I THINK THERE IS AN IMPORTANT principle to be hammered home here.
I think it is fundamental to the concept of ordered liberty. I think of it as the Principle of Who Started It.
Over the millennia, the mothers (and fathers) of the world have done humanity a grave disservice — perhaps even unintentionally. When two or more children disturb the peace of the household, parents tend to demand peace instanter. When the one child who — legitimately or not — claims to be set upon by the other(s), mothers down the ages have said, “I don’t care who started it, it ends now.”
This is, not to put too fine a point on it, a very liberal — dare I say, progressivist — position. It is a “peace at any cost” position. It is a position against justice and for personal comfort and convenience. After all, chaffering children are not conducive to peace in the home and modest contemplation of eternal verities. But, in the case of the set-upon child, it teaches a lesson (in the parlance of the progressive, “sends a message”) that, come adulthood, may never be un-learned. That child has suffered unjust aggression and, on appeal to higher authority, been unjustly — indeed, rudely so — handled by said authority, whose fiduciary responsibility has thus been abdicated.
It is a principle of ordered civil liberty that society shall not brook aggression. Aggression, it is believed, is never right. The aggressor in any situation where rights may come into conflict is — not to put too fine a point on it — wrong.
In the Zimmerman case (Are you surprised? It is in the headline, you know.), it can be argued that both participants — George Zimmerman and Trayvon Martin — could reasonably have believed that they were exercising their rights to self-defense. Both might have reasonably believed their lives to be in danger. The problem for society, then, is to winkle out who is wrong. Who — as it is said — started it.
And much of society has got it wrong — judging as they have on the bases of the wrong criteria. The white man, they say (or the black man) is always wrong, no matter what the circumstances. When, really, the only proper criterion is: Who Started It?
We have a saying in America. “[Your|My] right to swing [your|my] fists stops where [my|your] nose begins.” The aggressor is, by this principle, the one — not who threw the first punch, took the first shot — but the one who threw the first punch, fired the first shot that landed.
That person — by all the evidence — was Trayvon Martin. Up to that point, by my estimation, the two men were on equal ground. After that, it was weapons free, and the aggressor became fair game. By his own actions.
The extenuating circumstances — and there always are extenuating circumstances — do not withstand.