It’s not okay to kill people. Ever. It’s sometimes necessary, but it’s never okay. We grieve — even when execution is, as the Dalai Lama said about the death of bin Laden, the only way to avoid more deaths. We don’t punish through death, or at least we shouldn’t (as so-called ‘civilised’ people). Hence my anti-death penalty stance. You aren’t ‘pro-life’ if you embrace death. It’s (literally) impossible.
My husband asked me today why this trial has generated sooo much controversy, discussion, vitriol. I responded — and I believe — that George Zimmerman is a very typical American. So, unfortunately, is Trayvon Martin. And this trial — this murder, in my eyes — is symptomatic of a deep wound in America, that has become (as wounds can) an ongoing fester. Racial hatred and a passion for vigilante justice infect this country, and have since our inception.
We built this country, much as whites don’t want to recognise it, on the bodies of Indians. With the slave labour of Asians (primarily Chinese, on the railroads — another deep wound we don’t acknowledge) and Africans. Both treated as chattel — which rhymes, both technically & metaphorically — with cattle. In fact, we treated our cattle better, quite often.
Because American history texts are written mostly by whites, few Americans get the story of the conquest of the Americans, the church-sanctioned genocide, and the churches’ involvement with the African slave trade. But as early as the Conquistadors, the Catholic Church put its imprimateur on the taking of slaves, and the mass murder of innocents.
I’m not okay with this. Not even now, two millennia later. But if you grew up in many churches in the US, that kind of race-based supremacy is still alive. Witness Bob Jones University, for instance, where interracial dating was forbidden as recently as 13 years ago (the year 2000). All under the guise of Christianity.
And how many times has America watched John Wayne take the reins of justice into his own hands? It’s an ‘honourable’ tradition, accounting for some of our worst historic moments. Think of raids on Indian villages, lynching squads, posses….
That’s George Zimmerman’s history — the legacy which he represents.
And here’s the clincher for me: if Zimmerman had lived up to his job description (neighbourhood WATCH??), and followed the explicit caution of the police when he called (‘watch’), nothing would have happened. Period.
The whole thing is a sad commentary on just how fragmented this country is, that Americans would prefer to believe every black male in a hoodie is evil, requiring us to bear arms against our neighbours, than that we can talk out our problems.
And yes. I’m an idealistic Buddhist. But I still have hope that somehow, black white and brown will sit down at a table. And talk. And maybe even visit. And that this verdict doesn’t really mean open season on people who don’t look like you…