Who was Trayvon Martin? A sweet Florida kid who got hunted down? A drugged-up hoodlum? Obama’s imaginary son? A neighborhood troublemaker? A victim? An attacker? A good kid? A bad man? Go ahead and make your choice, because all of these choices are out there depending on your source of information. Does it even matter? Who does he need to be? Pour whatever traits your position needs into this guy until he is unrecognizable. Trayvon, Schmayvon; he’s becoming a poster child for whatever fear a particular group is peddling. But who was he?
Who is George Zimmerman? A mild mannered do-gooder caught in an attempt to do the right thing? A bigoted killer seizing on his opportunity to strike out against a kid armed with skittles? A mentor of fatherless black children? A thwarted rapist? A bad white man? A good Hispanic man? Again, you can choose from the stories that are out there. Does it even matter? George, Schmeorge; shouldn’t he simply sit still while competing political peddlers hang labels on him to get the media attention they want? Who is he?
I believe Trayvon was made in the image of God. He was a loved son. He was in the wrong neighborhood at the wrong time and even if he got a little out-of-hand he shouldn’t have died for it. His friend urged him to run and I wish he had. George was made in the image of God. He loved his neighborhood. He had fear about crime intruding into his community and saw someone he thought was suspicious. He should have heeded the 911 operator’s advice not to follow Trayvon.
Two families have intersected and their lives will never be the same. This isn’t Crash, Hollywood’s idealized, out-of-stereotype, race encounter. It is a tragedy that involved two men and left one dead. The jury has decided that George Zimmerman is not guilty of murder. People with megaphones don’t seem to take that very seriously. Verdict, schmerdict. Why let a good tragedy go to waste when there is an audience and a circus to run? A tight rope walker falls? Let’s distract the audience quickly and make it part of the show – let the show go on. Send in the clowns!
The media loves anything that smells like a story; the more salacious or corrupt or racial, the better. Facts don’t matter. Emotions are high and the issue garners attention and ratings. The Coliseum is full! Fan the flames and be aghast when they leap out of control burning the onlookers!
Politicians, both the blatant race-baiters and the talk-show-circuit apologists, foment the divide. People with the title Reverend in front of their names shamelessly pour salt in a nation’s wounds at a time when many if not most Americans want to see genuine healing. They know exactly what they are doing, which is why it is so shameless. There is a responsibility that comes with the kind of megaphone that is available to people who have influence by celebrity or position. It is their time to demonstrate they can be trusted leaders. Those who have run to the front to shout about racism on the nation’s stages are not such leaders. For the sake of a country that can do better, where are the responsible voices? What happened to common sense?
Reason, schmeason. It was Adolph Hitler who said, “I use emotions with the masses and reserve reason for a few.” Why are American leaders following his example? A Hispanic man and a black man got into an altercation that left the black man dead. It should never have happened.
What would Jesus do? Or better, how would Jesus love? I suppose that depends upon your Jesus, because He, too, like Trayvon and George, gets co-opted by people who want him to carry their banners; people who want to marginalize the only history we have on Jesus (the Bible) while coming up with their own version. But the Jesus I know, the Jesus of the Bible, confounded the people of His day because He was gentle and meek in heart and invited the burdened and weary to find rest for their souls. Yet he was also courageous enough to confront injustice. We need Jesus. We might even need an angry Jesus to enter the temple courts and overturn the tables of the money changers!
I wish Jesus could sit us down and force us to hear one another as we share the struggle in quiet, compassionate voices. What this nation needs is a thoughtful discussion about crime, prisons, education and why there is still racial inequity. Why are the young black sons of America so often the ones who are worst hit by by the economic struggles of this nation? Dealing with these things is a worthy endeavor for a nation that has taken a stand for liberty. Justice is serious business. Slogans and sacred cows need to be left outside while real solutions are sought.There is serious work to be done by serious people.
And the church of Jesus Christ needs to stand for justice, but not before attending to comfort. A young man died. His name was Trayvon Martin. It matters. He deserves the dignity to have a name that reflects who he really was, not who the clowns make him out to be.
I don’t even know why I have written this. There doesn’t seem to be space in the public square for thoughtful reflection on the issues being raised. After all, the Coliseum is full and the circus is on.