimmerman “started the fight” by following Trayvon.

In my opinion Treyvon, as the victim of an assault by Zimmerman, is the one who should be protected by Florida's “Stand Your Ground” law.

This is all hind sight, based on reading articles on the subject.

My personal belief is that anyone being assaulted has the right to defend themselves. Following, in my opinion, is an assault since it places the person being followed in fear for their life. Confronting someone is an assault. Here is where it becomes gray.

Suppose someone is walking down the streets of Detroit in a Confederate flag tee shirt. Is that person deliberately provoking an attack?

A black friend and I were talking once and I told him that as a kid I thought the confederate flag was cool, but that as I got older I didn't think it was so cool. He told me that he thought it was cool when he was a kid too. He even bought one and put it on his bicycle until his uncle pulled him aside and explained what it meant. We had both gone through two stages of appreciation, an ascetic appreciation and an emotional appreciation. We appreciated the way something looks and then we appreciated the social meaning the symbol had.

Is the way a person dresses a provocation?

In my opinion it is not.

How about what a person says? What if they use inappropriate language? Say the “N” word oooohhhh. Is that a deliberate provocation?

In my opinion it is not. Words are emotionally damaging, not physically damaging.

Essentially, my opinion is that if a person behaves in a way that is considered assault the person being assaulted has the right and responsibility to defend themselves.

As the aggressor Zimmerman should not be able to use Florida's “Stand Your Ground” law to defend his actions.

There is the difference, the aggressor versus the victim. How do we know which is which? In the case of Treyvon Martin Zimmerman told us. He was aggressor because he followed Treyvon Martin placing Martin in a position where he felt threatened. Other cases are not so easily decided.

In my opinion the only reason every state does not have a “Stand Your Ground” law is because our governments have accepted the basic premise that people are incapable of deciding if they are in danger and have the right to defend themselves.

The media loves this premise because it gives them the right and responsibility to tell people how and what to think.

There is nothing wrong with Florida's “Stand Your Ground” law. There is an issue with the way it was applied in the Treyvon Martin case and there is an issue with states that do not have these kinds of laws that allow people to stand up to bullying.

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