What is truth?
On Saturday night, when the news of George Zimmerman’s acquittal bleeped on my cell phone, I sighed deeply and my heart sank . . . heavy with grief. I knew what today and tomorrow and the next day and the next day . . . would bring. There would be, and has been, a flurry of responses on social media. As I write this, I have not yet seen the news – though, of course, the responses I see will depend on which news outlet I choose to watch or read. We are in the post-trial time of outrage, grief, sadness, fear, and judgment.
I have been wrestling all day with my own heart response. I am sad beyond words that the shooting death of Trayvon Martin, and the ensuing media coverage and trial, have once more highlighted how much work we still have to do – as a nation – to understand and address the fear and misunderstanding and violence that continues when we are faced with people we call ‘other.’ I am deeply grieved for the loss Trayvon’s family has to live with.
But my deeper grief is this. We are obsessed with right and wrong; good and bad; victim and offender (I could go on to say red and blue; liberal and conservative . . . ). We have left it to our legal system – with all of its confounding complexities – to determine guilt and innocence, as if that is what is needed here. When all is said and done, we are left with gaping wounds in the body of our communities that cannot, and will not, be healed by a courtroom verdict. And we will never know the truth of what happened that night . . . in part, because, as Pontius Pilate knew so acutely, truth is a slippery thing that is understood differently by the various parties in an emotionally charged situation.
The Martin family will never have Trayvon return to their fold. George Zimmerman will have a very difficult, maybe impossible, time finding a life of freedom from the shortcomings of his own humanity, and the forces and influences in his life that I/we may never know about. Our legal system did nothing to help us discover how it is we are to live in relationship with people we don’t know and understand.
What might have happened, if instead of providing a safe courtroom for the trial with all the attendant public media presence, we could find a way to create a safe space for Zimmerman and the Martins to speak privately with one another about the fear and grief and loss that they each have suffered; and determine how they are to move forward in a way that is healing rather than divisive and terrifying?
At this point, it seems to me, there are no winners here – most especially our nation. We continue to divide and divide and divide; to judge; to be fearful; to build walls; to close doors. I pray, fervently, for the Martins in their continued grief; for Zimmerman and his loss of freedom; and for myself – that I might look into the very dark places in me where fear and judgment reside. I pray that God, in some way I can’t even imagine, will bring us to a new day through this horrible situation, and help us to find the courage and wisdom to sit with the ‘other’ – whether it is the person who looks different, or prays different, or thinks different – and listen. What might we discover? I fear that until we learn to do this, we will endure countless more horrific losses of life and freedom.