I’m sorry, dear old Swami, but I’m just not having that funny feeling today. Though, as you often say, it does feel like something funny is going on. This is a bizarre reality, one that somehow feels unprecedented, though everything in it echoes past insanities and injustices.
This is a reality in which not only can a boy be stalked, attacked, and shot dead for the “crime” of walking while black, and in his own family’s neighborhood, but:
– a woman who does what we are often encouraged to do these days, keeps a gun in her home for protection, and fires a warning shot at her abusive husband, harming no one; she is prosecuted, and is sentenced to 20 years in prison despite having “stood her ground”
– a teenager who makes a stupid joke on Facebook is reported by someone who thinks he is making a real threat, and put in jail
– those who expose inconvenient truths about our country are labeled traitors, and put in solitary confinement and tortured when caught
– those who attempt to serve said country in the military have to worry about being attacked by their fellow soldiers as much as or more than by the enemy
– gay people gain some recognition of their rights, but more of them are beaten or killed by bigots
– SWAT teams are used for totally inappropriate purposes, and sent into homes and businesses on the most ridiculous of pretexts, causing mayhem and sometimes even killing children
– if your dog gets upset while the cops are harassing you, they simply shoot him dead
– government spies on you in every way it can and expects you to be fine with that
– other parts of government are willing to take food right out of your mouth if you’re poor
– and so on (your favorite injustice here).
Those who are out of favor with any given society have always been vulnerable to abuse by “authorities,” and the poor and marginalized have always lived with the worst violence in their communities. The rest of society, and even they themselves, have tended to be too complacent about that, as if it will never change and never can change. Many of us have felt, as after Sandy Hook, that if more privileged citizens, such as small white children, were threatened, somebody would do something. Are we doing something yet? It does seem like we’ve tried. So far we have failed.
At this point it seems like we all have targets on our backs. I have never felt this personally so much as I do now. As a middle-aged white person, I’m unlikely to be gunned down by cops or vigilantes. But as a woman, I’ve always been a potential target. And as an LGBT person, who knows– although I’m pretty harmless, there are people in this world who wouldn’t mind seeing me dead just because of that. Now I’m wondering, as so many of us must be, how I’m supposed to respond if some stranger is following me and acting creepy, or if someone comes to my house and looks like he’s going to do me harm. Because it seems that these days we’re not allowed to defend ourselves either against abuse by individual “authorities” or against institutionalized violence– unless we are among those who are somehow set above the law.
I am struggling to find some proper spiritual response to all this. Living in fear is not an option. It is not helpful and it is not necessary. It only serves the forces of violence and oppression. I’ve been trying to place my consciousness in the heavens instead of in the mire of this moment, to take the broad cosmic perspective that might make sense of it all, to align myself with Christ consciousness and see only love. I’ll get back to you when and if I have some success. I do take some comfort from the view that all the seemingly escalating insanities we’re seeing are only symptoms that our old ways are breaking down to make room for a new world.
I’m not going to argue over what George Zimmerman did or did not do. Taking a life for no good reason has got to have some sort of consequences. It may not have been murder, but it was something, something that society needs to acknowledge as wrong. Some of the things it was: it was a misunderstanding, it was unclear thinking, it was preconception and prejudice– and all of that would have caused relatively little harm except for the presence of a gun in the hands of a person who was not remotely responsible or intelligent about carrying it.
Another tragic case, parallel in some ways, occurred in 2007, when a black man felt threatened by some white teens who came after his son at his house. This ended the life of another boy, not so different from Trayvon, but unlike Zimmerman, the man who shot him is in jail today and will be there for a very long time. The situation here too started with a misunderstanding, with everyone involved trying to defend themselves against threats they thought were real; in fact, that was the reason the white boys showed up in the first place. When people act out of fear, and do not engage rational thought, the results are disastrous. Adding guns to the typical mix of fear and bravado guarantees tragedy because guns fire so quickly and decisively, before anyone’s brains have a chance to work properly. This man, like the woman who fired the warning shot, was keeping guns for protection, as so many Americans advocate. Instead of being protected, he ended up destroying his own life as well as his victim’s. He was not protected from himself and his own misconceptions. A gun can’t do that.
And these things happen all the time. I’m not sure why Trayvon Martin’s case has ended up in the center ring of the media circus, while kids die by gunshot every day under every conceivable terrible circumstance, especially young black males, and many other cases surely deserve our attention and outrage just as much. Perhaps we are more disturbed because it happened in a “nice” neighborhood, not in some godforsaken gang-ridden place. Perhaps it’s the matter of a private citizen acting as judge, jury and executioner and thinking he’s justified in doing it. Perhaps we thought that with so many eyes on the trial, justice would somehow have to be done. One way or another, many of us are now sick at heart and ready to change if only we can.
Often when I look at the misplaced, disastrous emotional reactions to which we humans are so sadly prone, I wish I could escape this place and go and live on Vulcan, where behavior has rational motives. But now even Vulcan has been destroyed! and the new Spock is following the current zeitgeist, edgy and angry as never before, all too easily moved to violence himself. Even my imaginary escape is cut off.
So I take responsibility for being human, and acknowledge that I am part of this planet and this species, and therefore part of the problem.
The best summary of the Zimmerman verdict and its meaning I’ve seen is this Guardian article by Gary Younge: http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2013/jul/14/open-season-black-boys-verdict
He says a lot of what I want to say myself, and since he says it very well, I leave you to read his words.
And for perspective from a cop who has worked with private security guards over the years, see this: http://www.dailykos.com/story/2013/07/14/1223459/-A-Cop-s-take-on-the-Verdict?detail=email#
I found the “Facepalm Angel” photo in a Facebook meme. I hope that means no one will be upset that I’m using it. If you know anything about this statue, please tell me.