The WAY I see it: Unruly rap and ruin, from Martin to Zimmerman to us

OPINION – “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to heaven, we were all going direct the other way – in short, the period was so far like the present period” that some of its noisiest authorities insisted on being received, for good or for evil, in the most superlative degree.

Two young men walked a lonely street in the dark of the evening. I was not there and can only imagine the scene, from those which I have personally experienced.

The two, with different purposes and intents, danced the waltz of suspicion. It was a minuet of minute detail. The grace of classical dance quickly evolved into the theatrics of modern grunge prancing to the tune of hateful rap.

Now, for the less aware, or those in flat-out denial, rap is portrayed as a form of music. It is no more music than would be the National Anthem set to the voice of Roseanne Barr. A tune exists, a voice is heard, a rhythm is pretended. Yet, none of that is at the origin of rap.

At the origin of rap is insult. A duet of quick-thinking trash talk applauded by a crowd of onlookers ill-equipped to escape the doldrums of its mini-culture. Rap was a form of expression from various ghetto mentalities to demonstrate superiority over opponents. But at its heart, rap is really nothing more than “Yo momma so fat she needs two zip codes to get her mail.” Of course a retort is necessary, maybe along the lines of “Well yo momma so ugly when you were born the doc slapped your daddy.”

Patch in a little rhyming, have a friend slap down on a trash can cover, you done got yourself a bona fide rap song. Or, in other words, a popularized insult for the undereducated.

That is what I believe happened.

George Zimmerman was walking his neighborhood wearing the badge of authority given to a neighborhood watchman. Why? Because the neighborhood was concerned about a recent rash of home intrusions.

Trayvon Martin was visiting his dad. Why? Because it was his dad. That is sufficient.

What went terribly wrong, I am convinced, is that these two heard the music of an incongruent situation. They began to dance. The music deteriorated into rap.

A boy lay dead in the street. Over what? Mistaken intent, exaggerated into a misinterpretation, compounded by miscommunication, and culminating in misjudgment.

Both men had a right to be where they were, doing what they were doing. That is not in question. What is unfortunate is what cannot be replayed. Martin is dead. He is dead because of things that were seen, and things that were said, and things which either man (or more likely both men) did.

There is sufficient evidence, that a reasonable person can observe, that clearly suggest that casual observation turned into anger … and ultimately turned into death. Not one death, but two. The second death is the death of George Zimmerman. Martin has been separated from his body. George has been separated from the peace of his life. It will be no easy thing if he ever comes to be fully at peace again.

Both those tragic deaths warrant all the disappointment and disgust we can muster. Yet, there is another tragedy of equal if not greater importance.

Society is dancing to the rapper rhapsody. The noisiest of authorities refuse to learn that such incidents as the death dance between Martin and Zimmerman need not be repeated by themselves. It is far more important to them to “insist on being received, for good or for evil, in the most superlative degree.”

These authorities from the president’s right-hand man down to local loud-mouths, such as I am, insist on filling the streets with the blood of discontent. It is possible to deescalate and learn from this situation without calling for more blood on the guillotine. Justice cannot be provided to Trayvon Martin. All that can be insinuated now is the insult of retribution and punishment, unless we choose to rise above repeating the rap played out by two men many months ago.

That is the WAY I see It.

William Way is an opinion columnist. The opinions stated in this article are his and not representative of St. George News. Additional writings may be found at

Email: [email protected]

Twitter: @STGnews

Copyright St. George News, LLC, 2013, all rights reserved.


Free News Delivery by Email

Would you like to have the day's news stories delivered right to your inbox every evening? Enter your email below to start!


  • Dan Mabbutt July 19, 2013 at 7:56 am

    Trivia Question: What is the name of the book where the first paragraph and the last paragraph are both familiar quotations?

    Answer: Dickens’ “Tale of Two Cities”. William Way has supplied the first paragraph. Here’s the last one:

    “It is a far, far better thing that I do, than I have ever done; it is a far, far better rest that I go to than I have ever known.”

    Way has supplied the perfect moralistic background for his moralistic sermon. Dickens’ book is full of preaching about the evil that men do in his own time. Here’s a clue: The evil that men do has always been with us and always will be. Many historians have noted that the times we live in now are generally far more peaceful and tranquil than other times … even considering the constant war and persistant famine that remains.

    Way’s solution is very much the same as the one Dickens preached too. “Don’t be like them! Be like me! If everyone had my values, why … why … people would just get along and be happy!”

    I have to agree with Way on one point. Rap does seem to be associated with antisocial and violent behavior. When I was drafted into the Army in the VietNam era, the cadence calls that I was forced to chant were just the rap of the military mind.

    This is your rifle, this is your gun.
    This is for business, this is for fun.

    Rap was possibly more popular in ancient Rome than it is today. Imagine rap in Latin in the slums of the city where gladiators fighting to the death was popular entertainment. We have advanced considerably since then. Today, our gladiators just give each other permanent brain damage and only occasionally kill each other.

    The progress that we have made since ancient Rome has nothing to do with preaching peace and harmony. It has to do with much more mundane accomplishments like improving public health, effective police forces, and more efficient agriculture. I probably dislike rap as much as Way does. But I don’t confuse my own values with practical solutions.

  • Ron July 19, 2013 at 8:08 am

    Right on, William. That’s the way I see it, too.

  • William July 19, 2013 at 10:55 am

    Dan: Thank you for your additional insight. I confess to being so esoteric at times that the intent of what I am writing becomes lost in the details of the metaphors.

  • John July 19, 2013 at 11:45 am

    This is the first time I’ve read you Mr. Way, but I like your thinking. I love music, especially classic country music (stories), 60’s music (awakenings), and classical music (emotions). Rap leaves me completely unmoved in any sense. Like you, it sounds more like protest or “in your face” stuff, certainly not an expression of something worthwhile.

    As you point out, the more minority peoples protest through cultural expression and separate themselves from the majority, the more they themselves promote segregation, the very thing they holler about. If people like Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton would encourage those who listen to them to stay in school, learn about respect for others and self, encourage fathers and mothers to team up instead of abdicating their responsibilities to women, to earn welfare benefits, then eventually others will begin to respect them as well.

    The latest news about Detroit going bankrupt is an example of too much giveaway and not enough earning. People on welfare pay no taxes, but cost tax payers. Services are still there until the money runs out.

    The answer is like the adage “Physician, heal thyself”.

  • Dan Mabbutt July 19, 2013 at 2:34 pm

    William: Thank you for the thank you!

    I dipped into your website, “Because I Like To Write” because … well … because I do too. You and I should form a new “Writers Anonymous” club where we can chant, “I’m a writer, but I can change. … If I have to. … I guess.” (Apologies to Red Green for stealing his stuff.)

    I wear a cowboy hat most of the time too … even though I never did growing up … which, considering that you grew up in New York state, might describe you as well.

    I did enjoy your writing and your colorful metaphors. I just disagreed with the premise of your piece. But the writing itself was great !! (It got me excited enough to reply!)

  • Roy J July 19, 2013 at 7:29 pm

    Dickens was uneducated, wrote about the uneducated, and generally wrote for an uneducated audience. Also, the author missed a truly great chance to find a parallel in the Carmagnole, but given the misuse of Dickens throughout the article, I doubt he did the readings. The Jerry Cruncher in me is aggerawayted to the nth degree. Let me sum up the position of the opposition from the same work:

    “The raggedest nightcap, awry on the wretchedest head, had this crooked significance in it: “I know how hard it has grown for me, the wearer of this, to support life in myself; but do you know how easy it has grown for me, the wearer of this, to destroy life in you?”” -Tale of Two Cities, The Sea Still Rises

    It may not be so with the average American citizen, which is the mob, yet. I hope not. But it may be soon.

  • Dan Mabbutt July 20, 2013 at 11:52 am

    Roy J

    You exhume bodies for medical schools? Shocking!

    Indeed, I join you in hoping that the mob delays their insurrection just a bit longer. I’m old enough so that it might not take too long for that event to avoid inconveniencing me. But it does seem inevitable.

  • Roy J July 20, 2013 at 2:11 pm

    Dan: If only, lol!

  • Anonymous July 21, 2013 at 3:08 am

    You are a … idiot. Martin deserved what he got and you have no idea what you are talking about when it comes to rap. You are an ignorant ….
    Ed. ellipsis

    • Ron July 21, 2013 at 2:40 pm

      Ah, at last! Someone who was obviously there since he/she knows exactly what happened. Why didn’t you speak out at the trial?

    • Craig July 22, 2013 at 7:07 am

      Martin did not deserve “what he got” and Zimmerman does not deserve what he is getting.

  • Dan Mabbutt July 21, 2013 at 11:13 am

    I think it’s only polite to speak to people in their own language. So here goes …
    I’m rubber and you’re glue.!
    Bounces off me and sticks on you!!

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.