Sunday, March 25, 2012

For what it's worth....

My thoughts on the Trayvon Martin tragedy: This morning for the first time I heard a public figure use the word that's been on my mind all week. Doris Kearns Goodwin suggested on "Meet the Press" that we should study existing vigilante laws and change them. Her reference did not deflect the conversation from the racial issue involved. Florida has something called the "Stand your ground" law, but I"m not smart enough about its  implications in this case.
I could not be more upset over the killing of a young man who was apparently well behaved and had a bright future ahead of him. Nor do I disagree that a racial issue lies at the core of this tragedy. And there's the ugly fact of profiling: did Trayvon Martin really die because he was wearing a hoodie? This senseless incident leaves no room for levity but as an Anglo woman in her seventies, I love my hoodies and wear them a lot. Am I to pack them away, or am I safe because my skin is white and the years show on my face?
The problem of vigilante justice has been with the world through the ages.In this country it goes back to witch hunts in Massachusetts and comes right on up through nineteenth-century "cowboy law" in the Old West and on into too much of the twentieth century with lynchings in the South. Men have always wanted to take justice into their own hands, rather than leave it to the law.
George Zimmerman tells us he was afraid for his life, he shot in self-defense. Yet he did not follow police phone orders to stop following the boy. What was he doing out there, alone and armed, anyway? In my neighborhood--not gated, I hasten to add--we have neighborhood patrols. These volunteers are trained by the police, and they patrol in pairs, unarmed, in cars. Their duty: call the police if they see anything suspicious.And that's their only responsibility.
That of course brings us to one of modern America's sticky wickets: the right to bear arms and the powerful NRA. I know I'll raise the hackles of a lot of my friends, but I am opposed to the right to carry arms. Just as we learn to interpret the Bible as it relates to our era, so we should interpret the Constitution. I doubt our forefathers meant for everyone to carry a Saturday night special in a pocket. If Mr. Zimmerman hadn't been armed and if he had obeyed police instructions, Trayvon Martin would no doubt be alive.
A special prosecutor will sort this out and is much more knowledgeable, both about the case and the law, than I am. But it seems clear to me that this incident is about both race and vigilantism, and we should listen to Doris Kearns Goodwin. I always thought she was one pretty smart person anyway.
This morning our minister began his sermon by saying he'd known sermons to be pitched at the last moment in favor of preaching on a current subject. He wasn't, he said, going to do that, but he talked about Trayvon Martin, how he'd agonized over the tragedy, lost sleep over it, hadn't yet sorted it out in his mind and certainly wasn't ready to preach on it. Then he preached on the day's topic, "Could you forgive Peter?" The text had of course to do with Peter's denial of Jesus, just as Jesus had predicted. As he preached about learning from mistakes and letting that learning, with grace, guide your future life, I thought whether he meant to or not, he was preaching about Trayvon Martin and, even more, George Zimmerman.
Somewhere I read that this case will do for this generation what Emmett Till's death did in the 1960s. It's a horrible way to learn a lesson.


Gloria Alden said...

I agree so much with you, Judy. I can't see any reason for everyone to run around armed. Of course, I know people, who would disagree with me. I hate the saying, guns don't kill people, people do. Well, duh! If so many people weren't carrying guns, there'd be a lot less hot heads and crazies shooting people. My heart aches for the mother of that young boy. Losing a child is the worse thing a parent can go through. I personally know that, but my son died of cancer, not by being gunned down on a street. How much worse that must be for her.

Gloria Alden said...

I so agree with you, Judy, in everything you say. My heart bleeds for that mother. It's hard to lose a child, I know from personal experience, but how much worse it would be to have your son gunned down on the street.

Anonymous said...

I do not know if you have read the latest information that has come out. I won’t go into detail here, but apparently this angel had been suspended from school three times, once for drug possession. Witnesses have also surfaced who have stated that his angel was the actual aggressor was in this situation.

Also Google his name and you will find pictures of this future MD posing throwing middle fingers and looking less than angelic in his possess on his Face book page. One thing does bother me; apparently nothing has been learned form the Duke fiasco; let’s all jump to conclusions and the heck with the truth or consequences.

Judy Alter said...

Anonymous: no one ever said Trayvon was an angel, and I'm sure all the things you say are true--pot, gestures, FB postings. But they may well be true of my 13-year-old granddaughter; she's "safe," because she's Anglo. Trayvon Martin was no angel, but he didn't deserve to die at the hands of a scared vigilante with a gun.