There are two stories at the top of the news about people who shot other people to death. There are no obvious similarities between the two events. There are nothing but similarities between how the stories are being told to those of us trying to make sense out of the world.
The first is the story of Staff Sergeant Robert Bales, who allegedly walked into a village in Afghanistan and went house to house, butchering people along the way. Ever since the army released Bales's identity over the weekend, we have had a spate of stories in which people back here expressed amazement that Bales would ever do such a thing, and also seeking to explain away what is self-evidently a war crime by the kind of banal arguments presented every day in U.S. courtrooms by overworked public defenders. Family problems. Money pressures. Stress in the workplace which, in this case, involved four combat tours in our imperial exercises in southwest Asia, including at least one tour after he'd lost part of his foot and suffered a mild traumatic brain injury, which is yet another thing we didn't care about until it became useful in our efforts to explain the unexplainable and to absolve ourselves of the consequences. It's now going to be Bales's alibi, and our own.
The second is the story of Trayvon Martin, a 17-year old boy in Florida who was gunned down by a "neighborhood watch" commander named George Zimmerman, apparently for the crime of carrying Skittles in the wrong part of town
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