The emotional and psychological toll that comes from being demonized by the media is often ignored by society as a whole. Having every detail of your life looked at and twisted into the most unfavorable spin possible places a heavy weight on those who are subject to it, and on the people who love the one subjected.
Breitbart News was given a candid exclusive interview by Robert Zimmerman, Jr., the brother of George Zimmerman who publicly defended and fought for his little brother. I related to the Zimmerman family in this regard, though I experienced 1/100th of what they are going through. I know what being attacked and smeared felt like, how it made my family feel, and how it changed our lives.
“No one has really asked us to get into the psychological aspect of this,” said Zimmerman. “You don’t know if some one stops you in public and says, ‘excuse me sir,’ you don’t know if you dropped your wallet or if someone recognizes you and wants to kill you.”
Rather than allowing the ordeal to tear them apart, Zimmerman said his family has grown closer and chosen a positive, constructive course. “I think the whole ordeal has taught us to rely on one another,” he said.
Choosing to love and support each other in the midst of extreme life changes that require a family lockdown is not easy. Talking with Zimmerman and his family’s justifiable fears reminded me of dynamics written about by Anne Frank. The young girl’s diary discussed the stress, shortness, and frustration that occurs when a group of people are hunkered down in hiding, with no personal space or freedom of movement due to an outside threat from a mob of people who hate them.
“It taxes everyone’s mind, knowing you have to stay in touch and in constant communication because of the threats,” said Zimmerman.
Anytime anyone goes out for anything, we all know about it. If my phone died, my family would be in a panic that they didn’t hear from me. It happened one time when my phone died and I fell asleep. My family really got worried and immediately started looking for me.
The situation only worsened after the verdict. “After the verdict, we all have the same concerns as before. We are all concerned about our safety,” said Zimmerman. But still, the Zimmerman family chooses to be constructive and stand together. Zimmerman said their main focus is: “Are we doing everything to stay alive at home, and if any of us have to leave, are we doing everything we can to support each other.”
The Zimmermans’ concerns are not without merit. The family receives death threats and has to monitor social media and events to determine when they are in less danger or when they can possibly go to the store. “We have to monitor social media and the internet to see if there are any rallies nearby that pose a specific threat and we avoid them,” said Zimmerman. “The death threats usually come on social media, some are emailed. There’s a lot of ‘you better watch your back, I know where u are, I’m going to get you.'”
Zimmerman said the social media threats are often bolder than the others: “Social media is a lot more bold. “‘I’m in Florida, I’m going to find you, I’m going to kill you, get you, we know where you are, etc.’ and ‘Say hi to Trayvon Martin when I kill you.'” He said some of them allude to Trayvon Martin, but most of them do not.
Zimmerman said the threats sometimes average 400 per minute.
One specific threatening situation Zimmerman found himself in happened at a Starbucks in Washington, D.C. He discussed the situation and stated:
Someone was very ugly to me at a Starbucks. I was with an infant and her mother while her husband pulled the car around. Someone thought I was George Zimmerman. I said, no, George is in jail. They started saying, “we know you’re Zimmerman; it’s right here on the receipt…”
They pulled out their phones and started texting people and calling people. Someone finally noticed the receipt said Robert instead of George, or R instead of G, and they said ‘Oh, it’s not George Zimmerman’ and they all calmed down. Someone then said ‘Yeah, but you look like that Mother f***er and if you were anyone of the Zimmerman’s we were going to take you outside and beat the sh*t out of you.’ They were both Starbucks employees.
Zimmerman said the support has been deeply appreciated: “The support has been overwhelming. The encouragement and prayers mean a lot.” He added: “The people who are most supportive realize this is more than just about George or one case in Florida, but there are many ramifications for everyone in this situation.”
According to Zimmerman, it is not just anti-Zimmerman crowds who cause concern. “Once I was with my brother’s wife, my brother was in custody, and a supporter started expressing support very loudly, and it was scary to us,” he said.
“We realize that some people are supportive and we appreciate it very deeply, but recognizing us and identifying us loudly might tip off people with a different view of us that we are present, and that is dangerous,” he said.
Zimmerman discussed the situations that were most shocking to the family and the things they felt endangered their safety the most. He said Spike Lee’s attempt to tweet their parents’ home address was a shock and concerning, but Roseanne Barr actually tweeted his retired parents’ actual address to millions of people. “It really hit home that thousands of people who were very angry now knew where we were,” he said. “That was the moment that life as we knew it changed forever.”
“It felt like everything we had worked for as a family, namely with our parents safety and security in retirement, was gone,” said Zimmerman. “Social media felt dangerous and it was the first time we all felt completely helpless.”
Zimmerman discussed his thoughts on the future. “There’s a psychological toll for living in isolation for as long as we have. I’m not sure how to learn to trust or interact with people or how to break out of that,” he said. “My concern is that there will never be a return to normal. At best, there will be a new normal, but that will always be plagued by concern over everyone we encounter.”