When Amateurs Play Police

George Zimmerman is a free man, but that does not mean he is without guilt. His case shows the danger of the culture of vigilante justice: Amateurs move through residential areas with wild suspicions, and thus create the opposite of security.

The jury has acquitted George Zimmerman; that does not mean that he is innocent. He followed a stranger in the night simply because he was black and wore a hoodie.

Instead of listening to police and keeping his distance, Zimmerman took things into his own hands. When it came to a fight, the control freak lost control – over his opponent, but possibly also over himself – and shot the other person dead.

America argued so much about the role of skin color in this case that another key topic went mostly unnoticed: the dangers and excesses of self-administered justice. Many Americans only feel safe if they are permitted to carry a loaded weapon.

Zimmerman’s case shows what it can lead to: Amateurs move through residential areas with wild suspicions and in the end spread the insecurity they actually want to keep at bay.

The acquittal corresponds to the course of the trial. It cannot be ruled out that free-time sheriff Zimmerman ultimately acted in self-defense. It is a reasonable, constitutional result, even though it is painful for the supporters of Trayvon Martin.

It bestows honor on them that they remained overwhelmingly peaceful in the night after the verdict. They are taking to heart the main lesson from this case: Only more chaos will follow from more vigilante justice.

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About Sandra Alexander 451 Articles
I have retired after 33 years teaching German at a high school in suburban Philadelphia and am now teaching undergraduate German courses at a small, private college in Philadelphia. I have an M.A. in German and keep my German language skills current by translating. I hope to someday translate novels from German into English or maybe even write my own novel.

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