Ben Stein's Diary

Feeling the Heat

The Trayvon Martin case is worrying me.

By 7.22.13

Send to Kindle

Sunday
Here we are in Sandpoint, Idaho. It is fantastically hot, much hotter than it was in Beverly Hills or Malibu. On the other hand, we have the most amazing view ever from our condo out over Lake Pendoreille. I’ll send a picture, but let’s just say it’s an immense lake, mostly with rocky cliffs and forests along its hundred mile shoreline. No one -- least of all me -- deserves such a fine view.

I had a tough time sleeping last night. The Trayvon Martin case is worrying me. I’ll tell you a few reasons:

First of all, the media have made this case into the lynching of Zimmerman supposedly because he murdered an innocent sweet little black child. But according to what I read, Zimmerman -- while a fool -- was attacked by Mr. Martin, who was far from unarmed. He was armed with his skills as a martial artist and his strength and size. He wasn’t the sweet altar boy shown on the cover of magazines and on TV. He was a big, strong kid with a history of drug use and a bit of bragging online about his fighting skills. He didn’t start a conversation with Zimmerman when Zimmerman got out of his truck. He attacked Zimmerman, who possibly would have been killed if he had not defended himself.

This is the story the jury heard. This is the story that made the jury unanimously acquit Zimmerman. The media have been telling a fairy tale designed to whip up race hatred.

It horrifies me that the media has tried to turn this sad case into an occasion to make black people hate white people. It horrifies me that Mr. Obama has joined in. His assertion that he could have been Martin is breathtakingly dishonest. If Obama had been Martin, he would have talked Zimmerman out of his watch and his wallet and then gotten a scholarship to college for writing about it. Martin was a dangerously violent kid. Obama was and always has been a politician.

But it’s worse than this: the black community in this nation is in crisis. It has a disastrous situation in terms of education, lack of work habits, complete collapse of the family, wild overuse of drugs, violence, and generally behavior that is destructive to itself and far too many other people. (Obviously, this applies only to some black people. I work every day and you work every day with black people who are in fine shape, much better shape than I am in.)

The least of the problems that black people face in the USA right now is attacks by heavy set volunteer watchmen in gated communities. That’s not even on the radar screen as a serious problem. For Mr. Obama and other “black leaders” and media people to pretend that it is is simply nonsense.

There is real anarchy in many parts of the black community in the USA. For Mr. Obama and others to act as if the real problem is white people locking their car doors at stop lights when black people approach them is just plain poppycock. The black community is not in danger from white people: it is in danger from itself.

The number of black kids killed by white people is minute -- although any is too many. The number of black kids killed by the Crips and the Bloods and the Black P-Stone Rangers is enormous. Why no rallies led by “black leaders” against the Crips and the Bloods? The number of black kids whose lives have been ruined by irresponsible parents is immense. Why no rallies against crack-smoking moms and dads?

The answer is sadly easy to see: white people have pretty much given up racism as a factor in their lives. They have to worry about jobs and education and families. Thus, there are none, not any major white leaders of any kind whose stock in trade is whipping up race hatred. That movement simply does not exist.

But among “black leaders,” who really can no longer make credible claims about racism now that we have a black President, who really have no answers to the crisis in the black community, a chance to distract people from their own powerlessness is a golden opportunity.

Among the liberal media, who have really been missing someone to hate for a long time, the Zimmerman case is heaven-sent. They take this poor soul, trying to patrol his community, who is getting beaten to within an inch of his life by a black kid and who saves his own life -- and they make him into a Klansman. Into a whole posse of Klansmen.

It’s distressing. Black people have a brutally painful history of suffering in this country. It is a shameful story. It is in the past as far as being caused by white people as a day by day matter. It definitely is not in the past in the black consciousness. They have every reason to feel angry about it. But things have gotten so incredibly, unbelievably better in the last generations in terms of white attitudes that to seek to whip up old animosities while ignoring the present catastrophe in the black community is a disgraceful distraction by the President and “black leaders.”

Many years ago, I ghost wrote an autobiography for a famous black civil rights leader and charismatic speaker. I accompanied him to several gatherings. One of the standard remarks that he made at black events went roughly like this: “Complain about racism all you want. March against police brutality and I’ll be right there with you. But if you really want to do something to feed your family, learn how to fix a clogged plumbing line or how to wire a house with electricity or how to teach math, and then you’re actually getting something done.”

These lines ring in my ears. It terrifies me that we are pretending that the likes of George Zimmerman are a problem when we have real problems. It terrifies me that a man with the power of Eric Holder can use an explicitly racist, anti-white approach to a complex case that is itself a sideshow.

We have real problems in America. We cannot pretend they will go away if we focus on sad, even tragic, peripheral events. Yes, one Trayvon Martin death is one too many. Thousands of deaths of blacks from black violence and drugs are in a different world of hurt.

Race has always been the main problem in America, at least since World War II. We had a spectacular triumph in ridding ourselves of white racism at all but the most trivial levels (like excluding me from a country club). For the President and Eric Holder and the liberal media and the “black leaders” to turn up the heat under a new evil cauldron of racism is terrifying. The only solution is a spiritual solution. Let’s pray for it to come in our lifetimes. If you really try to love your neighbors, you can. It is not easy but it can be done.

Well, enough about that.

Worrying about the Zimmerman case, plus the fatigue of yesterday’s travel (the trip from our home in L.A. to our home in Sandpoint takes longer than to fly from L.A. to London), plus the heat, led my wife and me to do something extremely unusual for us: quarrel.

I told her at dinner that I was feeling so exhausted from the heat that I felt as if I were fading away.

“We’re just fading away,” I said sorrowfully.

“Speak for yourself,” she said breezily.

“Not very sympathetic,” I answered. “A bit surprising for a wife to say that to her husband of 45 years.”

We both sulked for a while. Then I took a nap and decided that, 1.) Feelings come and feelings go, and feelings are not facts, and 2.) Life is far too short to waste time arguing over small things with the ones we love. Better to be thankful we are in a beautiful place far from Detroit and to thank God for each other. We talked and she told me I wasn’t fading away, and praised me generously and then I sat down and wrote this. Now I feel a lot better about my wife, but I am terribly worried about the problems of black America and by the cheap racist shots of far too many people who should know better.

God bless America, and sin must come but woe to him by whom it comes.

Like this Article

Print this Article

Print Article
About the Author

Ben Stein is a writer, actor, economist, and lawyer living in Beverly Hills and Malibu. He writes "Ben Stein's Diary" for every issue of The American Spectator.