As readers know, I’ve been living abroad all year, in several locations.  In each, it  has been interesting to see what picture of the U.S. one gets from the news coverage there.  As most of you know, “our” news dominates global news in a way no other country’s does.

Most recently, in Australia and New Zealand, the Zimmerman trial was front page news, and the subject of much opinion and reader comment (not least about the prevalence of guns and the curiosity of a “stand your ground” law).  Australia, as you may know, moved to severely restrict private ownership of guns following a tragic school shooting ten or more years ago.  This was done by a conservative government, and that party now boasts about it as a major achievement.  There have been no mass shootings since, and murder rates have plummeted.  

In the U.S. commentary about the Zimmerman verdict, though, a column by Kathleen Parker caught my eye.

She concluded by asking, “…What was George Zimmerman doing walking around his neighborhood armed and loaded?  In what world is this normal behavior?”{

I think I can propose at least part of the answer.

Curtis Coats and I are just finishing a book on religion, media, and masculinity.  It will come out next year from NYU Press, under the title, Does God Make the Man: Religion, Media, and the Crisis of Masculinity.

In it, we will argue that–even after all we’ve been through in public and private re-thinking of gender over the past thirty or more years–many men remain convinced that their identities are wrappted up in what we call “the Three ‘Ps’:” Provision, Protection, and Purpose

As identity markers, these are in ways atavistic and incohate, but yet strongly felt, supported by a variety of sources in culture, society, and religion. 

So, our answer to Kathleen Parker (and not an answer we oursevles think of as normative, of course) is: Zimmerman was acting on one of thoose “Ps.”