Tuesday will mark one year since George Zimmerman shot and killed Trayvon Martin.
The gap between what we all thought we knew then and what we know now is as wide as Sanford's Lake Monroe.
Zimmerman wasn't a white man who gunned down a black kid. It was a half-Hispanic man — who says he has black family members — who gunned down a black kid.
The Sanford Police Department didn't ignore the possibility of racial motivation — or worse, condone it — during its investigation.
In the days after the shooting, before the world was watching, Investigator Chris Serino asked Zimmerman point blank, "Had this person been white, would you have felt the same way?" and, "You got any problems with black people?"
And Trayvon was not the thug that some, resorting to faked photographs, desperately tried to portray him as. He was a lanky 17-year-old without a criminal record, though he had been suspended from school at the time he was killed.
Try as they might, this case didn't fit any of the convenient, uncomplicated molds favored by so many civil-rights activists, bigots, pundits and members of the public.
The divide over Trayvon's death is what happens when people draw conclusions — and battle lines — before they have the facts. They become invested in supporting their conclusions — and winning the battle — instead of learning the truth.
Some wanted this case to be about a black teen who was shot and killed for no reason except that a Neighborhood Watch volunteer didn't like his skin color. A subplot involved either apathetic or bigoted Sanford cops who sat on their hands instead of arresting the known killer.
Others wanted the case to be about a vigilant neighborhood watchman who, through no fault of his own, became involved in a confrontation with an aggressive teenager with murder on his mind. In this version, the watchman feared for his life and had no choice but to pull out his weapon and shoot.
More likely the truth is somewhere in the middle of those two popular narratives.
But rarely do people describe it that way.
It's far easier to choose and consume news that validates the version you want to believe. George Zimmerman's a victim? Watch Sean Hannity. Oh, you say that Trayvon Martin was murdered in cold blood? Tune in to Lawrence O'Donnell.
Or blame the media, if you prefer. We report news as it develops. Sometimes that results in mistakes.
But a news story, by its nature, evolves. So should the public's opinions. When new information emerges, people should be open to changing their minds.
Doesn't happen. Too many people today don't want to be informed. They just want their beliefs validated.
They don't want to be discerning. They want to be spoon-fed.
Knowing what we know today, it seems clear that Trayvon was walking back the town house he was staying at from a 7-Eleven where he bought a fruit drink and Skittles.
Zimmerman saw him and called a non-emergency number to report him as suspicious to Sanford police. At some point the two started fighting and, according to witnesses, Trayvon was on top of Zimmerman.
That seems to be corroborated by Zimmerman's injuries as well as witnesses who say it was Zimmerman yelling out for help on the 911 tapes and not Trayvon.
Whether Zimmerman's injuries were serious enough for him to fear for his life and shoot Trayvon will be a question for the judge when she decides whether Zimmerman is immune from prosecution in a "stand your ground" hearing set for April.
It's a question already answered by millions of Americans who made up their minds long before the evidence emerged.
I'd like to say we learned something from Trayvon's death. Something about giving the facts a chance to play out before we judge. Something about altering conclusions — even those that seemed logical at first — once the facts no longer support them.
But we've learned nothing. All you have to do is look at the shootings in Newtown, Conn., just two months ago to see that.
The gunfire that killed all those 6- and 7-year-olds and their teachers had barely ended before new battle lines were drawn and conclusions made.
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