Sunday, July 14, 2013

Trayvon Martin was killed and his killer is free: A commentary on our nation

Yesterday, the verdict of not guilty for George Zimmerman has cast this country into a dark hole, one I am not sure we will ever crawl out of. 

Why are black youth and black men crucified just for being dark skinned?  Some talk about archetypes, about the dark and the light and how it is inherent in people to fear darkness.  Well, darkness maybe but I believe we are taught from an early age in this country that white is better than black and if not formally taught, we breathe it in the air.  The good news is that young people seem not to be soaking up this message so easily.  Like with LGBGT issues, young people are challenging the very idea that some people are not treated fairly, a heresy to these youth.

I just watched Lincoln, the movie, yesterday.  A well done, beautiful film that for me describes how things get done politically above all else.  “I pat your back, you pat mine,” is yet another message that we have grown up absorbing just by living in America.  In fact, most groups work that way. Is that natural?  Can we change it, or is it just human nature?

On this bleak day, while so many are reeling from what many African Americans expected, that George Zimmerman is a free man, why is it that white people are so horrified and surprised?  Why did we expect it would be anything different from that outcome?  Were we just feeling hopeful again, idealistic and optimistic about the justice system’s doing something right in this case?  It could be that the prosecutor didn’t present the case well, or that this tragic death occurred because George Zimmerman was scared, paranoid, racist, and/or a vigilante, or because Trayvon Martin fought back, and wouldn’t you if you saw or somehow knew that a guy had a gun and was pursuing you for no good reason?  No matter what reason Martin was killed, is this how we handle his tragic death?  By not charging Zimmerman to begin with because police believed his Stand Your Ground theory?  By not investigating and presenting a well-prepared case to a jury of 6 instead of 12, certainly not expecting any bias with 5 of the 6 being white women in Florida, a state that also suppresses the right to vote for the poor, black, disenfranchised, and elderly?  What kind of nation do we live in?

Perhaps it is not that we should be worrying about freedom from harm by foreign terrorists but freedom from harm by our own citizens who take it upon themselves to police our youth, to kill and maim at their own pleasure all in the guise of protecting the neighborhood.  Maybe we can focus on how we can find the freedom for all people to thrive in this nation, to have enough to eat, a place to sleep, education, jobs and incarceration only when there is fairness in our justice system.  Then, perhaps we can worry about other countries’ freedoms and democracies though I am not naive enough to believe that we fight wars for only these noble values rather than for our own self interests like oil, money and power.

America needs to look at itself in the mirror.  Who are the true villains in our land?  We reinforce the money grabbers whose greed and deceit run rampant in the banking systems, the corporate world and unfortunately in our own government, all of which include true criminals who never get prosecuted.  Let us look at ourselves in the mirror too, instead of blaming this horror on others, separate from ourselves.  Let us look deep inside ourselves and find our own darknesses, our own prejudices and privilege, our own fears, demons and rage.  Then, only when we explore our own complexities and understand them might we be able to understand any others who are different from us, whose actions may seem aggressive but who have excellent and valid reasons for their fear and rage.  

Only then can we point fingers really, even though I have just done so throughout this post.  Who among us is honest enough to cast stones?  Who never lies or cheats?  Each of us needs to do something to confront all the inequities in our country regarding the lack of equal rights for all minorities, including women, LGBGT people, immigrants, people of non-Christian religions, and all those who have been unfairly incarcerated in the huge prison industrial complex that has become the 20th and 21st centuries’ new form of slavery.  Is it fair just because someone is born to a black family instead of a white one, or someone is born into poverty instead of privilege?  How can we make our society a more just and compassionate one? 

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