I don’t know what President Obama’s schedule is looking like for today, but I’m sure he’ll be making time to comment on the case of Shawn Tyson, the Florida teenager who was yesterday sentenced to life without parole for the cold-blooded murders of two young British men who were holidaying in the state.
I’m sure the president will want to share his thoughts on the tragedy, because he takes such a keen interest, in his capacity as bridge-builder-and-healer-in-chief, in inter-racial altercations – and in particular fatal shootings to which there’s an apparent racial element. And the racial element here is at least as much a factor as it was in the case of the Trayvon Martin shooting which has so exercised Mr. Obama, and probably more so.
Tyson was black, while his victims, James Cooper, 25, and James Kouzaris, 24, were white. The pair were gunned down after straying into Tyson’s predominantly black housing project, and while there’s no shortage of black-on-black shootings in such areas, it’s hard to imagine that two black men with no gang affiliation walking through the same neighbourhood would have been as likely to be targeted.
As reported in the Fox News story linked above, friends of Cooper and Kouzaris who spoke at the trial said they were “dissatisfied” with the lack of support or condolences from the United States government, and from President Obama in particular.
But I’m sure Mr. Obama will be swift to make amends, and will “insert himself” into this tragedy in a way that, according to the Washington Post, is “at once deeply personal and completely universal, and avidly avoids taking sides in a political fight”.
I’m expecting Mr. Obama to say that he can only imagine what the parents of Cooper and Kouzaris have had to go through since Tyson executed their sons, after making them beg for their lives, last April.
Perhaps he’ll even say that the two young men could have been, if not his own sons, then perhaps his younger brothers. They’re white, yes, but in every other respect they could have been his sons, or his brothers – and anyway, we’re all color blind these days when it comes to such matters aren’t we?
Or perhaps the president will take a more controversial line and, in the context of discussing the problem of gang-related violence in America’s black communities, deliver a compelling soundbite that will earn praise from America’s and the world’s media. Something like: “If I had a son, he’d look like Shawn Tyson.”
I’m confident that Mr. Obama will want to comment on this case. Because if he didn’t, some observers might jump to the conclusion that the leader of the free world was little more than a shameless, race-baiting opportunist who was more interested in firing up one of his core constituencies head of November’s election than in seeing justice done.
And that would come as an awful disappointment to his many adoring fans here in Britain – none more adoring than Prime Minister Cameron himself.