In a recent column, Bill O’Reilly made the observation that while Trayvon Martin’s death was a tragedy, it was also an example of the dangers of confrontation, in that Zimmerman was told by the 911 dispatcher not to follow Martin and not to confront him.  While we don’t know exactly what happened between the two, what we do know is that Zimmerman did not avoid Martin, nor Martin Zimmerman… and the result was fatal. O’Reilly went on to point out that he often has to back away from confronting stupidity or error, simply because doing so would be far too dangerous, either physically or legally.

On the surface, this is simple wisdom. Don’t get into confrontational situations because they can escalate into dangerous or even potentially fatal incidents… or result in huge lawsuits, if not both.  But, the truer that advice may be, the more it suggests how violent and/or litigation-happy our society has become… as well as how intransigent all too many people have become. I’ve seen and experienced the absolute arrogance displayed by all manner of Americans, from the anti-abortionists, the gun-rights-absolutists to militant feminists who declare that every act of heterosexual intercourse is an act of rape, to the arrogance of minority youth whose speech and attitudes show no understanding or respect of anyone clearly not able to flatten them, and that range of arrogance and intransigence also includes professors and politicians, red-necks, students and professionals… and a whole lot of others.

A great deal of this I attribute to a society-wide attitude that anyone has the right to do anything in public short of actual physical violence to another [and sometimes even that] and say anything to anyone, regardless of how hurtful, how hateful, or how anger-provoking it may be.  Or for that matter, how disruptive it may be.  Hate speech may be a “right,” but it’s neither ethical nor wise. Allowing screaming children running through the supermarket is not only unpleasant but disruptive and can be dangerous… but you risk physical damage if you suggest curtailing hate speech or someone’s unruly offspring… and that’s just the beginning.

Now… I’m scarcely arguing for confrontation, because I’m not, but whatever happened to such things as moderate behavior, in both expressing an opinion and in reacting to it?

Violent confrontation shouldn’t be socially acceptable, and neither should unruly, anti-social, or disruptive public conduct.

5 thoughts on “Confrontation”

  1. Frank says:

    While coming back from lunch, today, I stopped at a gas station with a convenience store to buy a few items. While in line I was approached by what appeared to be a drunken “street guy” who told me that it was “OK” to get in line in front of him, and then gestured for me to bump forearms with him. I refrained from the bump, but smiled and thanked him. His friend then started to beret him for being impolite, replete with epithets about his heritage, race and nationality. I stayed out of the discussion and paid for my items and left the store.

    In the parking lot, the same two approached my car and wanted “63 cents…just 63 cents.” Having seen this type stuff before, I just refused, got into and locked my car…and, when they realized I was not going to unlock the door to continue the scene and got out of my way…I drove off.

    Now, I’m in my mid-sixties, have quite a few replaced joints, and am far from in “fighting shape,” however, I still felt upset that I didn’t “stand up” to the confrontation and “call them out,” regardless of the risk. I’m glad I did not, as any result would have been bad, either getting myself hurt, or even if I prevailed and hurt one or both of them…would it really have been worth the 63 cents?

    What I’m taking from this is that I’m a grown, educated adult with nothing to prove. Yet, I’m still grappling with the urge to “fight back” when confronted, even though it would make no sense. I’m not sure if that means I never got over my adolescence or that the world has become nonsensical, but, it is a microcosm of what you are referring to.

  2. karen penn says:

    This is a mindless, “apolitical” response to the Trayvon/Zimmerman incident. This wasn’t just a random standoff between 2 individuals — an older man stalked a teenager and, therefore, pushed for a confrontation, at the very minimum. I find the following passage, from a revolutionary website, to be extremely helpful in putting this in the context of 100s of years of race-based discrimination in the US:

    “George Zimmerman decided that Trayvon Martin, a Black teenager walking home at 7:15 at night, looked “suspicious.” He called 911 and without ever meeting or talking to Trayvon Martin, cursed him out as “a punk” and a “fucking asshole.” He said “they always get away”—and everybody knows, unless they consciously don’t want to know, that George Zimmerman was using “they” to mean “Black people.” He got out of his car to stalk Trayvon Martin, despite orders from 911 not to. And then, a few minutes later, George Zimmerman killed Trayvon Martin with a bullet to the heart.”

    “Stop right there. What does this tell you? It tells you that George Zimmerman had been taught by America to think that every Black person is guilty until proven innocent, a threat, a “problem”… and that every white person has the right to question, judge and hunt down any Black person who rubs him the wrong way. Ask yourself: how did George Zimmerman learn this? Ask yourself: how many times a day do these same vicious assumptions poison social interactions in schools, stores, the streets, workplaces, and—most deadly of all—with the police or wannabe pigs like Zimmerman? Ask yourself: does this have anything to do with how America was built and how it achieved and maintained its vaunted wealth, and the traditions it passed on to justify all that and to reinforce the new forms in which it goes on?”

    I’d highly recommend reading the whole article at (

  3. Ryan Jackson says:

    The only flaw here is the situation can switch out Trayvon with any other ethnicity and get the same result. The issue is that we had someone who saw something suspicious and then decided he HAD to get involved and stand up against the supposed thug despite being told not to.

    Sorry, I would have been suspicious of the unidentified person dressed somewhat thuggish in my neighborhood too. That he happened to be black really is irrelevant to me, he could have been white, or Hispanic, or Asian, etc, etc, etc. It’s not the ethnicity, it’s the dress, manner of walking and fact that the individual is not a normal resident that would flag him.

    I don’t get nervous if I see a black person. I do get a touch nervous if I see someone dressed in hoodie and jeans at night. I wouldn’t have the same response to someone in a dress shirt and slacks. Or even just a t-shirt. For better or worse, certain fashion statements are associated with various things. What Trayvon was wearing happens to be associated with thugs.

    Please don’t insert race where there’s no actual proof of it being involved.

  4. Wine Guy says:

    @Karen Penn :

    Apolitical – yes. Mindless? Hardly.

    Is Zimmerman to blame? Absolutely.
    Is Martin to blame? Absolutely.

    People want to see this as a win/lose, black/white, up/down issue. Please pardon those of us who don’t think it’s as simple as all that.

    And please don’t cite Communist party jingoistic literature as proof. First, my virus blocker took two hits off that site. Second, no one here’s cited the Rep, Dem, Libertarian, or Nazi party sites…. and we (or, at least I, for one) would give them the same credibility as the Communist: none.

  5. Carl Nelson says:

    @Ryan Jackson:
    You have every right to feel nervous around whomever you choose. How do these feelings justify following and confronting people based on the superficial considerations that you mention, such as their manner of dress or the way they walk? This strikes me as exactly the sort of attitude which leads some of us to push for “stand your ground” laws.

    @Wine Guy:
    That site has been reviewed by Norton ( and McAfee (; both companies indicate that no security issues were found. What exactly did your anti-virus software detect?

    Who are the “we” who would disregard all content posted by the various political parties that you mention? The clarification “or, at least I, for one” appears to be offered as an alternative interpretation to your initial phrasing… you imply that you represent some consensus and then effectively add “or not” to that implication. (It already stands to reason that your posts reflect your own opinions.) This phrasing seems at best confused and at worst disingenuous… on whose behalf are you posting? You could address the content itself rather than simply throwing out an ad hominem dismissal; _why_ is this article incredible?

    I agree that Mr. Modesitt’s post is hardly mindless, and I appreciate his willingness to attempt to discuss serious issues in a more candid – and yet, still civil – fashion than is often found in modern discourse. I also thought the article excerpt which Karen posted raised valid questions related to Mr. Zimmerman’s actions the night he shot Mr. Martin.

    I’m curious about this statement: “While we don’t know exactly what happened between the two, what we do know is that Zimmerman did not avoid Martin, nor Martin Zimmerman… and the result was fatal.” — it’s my understanding that Mr. Martin was initially walking home, and that he then attempted to run away when he observed Mr. Zimmerman following him. While we’ve seen in this very post that there are indeed people out there who may feel threatened based on sartorial or ambulatory considerations, what more could Mr. Martin have reasonably been expected to do in order to avoid this confrontation?

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