Gone Too Soon

It has been five years…but it could have happened yesterday. It could happen again tomorrow.

February 26 will be the fifth anniversary of the slaughter of Trayvon Martin, a 17-year-old Florida resident who was slain by a member of the “neighborhood watch” who assumed he was a criminal. Martin’s death triggered a national conversation–one that has not stopped no matter how badly right-wingers wish it would–about the extent to which American society values the lives of African-American men. Sadly, the hate that led to Martin’s murder seems to have grown exponentially in the years since he lost his life; heck, a bigoted Presidential candidate won Florida–and the White House–last year.

Martin’s murder had numerous political ramifications; it can be argued that it was the aftermath of Martin’s execution that laid bare as never before the fundamental intellectual dishonesty of the American conservative movement. Rather than facing inconvenient truths about race and gun violence in America, the right aggressively promoted the idea that Martin was little more than a “thug” who deserved the bullet. The conservative movement declared, in effect: It’s a darn good thing that he’s dead. After all, you wouldn’t want him dating your daughter, would you?

Several weeks after Martin’s murder, former President Barack Obama famously declared, “If I had a son, he’d look like Trayvon.” The fact that such innocent words made the right wing go ballistic tells you all you need to know about the intellectual depravity and soullessness of American conservatism. (None of the folks who heaped scorn on Martin, his family and Obama can call themselves “pro-lifers”; does anyone honestly think these right-wingers would have minded if a pregnant Sybrina Fulton–or a pregnant Ann Dunham, for that matter–had gone to the neighborhood clinic?)

Speaking of intellectual depravity, one has to wonder how any African-American Republican could have possibly remained with the GOP after bearing witness to the right wing’s demonization of Martin. African-American Republicans aren’t immune from being profiled as “thugs” and potential criminals by white bigots. Do African-American Republicans who decided to stick with the GOP in the aftermath of the Martin case really believe that the controversy over his murder was nothing more than an example of “political correctness”?

The Martin case is regarded as the catalyst for the Black Lives Matter movement. Of course, this decade (and earlier decades) have taught us that black lives don’t matter to right-wingers. Trayvon Martin’s life didn’t matter to conservatives; the same goes for the lives of Michael Brown, Eric Garner, Tamir Rice, Philando Castile and Alton Sterling. To right-wingers, these men were Americans by accident, citizens in name only. Right-wingers couldn’t give a damn about the families of these men, and the emotional wounds their families will take to their own graves.

Trayvon Martin would have turned 22 two weeks ago. Think for a moment about the man he would have become, the husband and father he could have become, the leader he might have become. He died without cause, without mercy, without justice…and the American conservative movement rejoiced over his dead body.

D.R. Tucker

D. R. Tucker is a Massachusetts-based journalist who has served as the weekend contributor for the Washington Monthly since May 2014. He has also written for the Huffington Post, the Washington Spectator, the Metrowest Daily News, investigative journalist Brad Friedman's Brad Blog and environmental journalist Peter Sinclair's Climate Crocks.