Sometimes the actual experience of being in America leaves me lost. Trying to process everything that happens here, boil meaning out of any given week, can make my mind feel as if it's collapsing in on itself.
This week, continuing coverage of George Zimmerman's trial, charged with second-degree murder for shooting Trayvon Martin, completely bested me. On Friday evening I was about ready to turn my iPhone in (with all the drama of a cop handing in his badge) and move out of civilisation into a cabin in the woods. I think LP was pretty sick of the endless ranting.
To me, it all seems self-explanatory. Zimmerman, a noted paranoid crank, baited Martin by following him through his neighbourhood. Martin fought back at some point and Zimmerman shot him. The trial itself is to determine whether at some point who was the actual aggressor and who had the upper hand. Was it an act of self-defence or madness? I say, who cares? Either way, an unarmed 17-year-old kid was shot dead. The trial is the equivalent of arguing with the referee, when it is the game itself, at least with regards to guns in America, which is rigged.
But then to muddy all of this, race hangs over the situation. Martin seemed to be a pretty friendly kid from a middle-class family. He had his problems, he dabbled with marijuana, made a macho statement or two and got in trouble at school. It is all standard 17-year-old stuff, except in the hands of those people looking to justify his death, where it becomes ammunition for sneering racial insinuation.
The racism element became overt this last week as Rachel Jeantel, who was on the phone with Martin soon before his death, took the stand. Yes, her story cracks a little on inspection, but she's a kid who lost her friend and, seriously, you try having perfect recall in those circumstances.
But Jeantel's statement isn't up for scrutiny. Instead, she's been laughed at for being uneducated, overweight and talking funny. I made the mistake of veering into the comments sections on a series of articles about her and was left unable to feel any pride in the human progress people talk so warmly about. By the time I got to a remark about now Jeantel proved the argument for abortion, because it would be better if she were dead, I felt sick.
This past week though, regressive remarks weren't limited to Internet commenters. Texas State Senator Wendy Davis filibustered a bill (speaking for 11 hours to block its passage) that would limit access to abortion in the state. She is also the product of a single mother and had her first child at the age of 19, which was pointed out without any semblance of class by Texas Governor Rick Perry, admittedly an idiot of the highest order, who remarked to press, "It is just unfortunate that she hasn't learned from her own example..."
Say... what now?
But then we also had great things happen last week, worth feeling good about. The Supreme Court struck down Proposition 8 and part of the Defense of Marriage Act and gay marriage returned to California. The newspaper the next day was filled with stories of people in love who could look forward to promising their lives to each other. It was as warm a news reading experience as I've had for a while.
And then Republicans and Democrats came together and passed a not too horrific immigration reform bill through the Senate.
But just as you could feel good about life here, the storm clouds returned. House Republicans got their shackles up at the assumption they'd do something sensible, because, hey, they're pretty busy passing retrograde legislation to limit women's rights that has no chance of getting anywhere. Various cranks came then forward to spew narrow, shortsighted invective about why immigration reform shouldn't happen.
Obama continued to plead innocence at the constant talk of the NSA having massively breached the privacy of millions of Americans, even as more horrible evidence of the abuse became known.
And then in my mind, at this stage it's a short leap to cycle back to all of the Republican figures who are silent on the NSA story, which steamrolls a lot of the constitution, but who will lay down their lives to protect against government invasion of the second amendment and keep guns in the hand of the Zimmermans of this world.
But then I guess, we're all amplifying the NSA situation by throwing every inane detail of our lives online to be snooped on, aren't we?
My mind was hurting. Obama announced new climate change policies and a hell's army of polluters and lobbyists seem to have gathered to fight this still hypothetical threat, almost before the end of the day. I talked about crime here on this very blog and then another friend of mine was mugged.
It's a mental whirlpool that spins and spins and spins, until the only option I can think of to turn it all off is to put my head in the sand. But that's not an answer.
Trying to hold all of this in my head and digest it, I thought a lot this week about how that first moment when I arrive in New Zealand is a lot like stepping out of a noisy, crowded, aggressive room and into a soundproof chamber. It's perfect.
I can't connect the world I read about and the world I see in front of me here. It is disorienting.
It makes me miss being in New Zealand, where the conversation is in front of you, coming down a couple of tracks and feels connected to where you are and what you're living.
Here it's just chaos theory.
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