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"Thoughts on Trayvon Martin"

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Thoughts on Trayvon Martin

From the sounds of things, Trayvon Martin was a punk. He disrespected his elders regularly, smoked weed, and was sneaking around in backyards after dark.

Me, too.

When I was in my teens I’d already bagged a couple of arrests. Smart parents thought twice when their kids mentioned my name in weekend plans. I was very much aware, and sometimes that left me to myself.

Sometimes when I was alone, I’d smoke a little weed and look at birds. An innocent enough endeavor, but in those pre-dawn hours I’d often cross over into neighbor’s yards. All alone, as the sun came up, in your backyard; think about it. Make it even worse: I had binoculars.

But I was a weird skinny white kid in a bedroom community in New England. I was the stuff of John Updike.

Trayvon Martin was the stuff of Johnny Cochran.

Taking color out of it completely, I can say with absolute assuredness, that had some old guy, maybe the guy in whose backyard I was dialing up a Scarlet Tanager and not wanting to be bothered, come up to me and fucked with me, I’d have reacted as a punk teenage kid does.

I would have told him to, “Fuck off,” and worse, and I’d have swaggered away feeling the way only a teenager who has mouthed off to an adult can ever feel. Some people will never ever know that feeling. I get the feeling that Trayvon Martin did.

But again, I’m the skinny white kid in the suburbs.

The point of this story, if there can be one, is this: Being a punk teenage kid is not a crime. Okay, maybe sometimes for some kids, it is a crime. But, it’s certainly not usually worthy of death.

Some of us punk teenage kids grow up to be exactly what our middle school guidance counselors predicted; losers with no balance or direction. Some of us straighten out enough to fit in and we’re great parts of the community because we’re actually sincerely appreciative of being included. Some write books or make movies or albums that make another generation of punk teenage kids feel like they’re not the first to feel this way.

But, for good God’s sake, not one of them, not one of us, deserves to buy it for running around after dark on somebody else’s lawn.

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