HLN: George Zimmerman, The Next O.J. Simpson

“If you were wrongly accused of murder and found not guilty, how would you live the rest of your life, particularly if everyone in the world still believed you were the murderer?”
Chuck Klosterman

The majority of Americans who are old enough to remember the O.J. Simpson trial think that he either killed his ex-wife, Nicole, or certainly had something to do with it. When it was all over and Simpson was found not guilty, he had two choices: He could go live life in obscurity with his wealth or continue to try to live the public life of a celebrity he had before. Simpson chose poorly, and that eventually landed him in jail.

Based on his photo-ops and autograph signings at a gun show last weekend in Orlando, Florida, George Zimmerman is making the wrong choice as well, and if he’s not careful, he’ll end up like Simpson.

On Saturday, the New Orlando Gun Show took place at a small gun shop called “The Arms Room.” The event was initially supposed to take place at the large Majestic Event Center in Orlando, but the gun show organizer, Mike Piwowarski, added a special guest at the last minute: Zimmerman. When the Majestic owners found out that Zimmerman had been invited as a celebrity guest to sign autographs and take pictures, they canceled the contract and Piwowarski was forced to move his event to a smaller venue.

While the Majestic and Piwowarski argued over potential lawsuits and breach of contract, Zimmerman quietly came to the gun show, signed autographs, took pictures with people and lamented that people still “hate him.” Simpson was rolling over in his cell.

In his book, “I Wear the Black Hat,” Chuck Klosterman talks about villainy in public and how people that society has deemed to be “bad guys” choose to deal with their fate. Simpson actually behaved like an innocent man should: He was found not guilty, he expressed remorse for the death of his ex-wife and wanted to go back to living the public life he always had. And why shouldn’t he? Isn’t that exactly what an innocent man would do?

The public may have thought he was a wife-abusing murderer, but Simpson acted like a regular guy trying to get his life back. There’s a lesson in this for Zimmerman.

Zimmerman acts like a man who got away with murder. In the months since his acquittal of murder charges in the death of Trayvon Martin, he’s been in two domestic violence calls, done horribly tone-deaf interviews claiming he doesn’t understand the public’s anger, and tried to portray himself as a victim.

He’s tried to make himself into a celebrity painter, attempted a charity boxing match against fallen rapper DMX, and now he’s making celebrity appearances at gun shows 20 miles from where he fatally shot a 17-year-old two years ago.

It’s like he’s trolling the public, desperately searching for a way to live a celebrity life he never had while at the same time claiming he just wants to be left alone.

If Zimmerman feels he’s innocent, he should embrace his role as a celebrity. He should be on national tours, educating the nation about the importance of gun ownership or speaking out against President Barack Obama’s “My Brother’s Keeper” initiative.

Every time we turn on the television, we should see Zimmerman testifying in front of Congress on the importance of keeping “Stand Your Ground” laws. Every National Rifle Association convention in the United States should have a “Zimmerman” booth, where he’d charge $100 per autograph.

He should join gun show organizers in suing the Majestic for discriminating against a private citizen who’s done no wrong. In others words, Zimmerman should act like an innocent man. But he can’t. And he won’t.

Simpson and Zimmerman have a lot in common. They’re both men with a history of domestic disturbances with women. They’re both men who were found not guilty because they were prosecuted by incompetent state attorneys. They are also both men who had a choice about how to rebuild their lives after murder trials.

Simpson refused to accept his role as a public villain and go quietly into private life. Zimmerman still has time to make a choice.

He could change his name, move away from Florida, rebuild his life and make peace with whatever higher power he claims to believe in. Instead, he seems intent on skulking around the edges of society, showing up at gun shows or in random places with artwork, then disappearing into the night.

He still has time to change and to embrace who he is, but he seems a little conflicted. I guess getting away with killing someone can do that do you.

This article originally appeared online at Headline News.

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