Tuesday, March 27, 2012

A Mirror of Ourselves

No matter what your political persuasion, the shooting death of Trayvon Martin is a national tragedy. For at least two families, it is a profoundly life-altering, permanent personal tragedy. If you are liberal, a conservative, pro-Obama, Tea Partier, an apathetic hipster, a soccer mom, or any other label you want to self-identify with, the death of a young man walking home from a 7-11 with Skittles and an iced tea should disturb you. If it doesn't, so be it. Click away, my fellow human being. Click away, as this essay ain't for you.

As a nation, we need to look into the mirror on this one. As I write this, I can say honestly I don't know what happened that sad night in Sanford, and neither do you. I'm not writing this to take sides on the criminality - or absence of such - of George Zimmerman's actions, from the beginning of his interaction with Trayvon to its painful, brutal conclusion. I'm not here, dear readers, to attack Florida's "stand your ground" law, its merits, its consequences intended and unintended, or its affect - real or perceived - on the safety of the residents and visitors to the Sunshine state. I'm not - in this entry - going to talk about the Second Amendment, the NRA, the Brady Bill, or other state's laws and regulations regarding gun ownership and use. And no, I'm not going to share my opinions about Florida law enforcement, and it's role in protecting all Floridians and visitors while enforcing the state's laws. All of these topics are important, and there is ample room for differing opinions, reasoned debate, and even disagreement. I hope to strike a different chord, hoping that each (any?) reader take even a few minutes to consider the humanness of Trayvon's death.

The famous Jewish proverb states, "Whoever saves a single life is as if one saves the entire world." Thus, its reverse implies that when one takes a life, the world is destroyed. Ignore, if you will, the literal meaning and focus on this simple idea; one young man's death also killed a tiny part of our collective soul. I don't know - but I doubt - if Trayvon's death was necessary. But I'm quite sure his life was necessary, a life that will never be fulfilled. Whatever promise he had, small or large, was extinguished and his family, and each of us, have been robbed of his future. He may have been a doctor or a punk, but it really doesn't matter. What matters is it was too easy, too common, too ordinary for a life to end in violence.

I again say I don't know who is at fault, and worse, we probably will never know with total surety. But that question, as important and profound as it is for the people directly and indirectly involved, is second to a more human question. Put as bluntly as I can, is anyone better served by Trayvon's death as compared to the life he lost? Are we a better country, civilization, a species ... with him alive, or with him dead? It's almost too easy to answer; he should still be with his family, and with us all. Whether he would have led a life of note or not doesn't matter a lick. He and we were robbed of ever knowing what he might have been. We all lost a little, and some have lost nearly everything.

We are our nation, we are the "We the People" our founders were writing about all those years ago. You are, I am, the libtard is, the right-winger is, the fat guy at the beach is, the chorus director at your church is ... the we in "We the People", and whether you like or hate them, we are responsible for the good and bad that goes on around us. So take some time to look in the mirror. Do you like what you see? Can you see both Trayvon Martin and George Zimmerman? I can. Are you bothered by what you see? Are you proud of what you see? Can you imagine Trayvon is your son? Can you see George as you, or your husband? What would you wish for either of them, now that you are looking into their eyes? What would you change?

I see myself looking back at me, and I am Trayvon Martin and George Zimmerman. I can see the promise of each, and the wreckage of both. I see myself, and I see a culture that is too accustomed to violence. I see hope. I see failure. I see a citizen, a father, a friend, a husband, a teacher. I see a man and a country who is dying a little bit at a time, and I see hints of resignation, of acceptance. The mirror is showing me an uncomfortable truth. What is it showing you?