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Sunday, March 25, 2012

In Honor of Trayvon Martin

Today, I have suspended the usual writing of this Blog in honor of the life and memory of Trayvon Martin.

I write today as a father, who is feeling a loss unequal to the profound loss felt by Trayvon’s parents, but a feeling of a deep loss nonetheless.  Trayvon is, in some unfathomed sense, a son of every father and mother.

I write today as a grandfather, whose oldest grandson (almost 15) has within him the potential to change the world in a way that could benefit many, many people.  I feel that sense of potential in Trayvon who already had dreams that encompassed a sense of responsibility.  My grandson already has, and will undoubtedly continue to have, the opportunity to realize his potential; an outcome which Trayvon was denied, purportedly because he was attacked because of his race, which is a highly unlikely outcome for my grandson.  I am profoundly affected by the personal responsibility for all black boys and girls that such a statement carries within itself. 

I write today as a white man who carries within him all the stereotypes, misinformation, racial slurs, biases and irrational fears that many generations of white folks have visited upon each other and upon our society as a whole.  I have tried in my lifetime to reject, overcome and eschew these accretions.  At times I have been very successful; at other times, guilty of the same knee-jerk racism that affects us all.  Trayvon’s death is, in some sense, the fault of our very real failings to deal openly as a society with these internal, unspoken, hidden and involuntary racially-tinged motives and actions that prevent us from becoming the nation, and the individuals, we really want to be, and indeed, profess to be.

I write today as an outraged Progressive because of a law that can exist in our times, allowing people-with-guns to escape justice through provisions of that law that provide an automatic self-defense for those who stand their ground against aggressive acts.  There is a provision in that law that actually prevents law enforcement from apprehending a man like Zimmerman who shoots someone in supposed accordance with the provisions of the law.  The Koch brothers and the NRA apparently bear some responsibility for the existence of this law, and indeed for its outcomes, like the death of this young man.

I write today because there is no way to redeem the death of Trayvon.  But there is a way to redeem the moment, and to redeem his life, as a catalyst for all of us.  We can have a national discussion and forum about race.  We can focus on the well-being of our young black men and women.  We can raise the level of discourse between the races.  We can re-elect our first African-American President. We can decide to improve our justice system so that African-Americans are not targeted for prosecution and long jail terms.  We can improve our educational system, our health care, our housing opportunities.  And, we can find ways to target minorities for the jobs market to overcome their out-of-proportion unemployment.  All that, and more, is important, and must be done. 

But, we must target ourselves, above all:

To feel the loss of Trayvon as a loss for everyone of us;
To feel the loss of Trayvon as a potential loss for all of our society;
To feel a sense of personal responsibility for others in our society who are not “like us”;
To feel the interrelatedness that we have as human beings to every other human being on this planet.

And then, to act individually, and in concert with others, as though it is necessary to our survival -- as a nation of laws, and of equality, and of justice -- that we take upon ourselves and within ourselves, this life, this potential, this spirit in order to let this moment speak to the future.

I write today as one who must embrace Trayvon’s life as integral to my own,  and, as one who must abhor his death as though that death was to my own child.  May he rest in Peace, and may Light Perpetual shine upon him.