Who Cares About Trayvon Martin?
The answer seems to be: a lot of people, including the president.
I've been on an island recently (literally, in the Pacific) and haven't been following a lot of news, but two issues seem to be dominating American news and foreign conversation about America: health-care and Trayvon Martin. I had originally wondered if the prominence of a story about a single (undeniably tragic) murder wasn't a ploy by the media to divert attention from the health care case. The CDC reports that there are about 45 murders / day in the U.S., and the Martin case involves contested facts, unclear motives and a suspect of questionable mental capacity. It's likely neither the most egregious nor clearly race-based murder of that week. Nevertheless, Martin is today's Rodney King and has been anointed by the media as their story of the moment.
Since there is a potential race element to the case, all the usual race-hustlers have scrambled to the spotlight in order to bellow their usual litany of victimhood and division. Obama weighed in on the matter last week ("If I had a son, he'd look like Trayvon Martin.") and has been widely criticized by conservatives for his seeming partisanship. I'm slightly sympathetic to Obama. He didn't make this a national story and probably wasn't overjoyed to be asked a question on the subject. He answered by expressing personal empathy to grieving parents. Of course, he didn't express sympathy for the man who might have been forced to shoot a delinquent child in self-defense - which could be interpreted as revealing which version of the facts the president believes. Given his record on racial issues, Obama knee-jerk sympathies certainly run toward Trayvon Martin. But he would have been criticized for silence or nearly anything else he was likely to say, so why not err on the side of his political base?
The problem is not that the president spoke, but that he was expected to speak by a majority of the nation. Other families of murder victims are now asking the president to speak out on behalf of their lost loved-ones. I don't think we need a daily litany of the newly departed from our chief executive. But the media has made this a story and daily stokes passions by granting a microphone to the likes of Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton. Mass demonstrations, race tensions and calls for violence have been artificially instigated by the media's sensational promotion of this incident. Again, while tragic, this story is neither unique nor objectively deserving of national attention - the media simply wanted to create a national debate on race and gun laws (recall the immediate focus on "stand-your-ground" laws). The media control the national conversation, for better or worse - usually the latter.