Over the weekend, I had a rare opportunity. On a mid-July day, thunderstorms had moved through the area and dropped temperatures nicely, giving me a shot to run in the low 80s for the first time in weeks. On tap was a 3-mile recovery run.
I felt great. The route I picked took me through the city’s blossoming arts and entertainment district, then up a hill to a somewhat sketchier part of town. Coming down the crest of that hill, a guy in a wheelchair shouted some kind words my way.
“Way to go! Keep going!”
“Thanks man!” I replied. “I need the encouragement!”
That’s pretty typical. He was a poorer dude, hanging out by a day center for the homeless. There are pockets on the northern edge where I run that can be kinda rough, but I’ve never had a problem with anyone there. Every encounter I’ve had on my runs in town has either been neutral or kind.
In the back of my mind, however, I do remain security conscious. Bad people do bad things. How horrible would it be if, on a day like today, I went out for a run, minding my own business, and then through no fault of my own got wrapped up in a physical confrontation? How much worse would it be if I got shot? And ended up dead?
It is in these days that this question becomes especially pointed. A loosely similar scenario played out last year, and the shooter in question was tried and acquitted.
Yep, I’m talking about the George Zimmerman case. There have been countless opinions on this case, either decrying the jury’s verdict or defending it. There are many facets here to explore — race, gun rights, and stand-your-ground laws, among others.
One of the points of contention in the case is who the victim really was.
Was it Zimmerman? Well, he did take a bit of a beating during the altercation. But I think he would have escaped that night unscathed had he just stayed in his car and backed off like he was told. He lived to be judged by a jury of his peers.
That leaves us with Trayvon. Let’s recap his night:
He left the house where he was staying on foot to go to a convenience store. He bought a drink and a snack, then started walking home. He noticed he was being followed by someone, and it creeped him out. Heightened senses and tensions eventually ignited into a physical confrontation. Then he got shot. And then he died.
I would argue that the confrontation was completely unnecessary from the start. Thus, so was the end result: Martin’s death.
So that brings me back home, to my streets. I’ve only had one instance where someone (from across the street) talked a little smack to me, and I think that was just a case of teens being teens. I’ve had scores of positive interactions. Mostly, people just politely mind their own business.
But the point is this: I should not have to wonder if I’m going to get shot during my next run. Yes, I should be security aware, but shouldn’t we all?
More importantly, don’t we all have an expectation that we can go about our business without the fear of being accosted? Don’t our nation’s founding documents state something about inalienable rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness? Isn’t getting shot while in the midst of lawfully walking from Point A to Point B the antithesis of those inalienable rights? Does anything about your race, age, gender or clothing choice nullify those rights?
Something like the Zimmerman case won’t stop me from running, or otherwise living my life. But it’s easier for me to say that than it is for others. And it shouldn’t be. To think that someone else can start a fight with me or anyone else, and then kill us with full justification under the law is reprehensible.
Just some thoughts I had on the run.
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