As I write this the George Zimmerman/Trayvon Martin case recently came to a close. The demagoguery around this case has been staggering. A couple of things that really bug me -
1) Zimmerman was NOT told to stay in his car during a 911 call. He had not called 911, he called a non-emergency police number. The dispatcher on the phone asked him where Trayvon was going when Trayvon ran out of sight. George got out of his car to see. When the dispatcher told George that George didn't need to follow Trayvon, George said OK and started walking back to his truck.
2) George did not confront Trayvon, it was the other way around. That's what George said, and that is even what Rachel Jeantel said. Her first report said that Trayvon spoke first and said "Why are you following me?" This clearly happened after Trayvon had disengaged from George and circled back to confront George.
And most importantly, the constant drumbeat of criticism of Florida's "Stand Your Ground" law. This law was NEVER USED in the case. It was never mentioned by the Prosecution or the Defense. It was NOT in the jury instructions. This case was decided PURELY on self defense laws. Florida's are similar to those of every state in the union. The jury found as a question of fact that George was on his back being struck by Trayvon, that George was in fear of his life and/or great bodily harm, and was therefore justified in using deadly force. They also believed that Trayvon came up to George, while George was returning to his truck, and that Trayvon threw the first punch. George was on the ground being beaten and never had the opportunity to retreat, so the Stand Your Ground law never applied.
But let's talk about the Stand Your Ground law for a second. Earlier tonight I asked one of The Hairy Urchins about standing his ground. "If you were minding your own business, and some guy comes up to you, starts screaming at you about how he is going to punch you out, and starts waving his arms around, should you be required to retreat to avoid a fight?" He answered "No!" I agree with him. Despite what Atty Gen Eric Holder said, neither federal nor state law makes that requirement. It might be SMART to do that, but the law doesn't require it. Nor do I think it should. We should be able to go about our business without having to run from people who are annoying or threatening us.
Unfortunately believers in big government would disagree. One of the underlying goals of the bewildering profusion of laws and regulations we have seen come out of government in the last few decades has the result of making Americans less self reliant. We have less and less power to defend ourselves, settle our disagreements with our neighbors, or even decide what we and our children will ingest.
I saw a perfect example the other day. Some little jerk teenagers broke into a house and started vandalising it. They were discovered by an adult who was watching over the property. I think it would have been appropriate for him to give them a good spanking (note - I have never felt the need to spank my kids, but they have never done anything so horrible), grab them by the scruff of the neck, and march them to their parents where they would hopefully receive appropriate negative reinforcement. But no, the guy just shut them in a closet to wait for the police to come. He caught them in the middle of committing a felony, and safely detained them for the police. He was charged with kidnapping and child abuse. Apparently in his jurisdiction he has no authority to even touch a kid who was destroying property in front of him.
The results of this kind of philosophy can be seen in Britain. I recently saw several episodes of the British equivalent of COPS. On several occasions old people were being harassed by young hoodlums. They were struck, their property vandalised, and they were regularly subjected to verbal abuse. They weren't allowed to directly interact with the kids. Hose them down for example. They were told to call the coppers. The coppers would show up, tell the thugs to be good little boys and girls, and that was it. You see once the government had taken the ability to help themselves away from citizens, usually with the promise that the government would protect them, the government in turn chose not to use the power that the citizens had given it to protect the citizens.
That will happen here if we let the government take away the existing Stand Your Ground laws. We do not have a DUTY to retreat in the face of bullying.