Zimmerman Trial: Just 1 Scene in a Gun-Culture Drama

In a piece for the New Yorker, Jelani Cobb discusses the second-degree-murder trial of George Zimmerman in terms of America's gun culture and perceptions of race.

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George Zimmerman, right, with jury consultant Robert Hirschhorn (Getty Images)

In a piece for the New Yorker, Jelani Cobb discusses the George Zimmerman trial, which began on Monday, in terms of America's gun culture and perceptions of race.

It's possible -- no, reasonable -- to look at Martin's death as the opening scene in a four-act drama centering on American gun culture. The subsequent scenes were set in Aurora, Colorado; Oak Creek, Wisconsin; and Newtown, Connecticut.

If we've been hesitant to recognize Martin as part of that processional of slain bystanders, it's because the public sympathies here are muddied. More than in any of the other instances, people quietly, perhaps ashamedly -- or not -- can find it easier to imagine themselves in Zimmerman's shoes than those of James Holmes, Wade Michael Page, or Adam Lanza. How else to explain the impressive sums proffered by supporters via Zimmerman's Web site? Or the nauseating popularity of Trayvon Martin shooting targets last spring? Not all unarmed citizens facing down armed men are created equal. Where Newtown, the tragic climax to a season of violence, caused deep self-reflection on the presumed bonds between weaponry and liberty and the unchallenged authority of the National Rifle Association, the Martin-Zimmerman incident prompted far less pondering about these questions. Context matters.

This week, the prosecution will try to narrow down a prospective pool of five hundred people to a set of jurors and alternates who can imagine themselves in Martin's position, while the defense will attempt to empanel a jury of people who might sympathize with a man fearing for his life despite the sidearm within reach ...

Read Jelani Cobb's entire piece at the New Yorker.

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