The Secret World of George Zimmerman: Trayvon Martin’s Shooter

The senseless death of Trayvon Martin weighs heavily on our hearts and minds and has fueled marches around the world calling for the shooter, George Zimmerman’s arrest. “The case has resonated for many who say Martin died because of stereotypes of young black men as violent criminals. The shooting is already being compared with high-profile and historic civil rights cases” (USA Today, Trayvon-Martin-Teen-Shot-Stereotypes).

The tragic case played out in Sanford, Florida when Trayvon Martin left his father’s home to buy candy and iced tea for his little brother at a nearby 7-Eleven. He was on his way back home when 28 year old George Zimmerman, the volunteer neighborhood watchman, spotted Trayvon and called 911 to report a suspicious person. Against the dispatcher’s advice, Zimmerman, who was armed, followed Martin. Allegedly, the two men fought. Trayvon Martin was left dead. Zimmerman claims the shooting was in self-defense.

But who is George Zimmerman, a self-appointed watchman, or a racist or vigilante, or, as a good neighbor said, a “good dude”? (Miami Herald; Daily Beast, Trayvon Martin Outrage). How are we to understand these dramatically polarized perceptions of  Mr. Zimmerman? We may benefit from the psychological conflict of James Thurber’s book character Walter Mitty. You may have already recognized the title of my post today as a play on words from Thurber’s book that Goldwyn Mayer made into the movie called The Secret World Of Walter Mitty (1947). Danny Kaye plays Walter, a milquetoast proofreader for a magazine publishing firm. Walter is constitutionally incapable of standing up for himself, which is why his mother has been able to arrange a frightful marriage between her son Walter and an overbearing woman. Walter muses over the lurid covers of the magazines put out by his firm, to cope with his boring, humdrum world, in which he has not control. Fantasy as opposed to reality has become his refuge from deep insecurities and a sense of worthlessness. He retreats into his fantasy world, where he is heroic, poised, self-assured, and the master of his fate. Walter fancies himself a Navy war hero, a world-famous surgeon saving a very important person’s life, a crack shot being interrogated in the courtroom, a British pilot willing to sacrifice his life for his country, and a bold, brave man about to be shot by a firing squad. Retreating into this secret world keeps Walter sane and able to cope with his circumstances.

Is there a secret world to George Zimmerman as well? Is he the hero of his fantasy world? It seems as if George fancied himself a self-appointed protector of the law, despite that reports disclose that he had broken the law in the past several times.  In the days that followed the shooting, we learned that George Zimmerman aspired to become a law enforcement officer. Zimmerman attended Seminole State College, which has a law and public safety program. In 2008, he applied to the Seminole County Sheriff’s Office program for citizen law enforcement.

Was becoming a self-appointed neighborhood watch dog a way for Zimmerman to cope with frustrations of not realizing his wish to have a career in law enforcement? It’s psychologically possible. It is Zimmerman’s over-zealousness in carrying out his watchman duties that made my psychological ears perk up about his emotional makeup. It seems as if Zimmerman was vigilant in this role, calling the police on suspicious persons more than 16 times since January of 2012 ( His over-eagerness to catch the bad guys is unsettling, but especially so in the case of Trayvon Martin, where Zimmerman ignored the 911 dispatcher’s request for him to stay put and let the police officers take over. Altogether, the details of this story thus far cause me to speculate about George Zimmerman’s inner-world.

Resolution of Opposites in Behavior

Is Zimmerman a racist and vigilante or ‘a good dude’? (Daily Beast, Trayvon Martin Outrage)? Perhaps, he is both.  Ambiguity is part of human nature. Actually, Freud formulated his theory on the ambiguous nature of human beings. He referred to the self-interested, darker part of us as the id and to the socially-interested and acceptable features of us as the ego. We have the developmental task of reconciling the differences between the two so that our identifications with social norms becomes greater than our hedonistic urges. Our darker urges do not fully go away, however. They lurk below in our secret inner world. But, most of us have achieved adequate enough development that the risk for acting out these dark impulses is low. We have many socially-acceptable avenues to release these antisocial urges, like rap music, books, video games, and movies that emphasize counter culture impulses.

Zimmerman’s darker impulses may have surfaced that tragic evening. The facts still have to become clear to know for sure. But,  the polarized accounts of Zimmerman’s character suggest opposite emotional strivings in him. It’s possible that Zimmerman’s identification with social norms was not strong enough to keep a lid on his darker urges. Therapists call this weak ego strength. Perhaps, that fateful evening was a perfect storm of circumstances that unleashed the worst of Zimmerman and put him into a place where he went from assisting to becoming law enforcement itself.

This is just food for thought. There’s still much to learn about the details of this case. Like so many of you, my heart hurts for what Trayvon Martin endured that tragic evening and for the suffering of his loved ones. We can only imagine their suffering.

If you liked my post today, please say so by selecting the Like button below. As always, I value your thoughts and comments. Warmly, Deborah.

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13 Responses to “The Secret World of George Zimmerman: Trayvon Martin’s Shooter”

  1. avatar Susan Killian says:

    Hi Deborah,

    I have reserved any comment on either party for now. I doubt we know all the unbiased details of the event. It is a horrible tragedy… but sadly not all that uncommon… It happens every single day here in Chicago… not by police or neighborhood “watchers” but by kids shooting other kids… kids that are Trayvon’s age and younger. Just last week we had a story of a 2 year old girl killed in crossfire between two rivals. To me this is an even greater tragedy… for several reasons… First, it happens daily, week after week, month after month… black kids killing other black kids, hispanics killing hispanics… all of them killing one another. While not excusable, racism is at least a tangible reason… racial tensions over the past few years have been heightened beyond anything I remember… perhaps even back to the 60’s…but what I am witnessing everyday here defies explanation… it is genocide…and over what? I want to know where are Rev. Al Sharpton, Jesse Jackson, Louis Farrakhan??? Why are there not protests and marches all over the nation because of this ongoing tragedy??? Perhaps in my old age I am more a cynic but the Trayvon case is more “sexy” in an election year where one party has flagrantly used race to draw lines. I do not know if Mr Zimmerman is a racist and it doesn’t matter… because he will be portrayed that way regardless… and Trayvon’s family will be used just as Cindy Sheehan was used in the last election… this tragedy will be exploited and those already suffering will be important news until they are no longer needed (anyone heard from Cindy Sheehan lately???). Yet all the while many, many more black kids are being killed by other black kids EVERYDAY on the streets of Chicago. I am much more concerned about what is happening in my city because it isn’t an isolated incident done by some possibly over zealous and unbalanced human being… it is being done by kids, children against other children…EVERYDAY… It truly breaks my heart…

    • avatar Dr. Deborah Khoshaba says:

      Hello Susan, thank you for your passionate comments. I know that many share your feelings as to the attention that this case has gotten. Yes, there are many who do politicize tragedies like this case for their own agendas. I’m moved less by this understanding than I am by the actual tragedy.

      I’m unsure that the crossfire of a gang killing a child is anymore deserving of our attention than the murder of Trayvon Martin and the senseless killings of all people across the world. For me, they all deserve our attention and deep concern. The situations that you describe here are heart-breaking. I thank you for addressing them today. Warm regards, Deborah.

  2. avatar Persi says:

    Let us examine some facts: (1) there has been a wave of crimes committed by young black men in the Retreat at Twin Lakes; (2) Zimmerman’s nose was broken and the back of his head was bloody; (3) Zimmerman’s neighbors consider him a devoted neighbor; (4) he established the Neighborhood watch with the help of Sanford Police Department; (4) he had no legal duty to follow the dispatcher’s warning as to not follow Trayvon; (5) he had recently mentored a black kid by taking him to basketball games and participating in fundraising for the kid’s church (if Zimmerman was a “raciest killer” as some claim, he would not be mentoring a black kid); (6) as of this date, he has not been charged with any crimes (evidentiary proceeding before the grand jury will start on April 10).

    Let us face the truth: some media and some individuals and organizations are using this tragic event for their own benefit and to further their own agenda by making this a race issue. When was the last time the “New Black Panther Party” offered $10,000 bounty for capture of a black man or woman for killing a white man or woman? How could an organization put a bounty on a person who has not even been charged with any crime? Where is that “American justice system that says “you are presumed innocent until you are convicted of a crime?”

  3. avatar Jack Durish says:

    I cannot add to the thoughtful article nor the comments in this discussion thread. Amazing! You have left me no room to pontificate. Thus, I can only applaud y’all and make this a regular stopping place in the future.

    • avatar Dr. Deborah Khoshaba says:

      Jack, thank you so much. I very much appreciate your kind words. I look forward to you stopping by again. Warm Regards, Deborah.

  4. avatar Toni says:

    When will Americans stand up for what is right without fear of retaliation. We all know in our hearts that Zimmerman is guilty but we are afraid to stand up to our friends and family for fear of being outcasts. Zimmerman should have a bloody nose and wounds in his head. If you listen to the tapes its clear that Martin was fighting for his life.Look at the picture you will see that the blood is coursing forward towards his face as if he was in a bowing position not laying on the ground.

    • avatar Dr. Deborah Khoshaba says:

      Hi Toni, thank you for reading this post and for your comments and observations. I wrote this article to talk about the many sides to personality. That in fact, people can have two faces that are at war with each other. I appreciate your position; I know there are many who agree with you and just as many who do not. For me, a young man died tragically and needlessly that day. I sure hope you come by again Toni. Warmly Deborah.

      • avatar Treble Hook says:

        When I look back, the foolish predicaments I have found myself in were solely based on assumptions and emotions, either my own or someone elses. One must never let assumptions and emotions over rule their intellect. There is a reason in competitive wrestling and boxing they match the participants in the same weight class. I applaud Trayvon Martin if he really was on top of George Zimmerman after being stalked by him for whatever assumed reason. In a professional intellectual competition they would of never been in a match with each other. If Trayvon struck the first blow, rightly so, he was only acting on his natural fight or flight response in an obviously unequivocal fight. Unfortunately, Zimmerman won the fight he picked based purely on his emotion and assumptions, but I suppose his intellect most certainly played a larger role or the lack of it. IMO he is a real American Thug in disguise. Oh the things they could be teaching us in public schools if it weren’t for the money to be made in building prisons!

        Yes you see, Zimmerman was running on emotion and assumption, He also had an undying need to be the neighborhood hero, he fears most what he knows he’s capable of doing himself so he has to carry a weapon with him at all times to protect himself from those like him. The second amendment doesn’t give us the right to pursue a stranger with a gun, and neither does the neighborhood crime watch rules and regulations. If he wanted an armed security guard Zimmerman should of suggested the neighborhood association hire one! The prosecution buffed the trial and lost it by focusing on assumptions. Evidence not used would of solidified his emotional intent and left no reasonable doubt in the minds of the jury. Although their case sounded well and I believed their assumptions to be mostly accurate, how do we treat the human condition. A rational man would of dealt with accurate dialogue in hopes it would of played out closer to the following example….

        GZ ” hey kid I’m the leader of the neighborhood crime watch and we’ve had some recent break ins, what are you doing in my neighborhood?”

        TM “I’m going home to my dads house.”

        GZ “Who’s your dad?”

        TM “You’re the head of neighborhood crime watch and you don’t know your neighbors, quit following me you’re scaring the shit out of me!

        GZ “can you wait here the police will be here shortly I just wanted to make sure you’re supposed to be here?”

        TM “No, I’m staying in the hood right around the corner at (gives address) if they need the rap you send them there.”

        • avatar Dr. Deborah Khoshaba says:

          Hello Treble, thank you for sharing your thoughts with us here. I agree that perception based on wrong assumptions and emotions can lead to many racial, social and political ills and injustices. The enemy that we human beings perceive as outside of us is really the enemy who we have constructed in our minds. What a different interaction that might have been that day if presence of mind rather than a gun would have led the interaction between the two. Be well Treble, Hope to see you here again sometime. Warmly Deborah.

  5. avatar Toni says:

    If Martin was white none of this would have happened.

  6. avatar Jackie says:

    Heavy sigh of sadness and frustration over the incredible debacle called a trial of a man who hunted a young man, refused to follow the direction of the real police, and pushed this kid into a corner where he had to protect himself as best he could, against a grown man who clearly exhibited and exhibits psychological disorders, racism, paranoia, and seems to be in full flight from reality. The jury, a joke, 6 women, none of whom were African American…so much for a jury of his peers. I could go on, but really, what is the use? We, who are not blinded or swayed by racist, unwarranted fear, know that Zimmerman set out to get this kid, because they always “get away with it.” No wonder the police department did not bring him into the fold, they knew somethings weren’t right with Zimmerman.
    Will Zimmerman ever be held accountable for his choices and actions? I hope so, but justice seems to be far, far away in a distant land and in a time far into the future.
    In the meantime, more killings will take place thanks to these ridiculous Stand Your Ground laws, which in reality are a license to kill because someone didn’t like the way someone else dressed, skin color, gender, or the person looked at them funny.
    This world in which we all live is becoming increasingly toxic on seemingly every level…a little more every day.
    I, for one, believe there is more good in most people than bad or sick, rather, and I’m not going to carry a gun, walk around fearful of anyone. I’m going to focus on the good things and my sincere belief that we all want the same things: peace, freedom, love, kindness and acceptance. Join me and let’s try just one day at a time to love and lift up one another rather than hunt and kill our brothers and sisters.

    • avatar Dr. Deborah Khoshaba says:

      Hello Jackie, I hear your sadness and frustration in your words. I understand Jackie. I don’t understand this Neighborhood vigilante approach to protecting our neighborhoods, especially letting people have guns who have no business having them. What happened between Zimmerman and Martin shows that Zimmerman had no business carrying a gun. It is a tragedy Jackie. And, I love what you say here that “peace, freedom,love, kindness and acceptance” is the way. I am happy to join you in this sentiment Jackie; “a time to love and lift up each other rather than destroy.” What a wonderful world that would be. Warmly Deborah.


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