All you need to do is read a few comments floating around the Internet and it becomes clear that reactions to the Zimmerman decision line up on either side of our political polarity.
I am not privy to accurate information about the event in Sanford, Florida that night, so I cannot take a position for or against the jury’s decision. None the less, I propose that the conditions that gave rise to that tragedy can be explained, even without specific knowledge of who did what to whom.
Think of George Zimmerman and Trayvon Martin, as you read this from Wikipedia, “The Hobbesian trap (or Schelling’s dilemma) is a theory that explains why preemptive strikes occur between two groups, out of bilateral fear of an imminent attack. Without outside influences this situation will lead to a fear spiral (catch-22, vicious cycle) in which fear will lead to an arms race which in turn will lead to increasing fear.”
And now with the passage of the concealed carry law in Illinois, a qualified citizen can soon carry a concealed weapon in all 50 states. Almost half of those states have stand-your-ground laws and all of them have human beings who, when carrying a gun, have been shown to become more aggressive. In fact, even the image or thought of a gun increases aggressive feelings in human beings.
Although it’s obvious, cooperation would be the better outcome for both sides in a conflict, where would we start with 300 million guns already in the hands of those we think might do us harm? This condition fosters a feeling of distrust that causes the case in point.
Hobbes’ theory has been used to explain outbreaks of conflicts and violence, spanning from individuals to states for centuries. Trayvon Martin’s death is another grim reminder of our national entrapment.
While we argue about race relations, the right to concealed carry and our individual rights to use lethal force, our nation flails in the grip of our own Hobbesian trap. If I think everyone else is carrying a weapon, I must carry one too.
The national test case for the stand-your-ground law is decided. Zimmerman is found innocent by a jury of his non-peers. Yet no one is talking about the conditions that allow for this kind of tragedy. Trayvon Martin is dead. George Zimmerman will never have a normal life again and the bedlam described euphemistically as a national debate on race-relations, guns, and an individual’s right to use deadly force is not recognized for what it is: The condition Thomas Hobbes of Malmesbury, England, described 500 years ago.
So condolences to Martin’s family and friends. Your son and friend is a victim of a Hobbesian trap. Congratulations to the stand-your-ground crowd. You’ve been validated but I sincerely hope your son or daughter is never in the same trap. Hooray to the gun crowd. That you can carry a concealed weapon legally while walking your dog in every state in the union now confirms that Hobbes’ theory is valid in the United States beyond a reasonable doubt.
Good luck to the rest of us who have children or grandchildren, who must live in a society with 300 millions guns and people who are convinced that everyone else is a putative enemy, especially if they look different from what you see as normal.
God save us from ourselves.
Robert De Filippis