Reading: 21-27 July 2013

Martin image for WiR

Jennifer Dean, Zeteo Contributor

[One in an ongoing series of posts. For the full series see Zeteo is Reading.]

23 July 2013
After reading numerous perspectives on the Florida v. George Zimmerman trial – thanks to a friend on Facebook who also happens to be an attorney – I read an article from The New Yorker which poses the question “What Should Trayvon Martin Have Done?” Of course the answer to the question reveals what side of the conflict you are on, but as the author of the piece, Amy Davidson, points out those who are convinced of Trayvon Martin’s guilt still don’t seem to have an answer since they are relying on the scenario of Martin as perpetrator, not victim, and therefore are convinced of the guilt of a party that is not even on trial.  Which brings me to my thought to share from the reading… Discourse of the case seems to always include Martin v. Zimmerman to the extent that I found myself forgetting that the case title would in fact be Florida v. Zimmerman because in the narrative created it was Martin who was expected to mount a case not the State of Florida. Davidson points out:

Legally, Zimmerman’s lawyers relied on the most imprecise moment, for which they had the least proof: when the two men were finally face to face, they said, it was Martin who lashed out. Their argument was about what he shouldn’t have done: fought (or, in a scenario perhaps better fitting the evidence, fought back). It is harder to picture what he should have done instead.

Over the years I have thought a lot about the narrative of the law and how attorneys create stories to make their case. The question Davidson raises resonated with me as a huge plot point. If someone is pursuing you for no apparent reason what is the appropriate response?

24 July 2013
To continue the theme of the justice system and narratives, I relay today an anecdote which has appeared in more than one essay of a book I am reading: Screening Torture: Media Representations of State Terror and Political Domination. Apparently Justice Antonin Scalia used the success of 24 character Jack Bauer’s use of torture as evidence for the legal justification of torture by actual non-fictional individuals. Specifically in Alfred W. McCoy’s Beyond Susan Sontag: The Seductionof Psychological Torture, it is noted that Scalia addressed a 2007 legal seminar in Ottawa by saying:

Jack Bauer saved Los Angeles. … He saved hundreds of thousands of lives. … Are you going to convict Jack Bauer? Say that criminal law is against him? … Is any jury going to convict Jack Bauer? I don’t think so.

My questions – What does it mean to have fictional scenarios used as proof? In what way does that constitute evidence?

25 July 2013
I don’t know if this counts as reading… but I am going to say that it does since it’s a film with subtitles. I was writing a review today for a documentary on the search for missing children post-civil war in El Salvador – Children of Memory or Ninos de la Memoria distributed by Women Make Movies. It’s an incredible story of the seemingly Herculean struggle to find lost loved ones who were kidnapped and sold for adoption by the authorities in El Salvador. One of the subjects of the film reassures one of the adopted children when she is unable to quickly connect her with potential biological parents and/or siblings by saying:

This is the beginning of an ongoing process.

Something so incredibly poignant about that statement which of course has incredible resonance for this film about putting together the pieces of shattered lives and looking for resolution in the aftermath of such destruction and tragedy – but that little statement has many layers of meaning and can be applied to so many circumstances in life.

26 July 2013

An article in the New York Times today addressed the possible replacements for Federal Chair Ben Bernanke. The headline reads In Tug of War Over New Fed Leader, Some Gender Undertones.The tug of war is between Janet Yellen and Larry Summers, so I couldn’t help but think of Larry Summers’ comments in regard to women in science when he was President of Harvard when he remarked that perhaps there are fewer women in science due to “issues of intrinsic aptitude” – among other incendiary statements. Summers finally admitted after the controversy surrounding his remarks:

“My January remarks substantially understated the impact of socialization and discrimination, including implicit attitudes — patterns of thought to which all of us are unconsciously subject,” he said. “The issue of gender difference is far more complex than comes through in my comments, and my remarks about variability went beyond what the research has established.”

The New York Times article points out:

Mr. Summers’s supporters are making less noise in public, partly because some of his primary advocates are inside the White House, while Ms. Yellen’s primary advocates mostly appear to be on the outside looking in.

It will be interesting to see how it all plays out.

One comment

  1. William Eaton

    A pleasure to read this week of reading. Your note regarding Justice Scalia’s use of a fictional character came out on more or less the same day we learned that the ex-NY Congressman and current Mayoral candidate Anthony Weiner was engaging in some kind of online X-rated-picture-sharing while using the self-chosen name “Carlos Danger.” The person who revealed this to the public apparently said, “I have nothing against Carlos Danger. I’m not trying to bring this guy down.” And the woman in question was reported as upset only (if at all) because of the lying involved. “He said he’s a changed man, but he’s really not a changed man; he’s Carlos Danger.” Go figure. And thanks again for the week.


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