George Zimmerman, ‘Good Samaritan’?

Jacob Langston/ Orlando Sentinel To the extent that he ever left, George Zimmerman is back in the news, an in … Continued


Jacob Langston/ Orlando Sentinel

To the extent that he ever left, George Zimmerman is back in the news, an in a way that serves as an important reminder to both his defenders and his detractors. The Florida man acquitted in the shooting death of Trayvon Martin helped pull a man, a woman and two children from the van in which they were traveling, after it rolled over and eventually caught fire.

For that act, George Zimmerman, by any definition, is a hero. So how is it possible that today’s hero, is yesterday’s what? Villain? Vigilante? Fool? There is nothing at all surprising about it. In fact, it is very often one personality which places people into each of the two situations for better and for worse. Not, for better or for worse, but for better and for worse.

The real story here is not George Zimmerman good guy or bad guy. It is George Zimmerman, guy who puts himself out there, sometimes with a good outcome and sometimes not. And that is how it often is with people who are comfortable injecting themselves into situations otherwise not their business; in order to do something that they believe will be good.

There is often a close correlation between what animates both heroes and fools — sometimes the only distinction between who is identified how being how others judge the outcome of their actions. Alexander Pope said it first, in his Essay On Criticism, when he wrote that “fools rush in where angels fear to tread.” And Elvis said it best when he sang, “Fools rush in where wise men never go, but wise men never fall in love, so how are they to know?”

Wise people those who carefully deliberate about all of the relevant issues, those who seek all of the time to protect themselves from possible vulnerability, and those who need to know the outcome of the venture before it has been taken on, will never end up like George Zimmerman. But, I’d also suspect, neither will they ever fall deeply, truly, wonderfully in love.

And returning to pope, while it’s true that angels commit no sins, nor acts of folly, neither, as I once remarked to a world-famous rabbi who was explaining to me how angels are better than people, do angels choose to perform good deeds. Angels are simply tools of the mind of the one who sent them never making the choice to jump in and try and make a positive difference, even as they know they may assume great risk in so doing.

That is not meant as an excuse for Zimmerman’s actions regarding Trayvon Martin. It is simply recognition that the traits which animate some people’s most noble acts are the very traits which get them into trouble, or even cause terrible pain to others, under a different set of circumstances.

The heroic impulse is, the “Good Samaritan” impulse, is worthy of praise, and even perhaps, adoration. And in order to fully understand the story of what makes any hero tick, it is also worth appreciating that what makes today’s hero, could be the very thing which makes them tomorrow’s villain. And perhaps more powerfully, that what makes at least some of today’s villains tick could make them tomorrow’s heroes.

About

Brad Hirschfield An acclaimed author, lecturer, rabbi, and commentator on religion, society and pop culture, Brad Hirschfield offers a unique perspective on the American spiritual landscape and political and social trends to audiences nationwide.
  • leibowde84

    It is not courageous to carry a concealed weapon and go around questioning people. Since it is concealed, you are basically asking for trouble, and you know that you can always murder the person if they get in your face. If he did the same thing but, instead, didn’t conceal the weapon, it would have been fine. Treyvon would have know that, eventhough he was insulted, that it was not safe to defend his honor. Instead, in my opinion, Zimmerman bated Treyvon into fighting by accusing him of wrongdoing (something that I too would absolutely react negatively to unless it was a person with authority questioning me) and basically murdered him for defending himself.

    All in all, carrying a concealed weapon is not heroic. It is creating a danger that is unnecessary, and could be avoided by displaying his weapon visibly. And, please, don’t try to argue that there is no law against it, because I understand that. But, nevertheless, morally he was absolutely in the wrong.

  • _guest

    Well…

    Zimmerman appears to be suffering from HERO SYNDROME which is a “phenomenon affecting people who seek heroism or recognition. Acts of the hero syndrome have been linked to previously failed heroism. The hero syndrome may also be a more general yearning for self-worth.”

    He needs to get help. He does not need to do all these things and GO BEYOND for which he is NOT qualified. He is a wanna-be.

  • _guest

    WELL…..
    Zimmerman unknowingly provided proof in the Trayvon case the other day about the SUV that overturned in the freeway.

    Instead of Zimmerman waiting for the REAL Emergency Rescue crew to arrive, he intervened as an unqualified wanna-be Emergency Rescue crew and GOT INVOLVED in something that he was not supposed to do first.

    Think about it, people. Zimmerman CONFIRMED the answer to the question on Trayvon’s case that he DID GET involved, played wanna-be cop with Trayvon and continued to pursue him. This was why Trayvon defended himself and Z killed T in cold-blood.

  • dsharon67

    Wow!!

    So now we CONDEMN heroes for being sick self absorbed recognition desiring sycophants;

    as opposed to those wonderful people that turn a blind eyes to the suffering of others, conscientiously mind their own business when people are in trouble, and courageously worry only about number one.

    GUEST has truly turned the world UPSIDE DOWN.

  • leibowde84

    Scott.inVA, I don’t get your point. I agree, if everything that I’ve heard is true regarding the car crash, Zimmerman was a hero. No one would say that a pedestrian shouldn’t save people who are in immideate danger. But, you claimed that if Zimmerman hadn’t confronted Treyvon he would have been “leaving his neighborhood to the thugs.” Where do you get this idea? Didn’t he have the option of leaving it to the police? Doesn’t he have an obligation to wait until Treyvon actually did something that would suggest he was “up to no good?”

    Do you think that Treyvon was a thug? Was it that he smoked pot? Or was it the way he was dressed? Or that he refused to back down from a fight, knowing that he did not have any weapons? In actuality, none of these things make you a thug, so I will need some further information.

    Neighborhood watch members are a public good. I agree. But, that doesn’t mean that they shoudl be permitted (both legally and morally) to carry hidden weapons. Accusations will undoubtedly cause otherwise law-abiding citizens to act out in violence. I would be very insulted if an unauthorized person followed me and accused me of wrongdoing without any kind of evidence to back up those accusations. So, I don’t see your point. It seems as though you think it is OK to walk around with a concealed weapon insulting peoples integrity, ready to shoot and kill them if they get violent. There is a reason why police officers are forced to show their badge … it is an indication that they are armed. Zimmerman kept his weapon hidden. Fights happen. They aren’t a big deal, and I would argue that Zimmerman deserved to get his butt kicked for playing vigilante.

  • rlj1

    ‘traits which get them into trouble’ sorry but that is too much.

  • _guest

    If Z wants to really help people, he should live in Africa for 50 years and help the Black children in Africa, then people will believe that.

    Not this PR stunt, driving around with his police scanner to stage a rescue and play hero.

  • _guest

    Zimmerman suffers from HERO SYNDROME. He has to get out there and play hero all the time. He wanted to play HERO the night he murdered Trayvon because he did not want this a-h to get away.

  • _guest

    If the people in the vehicle has broken bones, an UNQUALIFIED person should not move them. Only qualified professional EMT can move their bodies.

    Zimmerman provoked fear into Martin and there is evidence with his phone conversation with Rachel.

  • _guest

    You are RACIST. I am NOT even Black. I am a REPUBLICAN. I did not vote for OBAMA. I am looking at Trayvon as a 17 year old teen walking home to his Dad and this WANNABE cop who does NOT wait for professional to do their jobs intervened and disrupted Trayvon’s life.

  • _guest

    Zimmerman intervened and disrupted Trayvon’s life. In a civil suit, Zimmerman is liable for Trayvon’s death.

  • dsharon67

    THE ZIMMERMAN VERDICT WAS A NO-BRAINER.

    It really comes down to the law of Self-Defense.

    1. IF you are faced with the imminent threat of bodily harm (or death) — you have the right to self defense.

    2. This right is NOT unqualified. It is limited by the following factors:
    A. The right exists ONLY for so long as you are in imminent threat of harm. Once you’ve neutralized that threat, you no longer have the right to continue to use force.
    B. Your use of force MUST be proportionate to the threat. If someone is pushing you, or about to push you, you do NOT have the right to kill the guy. On the other hand if you are in reasonable threat of great bodily harm or death — you DO have the right to do so.
    C. The THREAT has to be an objective one. It is not enough that you feel SUBJECTIVELY threatened. Rather, the test is that ANY reasonable person under the same or similar circumstances would have felt threatened.
    D. (EXCEPT IN STAND YOUR GROUND STATES) You do not have the ability or an option to peacefully withdraw. If you can walk or run away, or otherwise avoid the violent confrontation, then you do NOT have a right to self defense and cannot use force.

    THOSE are the rules. Like ‘em or not, that’s the LAW.

    Under this law, the PROSECUTION (which has the burden of proof) was unable to prove that TM’s use of force was reasonable and privileged under a theory of “self-defense”; and could not prove that GZ;s use of force was not.

    There was NO evidence that showed that GZ did ANYTHING that justified TM’s breaking his nose, throwing him to the ground, and pounding his head for 45 seconds while GZ was screaming for help.

    Even were we to assume that GZ HAD followed TM while racially profiling him and muttering racist comments under his breath — this in and of itself did not create a reasonable basis to believe that TM was in IMMINENT bodily harm that would justify TM’s violent reaction

  • free2think

    Tragically the real issue is far more problematic to the future of black male teen success or failure than what motivates the selfless altruism in a person like George.

    The so called divide is not racial it is cultural and rooted in the power of moral authority in judging black behavior, in particular thug culture, based on street rules, not the rule of law applied in the court or that George adhered to when he committed the great violation of snitching to the cops.

    Those who refuse to accept Trayvon culpab9lity for his death are only making it more difficult to define for young men what are the elements of high risk behaviors. Trayvon Martin was also a causality of all adults in his failure to hold him accountability and correct his destructive behavior leading him down a dangerous path. There is an abundance of evidence proving this point. However, again, Sybrina Fulton has stated only she will be the one to define his legacy. Too late Sybrina, your son define his legacy in his words and deeds.

  • cricket44

    Not.

  • SimonTemplar

    Whether Alexander Pope or Elvis, the quotes about “fools rushing into danger” sounds like the view of those who sit idly by and observe while others “do.”

    In both situations, either the shooting or the pulling of people from a burning vehicle, Zimmerman was there, the writer was not. One never really knows how one will react until one is actually in that situation.

  • SimonTemplar

    It is a bit of a shame though, that Mr. Zimmerman will get far less coverage in the new for helping others than he did for hurting someone. Such is our appetite when it comes to news.

  • sknsfan

    Hey Scott

    You are a piece of work. The danger here is when you mix a heroism complex with a GUN! I’m not sure where Zimmerman was headed that night but it strikes me as peculiar(and dangerous) why you would arm yourself walking out the door on a errand. It seems to me ANYONE doing that is looking for some type of trouble. Trayvon is dead because of this. If Zimmerman wasn’t packing that night he may have gotten beaten up but no one would have DIED!

  • observer701

    Once again, Zimmy’s made-up, unwitnessed stories are simply taken at face value.

  • justaguy22

    I thought that the police who responded to the story stated that zimmerman was there and then left after speaking to the police. Has anyone who was there denied zimmerman’s version of the story?

  • scout61

    I’m beginning to believe that people are just plain ignorant. Zimmerman is trolling the highways looking for accident victims… on his police scanner ready to come to the rescue… Seriously! If that’s what you believe then I have to wonder if it’s even worth responding to you.

    The story is verified by the police, the family that was rescued and another man at the scene. Zimmerman didn’t stick around seeking publicity. He just did what other cars before him failed to do. He stopped to help.

    On the other hand, where is the evidence that Zimmerman is a racist. Talk about a story being taken at face value! There is not a single statement from a classmate, friend, acquaintance, coworker, neighbor, ex girlfriend indicating that Zimmerman is or ever was a racist. Don’t you think if the liberal media could point to anything they would have. Think about it.

  • itaintmojo

    Thank you! Obama sent the FBI to dig up anything they could before the trial. They found nothing. Its Sharpton, Obama, and shoddy journalists who are the racists in this case for ruining GZ’s life, and creating misplaced racial tension. I’m glad GZ had the chance to show who he is by helping these people.

  • joodles

    George Zimmerman is going to change his name to Ben Ghazi so the Obama Administration and mainstream media will never mention him again.

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