Hunter or Hunted?

When I write about psychic maps, it’s usually about Martha’s Vineyard, right? Well, yeah. This is where I live and this is what I choose to write about.

One reason I choose to write about Martha’s Vineyard is that I believe writing about Martha’s Vineyard is writing about the world, just like writing about the world is writing about Martha’s Vineyard.

I won’t go into the book I recently proofread about the George W. Bush administration, with a focus on the relationship between President Bush and Vice President Cheney. You don’t want to know how often the blow-by-blow accounts of National Security Council meetings and White House staff meetings and all sorts of other meetings reminded me of meetings I’ve attended on Martha’s Vineyard. People who can’t see the forest for the trees. People who can’t see the trees for the forest. People who keep saying the same damn thing over and over even when they have no facts to support it. We’ve got it all — it’s just that they get paid more.

Plenty of Vineyarders won’t agree with me on this. Am I surprised? I am not. We don’t live on the same Martha’s Vineyard. My Martha’s Vineyard and their Martha’s Vineyard are not the same. They overlap at several points, notably Five Corners and the Vineyard Haven ferry dock, but our experiences of the place are different. Very, very different, in some cases.

Martha’s Vineyard is a small place. A hundred square miles, give or take, surrounded by ocean. If there are many Martha’s Vineyards, you’ve got to believe that there are a gazillion or so United States of Americas. OK, not a gazillion: I just Googled and the official population figure as of 2012 seems to be 313.9 million. Even allowing for considerable overlap, that’s a lot of Americas.

Sometimes, like after 9/11, it seems like the overwhelming majority of us are living in the same United States of America. We are living in the United States of America where two towers at the World Trade Center just collapsed into rubble after being hit by airplanes.

Trayvon Martin (photo swiped from Wikipedia -- thank you)

Trayvon Martin (photo swiped from Wikipedia — thank you)

Other times, like right now, in the wake of the verdict in State of Florida v. George Zimmerman, it’s crystal clear that we don’t live in the same USA at all. Our USAs have different histories, and as any alternate-history fan can tell you, different histories result in different places. Even if none of the histories are “alternate” — if they all happened in our space-time continuum — the place each of us lives in is shaped by the history we know.

I’m a white girl who grew up in a white town in Massachusetts. When Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated, I barely knew who he was and I knew nothing about the significance of his life. (I blogged about this last year in “Homage to Dr. King.”) I started learning PDQ, and I’m still learning. But the upshot is that when Trayvon Martin was killed, he was the one I identified with. He was the one I could have been — not least because in my big-city days I was sometimes trailed down lonely streets by men whose intentions I had no way of knowing.

And that, I do believe, is what most of the visceral response to this case comes down to: Who do you identify with? Who could you have been?

At the moment I can’t even imagine myself George Zimmerman, jumping to the conclusion that the young guy walking away from the convenience store was dangerous, so dangerous that I have to get out of the car and pursue him. My hunch is that a Georgia Zimmerman would have reacted differently. But to the writer in me this is a challenge: can I expand my own psychic map to include George Zimmerman?

Don’t know, but I’ll see what I can do.

About Susanna J. Sturgis

Susanna edits for a living, writes to survive, and has been preoccupied with electoral politics since 2016. She just started a blog about her vintage T-shirt collection: "The T-Shirt Chronicles." Her other blogs include "From the Seasonally Occupied Territories," about being a year-round resident of Martha's Vineyard, and "Write Through It," about writing, editing, and how to keep going.
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8 Responses to Hunter or Hunted?

  1. susan robinson says:

    “Georgia Zimmerman”–I like it. But especially the experiment about expanding your psychic map–definitely worth a look.


  2. Carolyn O'Daly says:

    I grew up in a white, color-blind family in New York. In grade school my best friend was black and we spent many nights in each other’s homes. (One of our neighbors told my mom that we shouldn’t be walking up and down the street together. She had a separate set of dishes for her ‘Negro’ maid’s lunch.) We need to get used to the idea that there will always be bigots in our midst. My problem with the Martin case (he was the important one in my opinion) is with untrained ‘vigilante’ neighborhood watches that allow weapons. If he hadn’t had a gun the outcome would have been different. He would have called the cops, who would have investigated and there would have been no death and no trial. I am not anti-gun. My father was a hunter and we always had rifles and shotguns in our home. I do not think there is any place in our society for concealed hand guns (except perhaps carried by trained professional body guards). Outcome would probably have been different if Martin had had a gun as well……..


  3. Sara Crafts says:

    Sadly we all live in relatively uneasy peace here on the Vineyard with a surprising number of people who quietly applaud George Zimmerman. Witness the latest outpouring of irrational hate and fabrications in the comments in both papers regarding the upcoming Presidential visit. Those comments, like the defenders of Zimmerman, eschew “racism” as their rationale: in my mind, they’re about one firm law away from violence. Sanborn, Florida – Florida generally – “stand your ground” indeed. I was sexually assaulted when I lived in Florida, but though I was shaken, afraid and ultimately furious, I’d never have wanted the guy killed. (And the police wrote it up as a robbery, because the attacker took $25 from my wallet on the way out.) Guess I shouldda stood my ground and whipped out my tiny concealed weapon and offed him. Not sure that law applies to women, though. Yeah, strike Sanborn, Florida from my ultimate retirement home — hell, strike the whole state … but the undercurrents here are equally frightening and mind-blowing. Dunno if my psychic map is getting expanded, though… good luck with that, Susanna!


    • Marissa Alexander’s case suggests that the law doesn’t apply to women. She got 20 years for shooting a warning shot at her abusive husband. Seems in that case lots of people identify with the man, like they identified with the high school rapists in Steubenville. Totally agree about the undercurrents here on MV. The level of alienation, depression, and rage is scary.


  4. David W says:

    My thoughts of Zimmerman are, how can someone go through life so fearful that they need to carry a gun? Or could it be they need a gun in their hand to bolster the insignificance that they may perceive of their existence? I will never know. I too live on Martha’s Vineyard but I was born in Washington DC and grew up in Northern Virginia. I have no need of a gun.


    • Zimmerman was also on the “neighborhood watch” committee, though he wasn’t officially on duty that night. Neighbors watching out for neighbors is one thing, but giving a gun and a job to someone so jumpy, so fearful, so quick to assume that anyone he doesn’t recognize is up to no good? Rx for tragedy.


  5. Hal Davis says:

    “can I expand my own psychic map to include George Zimmerman?”

    It’s a challenge. If Elizabeth A. Lynn can get inside the head of a sadist in The Sardonyx Net, it’s terrain that can be traversed.


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