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Op/Ed: Fear Triumphed in Trayvon Martin Case

Then something really interesting happened. Two phone calls were made that capture the essence of the tragedy. Zimmerman and Martin both made phone calls that reveal just how apprehensive each man was over the unexpected appearance of the other.

George Zimmerman called 911 as he was following Trayvon and said, "We've had some break-ins in the neighborhood, and there's this real suspicious guy. ... This guy looks like he's up to no good or he's on drugs or something. It's raining and he's just walking around, looking about."

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By Kevin A. Smith

(ABERDEEN - April 2, 2012) - Michael Leunig wrote a poem that begins, "There are only two feelings, love and fear; there are only two languages, love and fear."

Trayvon Martin lived in Miami with his mom, Sybrina Fulton. On the night of Feb. 26, the 17-year-old Trayvon and his father, Tracy Martin, were visiting Tracy's fiancee, Brandi Green, and her son at their home in Sanford, Fla. Tracy and Brandi went out to dinner and left the boys at home to watch the NBA All Star game.

Some time between 6:30 and 7 p.m., Trayvon went out to a nearby 7-11, where he purchased an iced tea and Skittles for his soon-to-be younger stepbrother. A light rain intensified as he was walking home through the unfamiliar neighborhood shortly after 7. Trayvon took shelter under the awning of a building near the community mailboxes.

George Zimmerman was on his way to the grocery store when he noticed the "suspicious" young man standing outside the clubhouse of The Retreat at Twin Lakes. The 28-year-old neighborhood watch volunteer stopped to investigate. Trayvon saw the truck stop and the stranger approaching. Sensing trouble, he walked away. Zimmerman followed.

Then something really interesting happened. Two phone calls were made that capture the essence of the tragedy. Zimmerman and Martin both made phone calls that reveal just how apprehensive each man was over the unexpected appearance of the other.

George Zimmerman called 911 as he was following Trayvon and said, "We've had some break-ins in the neighborhood, and there's this real suspicious guy. ... This guy looks like he's up to no good or he's on drugs or something. It's raining and he's just walking around, looking about."

As Zimmerman was giving details and directions, he interjected something that says everything about his state of mind. He said, "These (expletives), they always get away with it."

Meanwhile, Martin called his girlfriend back in Miami. In an interview with ABC News, the girl recalled, "He said this man was watching him, so he put his hoodie on. ... I told him to run but he said he was not going to run."

Martin did eventually run and was pursued by Zimmerman until, and perhaps even after, the dispatcher told him not to. At some point Martin turned around to face the man who had been chasing him.

"Trayvon said, 'What are you following me for?' and the man said, 'What are you doing here?' Next thing I hear is somebody pushing, and somebody pushed Trayvon because the headset just fell. I called him again and he didn't answer the phone," said the 16-year-old, who asked not to be identified.

No one knows what else was said or what exactly happened over the course of the altercation that ensued. There are eyewitnesses, but it was dark and details are sketchy.

In a 911 call made by one witness, you can clearly hear someone screaming, pleading, before the shots were fired. Zimmerman claims that the screams were his, that the younger man was beating him and that he acted in self-defense. The FBI is analyzing the recording.

Whatever the results, the inescapable bottom line is that an unarmed African-American teen, guilty of nothing more than walking home from a convenience store, was shot to death by a man of Caucasian/Hispanic descent who assumed the worst about him.

There are all kinds of fear - fear of violence, fear of profiling, fear of being insignificant, of being taken advantage of, and fear of "the other."

Many people who know Zimmerman dispute the assumption that he is a racist. He was, in fact, a mentor to a young black man - took him to basketball games and raised money for his church.

But there is no evidence from the evening of Feb. 26 to suggest that he ever considered the possibility that young Martin was anything but a criminal - "These (expletives), they always get away with it." The 9mm handgun that Zimmerman routinely carried was made all the more lethal by judgment clouded by fear.

Leunig's poem continues, "There are only two activities, love and fear: There are only two motives, two procedures - two frameworks, two results, love and fear - love and fear."

The best way to honor Trayvon Martin, the best way to choose love, is by letting his untimely death shine light on the fears that precipitated the tragedy.

Kevin Smith lives in Aberdeen. Contact him at kevinasmith@gmx.com

Tags: , george zimmerman, , Jewish, kevin a. smith, , , trayvon martin