Trayvon Martin's Face

A reader sent this message after he read an item yesterday:

Looking at your note on this online and seeing Trayvon Martin's picture juxtaposed by Obama's picture on the Atlantic cover made me think - this kid could have grown up to be President.

I don't know anything about Trayvon Martin's real character or potential, and I am not meaning to romanticize him. On the other hand, he was only 17 -- who knows what he might have become? The truth is that virtually no one in the United States actually does "grow up to be president." But a similarly important truth in America is the ideal that almost anyone could  realize that dream. (And boy have we seen the "anyone" category broaden out in this latest primary season -- just a little joke.) As a conceptual and symbolic matter, Obama's election has forever opened a realm of possibilities for people who could "grow up to be president" -- and whose potential for such a future you can see in a photo like this.

In the same vein:
The effect of Trayvon Martin's photo at the top of your blog post was quite stunning, on me anyway. More powerfully than any of the very well written commentary I've read so far, it said to me simply: Who would find this person so threatening as to shoot him - apparently while *walking away*?  And who could find that shooting not to be worth a homicide investigation?
Let us stipulate that Trayvon Martin might have looked different that night than he did in this angelic photo. Still, the person in this picture is the same one who was shot -- and who, according the 911 tapes, was begging for mercy before the killer fired the fatal shots. If humanizing this tragic slaughter, by literally putting a smiling face on the victim, attracts attention to the racial and broader civic and legal issues it raises, then let it do so.

From a reader with a military background, on one of those broader issues:
I am following this story with interest, but less from a black vs. white story perspective than one of gun ownership out of control...
I've done a lot of weapons firing and have a sizeable collection of military firearms as well as a number of acquaintances who share my enthusiasm for firearms. I get tired of hearing periodically from one of my well-meaning but not well-informed shooting buddies about how the Obama administration is going to end gun ownership as we know it. I get more tired of hearing about the incidents where gun owners just plain act irresponsibly in exercising their so-called rights.
This story from Florida makes me sick. No one has the right to go around armed and taking the law into his own hands. I personally hope that the Department of Justice gets involved in this case since the accounts I've read so far seem to pretty clearly suggest that Trayvon Martin was deprived of his civil rights, and the authorities in Florida so far have made no effort to bring this matter to justice.   sincerely hope Mr. Martin's parents can find a competent attorney to bring a civil wrongful death suit against Mr. Zimmerman and the local police department.  Clowns like Zimmerman end up branding all firearm owners as out-of-control bullies who can shoot unarmed people with impunity.

For the record: in the page the first reader originally saw, the pictures of Obama and Trayvon Martin were farther apart on the screen, though both visible in the same glance. For clarity I've moved the Obama image down parallel to Martin's.