“Ok, We don’t need you to do that” A tale of Morality; Zimmerman Case

On Feb 26th a young man died, and another is set to be tried for this act. I have discuss the legalities of the case on several different posts.  For this post I will attempt to look at the incident and the people involved from the Moral point of view. So lets attempt to define “morals”.  Morals are seen as “morality is a complex structure to maintain social cohesion and enhance survivability among social creatures(1)”  in order words, morals are the beliefs that guide us within our society. Those beliefs that guide our conduct come from typically from religious beliefs and teachings or for the secularists from natural law or a combination of both. Thomas Jefferson used both when writing:

“We hold these Truths to be self-evident, that all Men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness.”(2)

I want to be clear in that I am not talking about Ethics here as they are often seen as synonymous but, morals are beliefs based on practices or teachings regarding how people conduct themselves in personal relationships and in society, while ethics refers to a set or system of principles, or a philosophy or theory behind them.  A person can have no morals but behave ethically, just as a moral person will or can break laws if it conflicts with its morals.

“Always do what is right. It will gratify half of mankind and astound the other.” –Mark Twain

Now that I have confused you, lets begin.  Where did George Zimmerman derived his morals from? In trying to determine that we need to look at his background, his family, and most importantly his past actions. We know he was raised in the Catholic church, his father was in the military and later a Magistrate.  This is a good way to start, and see if he was affected by his surroundings in trying to determine his morals.  We have found out that GZ was interested in justice, and combating injustice (Sherman Ware is an example).  GZ was known as “tugboat” as a friend described it, he was always there to pull you out of the shoals.  This led to his arrest in 2005, when he responded after a friend was man-handled by undercover alcohol enforcement agents and he attempted to aid his friend and got arrested as a result. From a moral point of view it appears that GZ had high morals, and had acted in a manner keeping of those morals.

“So far, about morals, I know only that what is moral is what you feel good after and what is immoral is what you feel bad after.”
― Ernest HemingwayDeath in the Afternoon

As we did with GZ let’s examine Trayvon Martin and what his morals were.  Unfortunately, due to his early demise, it will be unfair to render a complete judgement as the information about him is scant.  The family has not been very honest in its depiction of TM, and the information that has come to light is not very encouraging.   Here is some of what we know; his family was complex, his mother had an older brother from a different father.  TM’s father has been married several times, had several baby mammas and at the time of the incident was breaking up with his wife, and TM was staying temporarily at his father’s new girlfriend condo, hours away from where he had been living. Based on his social networks and comments by family members, TM’s morality came from emulating the Urban Thug lifestyle.  The morals of the Urban Thug are more primal, survivor of the fittest, strength of body, sexual conquests, self-medication, attainment of goods without regard, lack of regard for others (outside your family, and your pack).  All these things paint a very unflattering picture, but did they play a role in the incident or the events leading up to it?

“Compassion is the basis of morality.” ― Arthur Schopenhauer

Based on the two comparisons you would be tempted to say that GZ was acting morally, as he morals was his driving force and he acted morally according to his distaste for lawlessness and in an effort to protect those that lived in his community.  Perhaps, but if we look at the morals that TM ascribed too,  he too was acting within his morals.   GZ had disrespected him, by watching and then snitching on him to the police,  and “No limit N**gah”  is no punk ass b*tch.  This is not a  comment on the morality of GZ or TM just trying to see if they acted within their own  morality.

“Respect for ourselves guides our morals; respect for others guides our manners” ― Laurence Sterne

On that night GZ saw someone who his own morality led him to believe was suspicious, he did not see color, he saw someone who he wanted to protect his community from.  From experience he saw what appeared to be another punk asshole, the kind that always get away,  but because of his morality and because he did not see the punk commit a crime he calls the non-emergency number.  I often wondered why he did not call 911 and report a prowler, the response would have much quicker, I think his morality prevented him from embellishing the facts and to report only what he knew,  there had been many burglaries, the burglars had used this shortcut to access the community, TM was walking aimlessly in the rain, looking at homes.

As he drove past him and parked by the Clubhouse and was talking to the NEN dispatcher, as TM came to check him out his moral indignation shows as he says; ” these assholes they always get away” but notice that he does not get out of the truck and try to apprehend, he was again apprehensive, attentive of TM but calm.  He continues the conversation and tries to give directions to where he was, unsuccessfully, it is at this time that TM skips. runs away.  Now he has lost contact, at this time Sean the NEN dispatcher  asks? “He’s running? Which way is he running?” It is at this time that you hear the door chime and suddenly there is wind noise on the cell,  GZ answers Sean, “Down towards the other entrance to the neighborhood. (He watches Trayvon from a distance and sees that he is headed toward the “back” entrance.”   Wind noise, has been used to say that GZ was running towards TM, but as the conversation continues we can tell that is not the case, he was just walking trying to maintain eye contact.  It is at this point that the question is asked by Sean, Are you following him?  To which GZ answers in the affirmative,  and Sean says; “Okay, we don’t need you to do that”, to which GZ responds “Ok”.  At this point the dispatcher starts asking GZ his name and other information and is asked if GZ wanted to meet with the police, to which he says yes, and to have the police call him to get directions. It appears as if GZ walked to the end of the T, whether to get an address or to see if TM had left out the back gate, I don’t think he knows for sure, but as he is walking back towards his truck, TM reappears. “Why are you following me,”  or ” Do you have a fucking problem” , GZ attempts to tamp down the confrontation, he says “no”,  “I am not following you”  (in the first interview that W8 gave, the first time she described the incident, this is what she quoted hearing from GZ, which is what he says he said, later this was changed to ” what are you doing here” which completely changes the dynamics of the situation, and it makes GZ appeared as aggressive towards TM on first encounter. Interestingly enough this bit of recording from the interview was in the ABC tape that never made it to the State’s attorneys discovery. Here is a great break-down of the NEN call for reference.

“A moral system valid for all is basically immoral.” ― Friedrich Nietzsche

TM’s movements are a little harder to pin down, as there is conflicting testimony, some outright lies, but in this instance I don’t think it is needed.  What we know is that TM was not a happy person that day, it now appears that he had been arguing with W8 throughout the day,  he was also out of pot, his cousin had left for Miami, which left him alone with Brandy, his father’s girlfriend and her son Chad, and it had rained most of the day.  At some point during this miserable day TM went to the store,  upon his return a truck  drove by him and stop the person inside appeared to be looking at him,  as he got closer he decided to check this dude out.  He sees that this cracker was not only spying on him but may be calling the police on him.   He keeps walking and then suddenly he skips away, cuts through the building and finds a hiding place.  Sure enough the lights of the truck and then the stupid asshole.  As he tells W8 was is happening he lowers his voice,  yes he is getting closer,  run, shit I am not going to run, GZ keeps walking toward the end of the T to get his address, TM tells W8 he lost him,  and continues talking, then, oh here he comes again, he lets GZ go past him and then surprises him, “why are you following me, ” challenging , GZ responds meekly, Punk , “you do now” …

“The first principle of value that we need to rediscover is this: that all reality hinges on moral foundations. In other words, that this is a moral universe, and that there are moral laws of the universe just as abiding as the physical laws. (from “Rediscovering Lost Values”)”
― Martin Luther King Jr.A Knock at Midnight

So whose morals values are we going to use, GZ’s or TM’s or should we use the Judeo-Christian morals or to be fair, use their own morals to judge their actions.  If we do that then according to their own beliefs, they were both morally correct.  GZ was caught in very fluid situation, and with his moral respect of authority following orders.  When faced with an escalating situation, he tried de-escalate the situation,  even when under attack he still tried to get help, to disengage, it was only when the moral choice was him or TM did he pull the trigger, a moral decision that will haunt him for ever.  TM, to made some moral choices, when he approached the truck, he behaved as his morals guided him, acting tough.  After he ran, and he saw GZ was still trying to maintain contact he acted with moral indignation, and GZ was walking back his morals dictated that he showed GZ a lesson in respect.  They both acted within their moral bonds, and their actions were guided by them.  This is why I prefer to refrain from Moral judgements, as they are only a reflection on your own morals, not necessarily those involved.

Having found that both had acted within their moral codes, how do I judge the situation since my morals are closer in values to GZ, I find that after evaluating the situation his actions were moral as I see it.  Regarding TM and knowing the morals that they live by, I understand the actions, I just don’t approve of them. The feeling that they are living in a jungle and that this is how they must act, is causing great harm within the community and out of it, as adjusting your morals to a new reality is very difficult.  When judging events morally we need to take into account not just our moral values, but the ones who we are judging,  it does not mean we approve or condone it just that we understand their morals.  It is only then that we can try to help those whose morals are falling outside society’s norm.  I leave you with one of my favorite quotes about morals;

“How can one be well…when one suffers morally?”
― Leo TolstoyWar and Peace

Whether you feel GZ  is or not responsible for part, all or some of the events, he is morally entitled to a fair trial, something the State is working hard to prevent, so please if you are able to donate to his defense fund.

(1)http://logical-critical-thinking.com/human-thoughts/what-is-morality-and-where-does-morality-come-from/

(2)http://www.theatlantic.com/past/docs/issues/98apr/biomoral.htm

Advertisements

24 Comments

  1. This is sort of a post-script, this was a hard excersise and came to respond another blogger that sees GZ as morally responsible, to an extent for the incident that tragic day. In doing this I tried to see the events not as I would, but as the persons involved would, to do that I took some literaly license as I can’t know what goes into someone else’s head.

    This was specially hard with TM, as most of the information about him coming from the family is bias and it is filtered through their motives. I tried to rely more on what his friends and other family members said, for instance the comments by the cousin about giving a banging to the crackazz, and what did you expect from a Martin, the letter from another who in pretty good detail described the events, but still felt that TM was justified for being disrespected.

    The final version, left me unsatisfied as their is a lot about the morality of the players involved, not just GZ and TM that I had to remove. I hope that it is somewhat intelligible and worth thinking about especially as the trial is set to begin soon.

  2. Awesome post and well needed.
    I tend to look at life as if it is a circle. Not a line, or a path.
    There is a beginning & an end. Like a labyrinth.

    Every person regardless of morals, ethics, and laws has a free will to make choices that affect the circle. Morals to me are nothing more then the effect you maintain within the circle through experience and belief. Of course morals are different to each person. This causes disagreement because you have someone telling another what is right or wrong. There are those who will never own the effect on those they have affected, and there are those who constantly own the effect for those affected. Very few own their own effects. And of course it benefits either of the aforenamed individual types to convince others their way is right and all others are wrong.

    However, since choices sometimes HAVE TO be made with limited knowledge, (we are not all knowing beings), and sometimes lack of experience, to apply a specific moral code to what should have been done in hindsight is a dangerous thought. We then are being expected to know all based specifically on what has, may, or will happen, and not what is happening at the moment.

    GZ did not fear for his life due to his morals. He feared for his life for the lack of anothers morals. GZ did not shoot due to morals , he shot to save his life.

    On getting out of the truck? It is hard to concieve that removing himself from his vehicle simply because he has a firearm. If this is what someone concieves then they are more questioning how moral a person is IF they carry a firearm in the first place. Because we know after all guns are designed to be lethal. So basically carrying a firearm in their mind is immoral. They are attempting to argue the morals of an individual who intends on shooting for self preservation. In short….justifiable use of deadly force.

    So answering the question of whether or not it is moral to shoot an aggressor can only come from the one attempting to reconcile if self preservation is immoral or not. When faced with a you or them situation society accepts we not only have a right to defend ourselves, we also have an moral obligation to protect the innocent from harm.

    Moral code is simple. The end must justify the means.

    If the bad consequences of that means are outweighed by the good consequences of the end…… then it is moral.

    The means and the end must both be good. When a person kills in selfdefense though he may not intend the death of the aggressor as the intended end, he may morally intend the death of the aggressor as a means. The consequense for the aggressor are justified.

    Which brings us to the million $ question ……who was the aggressor? Well, that is up to the State of Florida to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that GZ was the aggressor and that TM was the selfdefender.

  3. There’s the rub, when trying to assign moral blame, who’s morality will you use? Our society has some moral norms, but within them people have their idea of morals, because unlike ethics morals are personal.

    My morals and somebody else’s may be alike but, I may have a moral objection to guns. So while in other aspects we agree, my moral objection to guns may drive me to doubt or view GZ negatively sorely on my moral objection to guns.

    Getting out of the truck to me is the most fascinating one, as one could logically say that it precipitated the incident, though this conclusion is flawed as it ignores other things, it is one easily arrived at. The issue is that it requires that GZ make assumptions, the very assumptions for which he is charged that, a) the suspicious person he saw is dangerous b) he would be in danger if he left the vehicle. IOW we are morally faulting GZ for not judging TM in a harsher light, one that would required GZ to behave in a more defensive way. This is a warped sense of morality, yet while being used to condemn GZ it really condemns the ones using as they are the ones who are saying TM was dangerous, GZ should have known better.

    Now who is profiling who?

  4. Pingback: Lack Of Morals Robbing Young Of Their Rights – Children’s Advocate | Cbcburke9's Blog

      • At the end of the day, who wants a NW captain who is too damn lazy to get out of his truck and investigate someone that he does not recognize?

        Perhaps many forget or cannot fathom, or do not care that people who volunteer to do this, really do feel like it is their “DUTY” to help protect their neighborhoods, even if that duty is self imposed.

        When someone appears on my street, especially at night, that I do not know, I guarantee you that my phone will get busy but one or two of us will go outside to talk to that person and find out what’s going on if no one else knows who that person is.

        IOW, we make it our business even if others may think we have no right to do that. We all want to be safe and it our methods offend some folks, then they maybe should go walking in another area. We are all still alive. In the entire history of our Florida town, there has only been one murder and that was an “out of control, spurned lover” situation.

        We used to have signs at the both ends of our 2 street neighbor hood that simply stated that everyone on these 2 streets was “armed and dangerous.” Well, that is a paraphrase but I bet the bad guys thought that is what the signs meant.

      • Wow, Jordan that was great and exactly the point. Though I was born in NYC, I lived in Puerto Rico from when I was 5 to 10 years old, the small community that I lived in, was much as you describe your community. I have memories of being 5 years old and exploring the neighborhood, I would go down to the creek to fish, we set trap for land crabs (tasty), and played throughout the neighborhood. One thing I learned early on, was that the whole neighborhood was watching me and the rest of the kids and if we committed mischief my Great-Grandmother would be told almost immediately. I remember one time I jumped a fence to get some guavas from a neighbor’s house and he had a bull that chased me, until I climbed a tree, the neighbor came and got me and took me directly to my house, to see my grandmother. She first asked if I was ok, which aside from some scratches and wounded pride I was fine, then she made me apologize directly to the neighbor, right before she grabbed a belt and belted me a few. I remember her telling the neighbor that if he caught me again trying to steal the guavas he could belt me a few and then bring me home where I would get a few more. Needless to say, when I wanted guavas I went and asked for them, he always said yes anyway.

        I sort of went on a tangent there but the point was that we all looked out for each other, if a car or person someone would confront that person, to give directions or shoo away as needed.

      • LMAO. The good old belt was quite effective. Raising kids, including watching what they were doing, was once a community effort. There was no shortage of discipline and no one got away with anything but it was never considered to be meddling in another family’s affairs.

        Yes, there were a very few uninterested parents, but all of the kids I knew stayed away from their kids without even being told. Juvenile delinquents was a nasty label and no one wanted to be one of “those” kids.

        Among the best behaved doing something “wrong” in your neighborhood and then being discovered doing it, was a terribly humiliating experience. That stigma did not vanish overnight and the lessons a kid learned from it probably lasted for life.

        What the hell happened to traditional American families? You can ignore that unless you have a few hours to answer.

        Now the liberals all want to be community “organizers,” which means they believe they have found a new and better way to do something but I never figured out what that meant. Crazy crap. Oh, boy!!

        Well we have gotten off topic so I will end this by saying to those liberals, “We don’t need you to that.”

      • The problem with community organizing is that it not to have the community do something about a problem, but that it is about having the community demand the government to solve the problem. It takes the community out of the solution and puts its in the hands of government.

        What I say to the Liberals is, “You should not have done that”

  5. Ah man, it sounds like both of you had it easy. My great aunt lived right aside of my grandmother. Besides having the neighbors watching me like a hawk I had family around all the time! I used to run from one house if I got in trouble only to walk in to the other and get the fly swatter, slipper, or newspaper. One time I ran out because I fed the dog my lunch and got caught. I was gone half the day came back and wack. “What was that for” I asked “For what you did earlier.” Yeah, lil old Italian ladies do not mess around, and they do not forget easily either!

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s