Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Lincoln and Douglas Are Not Amused

I have refrained from any lengthy conversation or commentary on the Zimmerman trial or the whole case overall. It seems a futile effort in discourse being such an emotionally charged case. While that has not been difficult overall, I've reached an impasse given the recent developments in reaction to the outcome of the criminal trial.

What plagues me is the disintegration of intellectual conversation and argument about issues that are of great importance. Has our culture so dumbed down that everything is now akin to reality television or novels of teenage angst? I understand that people are upset about the outcome of the trial. I even understand how it can be perceived to be a race relation issue. So let us have a real dialogue. Not protests and riots. Dialogue.

This isn't a new segment of Twilight. We are not on Team Trayvon or Team George. This is not Survivor. We do not get to vote Mr. Zimmerman off the island. This isn't American Idol, The Voice, So You Think You Can Dance or any other sundry competition where "America" gets to vote on who they want to keep or eliminate. There are laws, however wonky, that govern communities. Those are the laws in question when a jury decides whether someone is guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. I was not part of the altercation. I was not present in the court. All I, and the majority of people for that matter, know, is what the ratings starved media tell me. The media that is perpetually looking for the next goose that lays the golden egg.

While not all media outlets or personalities fall prey to this mindset, it seems apparent to me that our national discussion of issues is led in large part by what the national media chooses to feed us. They unearth the stories and decide what local news goes national. (Gosnell, anyone? Who?) They often stir the pot by interjecting commentary on what could and should be a "just the facts ma'am" business. I won't go so far to refer back to yellow journalism, but it is most certainly sensational journalism.

And we bite, we bite hard. We see emotion rule the day and our appetite for "justice" (read: vengeance) grow. We see grown men and women take to the streets in disorderly fashion. We see justice become a spectator sport where we think popular vote can act as judge and jury. We silence those who might question these antics as racists or bigots. Lincoln and Douglas are not amused.

In getting caught up in the tide of popular opinion, we forget some basic things. We forget that two families' lives will never be the same, and that the Martin family is still grieving their son. We take into our hands what really still remains in theirs - the legacy of their son as well as other legal recourse. While the criminal trial is over, they can still file suit in civil court a la the OJ Simpson case of yesteryear (which I blame for all this hoopla now). We forget that while we'd like to make this a black and white issue, nothing is as simple as it appears.

If you really want a dialogue to talk about what is broken, then let's do that. Let us have a dialogue on how to live in civil society with people who disagree with us, dislike us and are prejudiced. Let us have a dialogue on how to assert the will of the majority without trampling over the rights of the minority. Let us have a conversation about real reality, not tv reality, where not everything demands a protest or march, but maybe prayer and civil debate. Let us talk about our ideologies and philosophies of life, where they merge and how they differ and how best to achieve the common good while realizing that some of the people will be unhappy all of the time. Let us have a look at how we can improve upon our systems of governance while still maintaining order, and fix what is really broken rather than taking matters into our own hands, since those hands change as often as the seasons. Let us break out of our self centered bubbles where everything is an offense against us and begin to look for true solutions instead of the golden calf to blame.

We are better than this. We ought not turn into a nation of bullies where the loudest voices and threats shape the national discussion or law. Let's put away the feces and venom that emerge when we don't get our way, and offer instead our intellect and gifts to heal divisions and protect the innocents.  Most of all, my praying people, we must pray. The devil feeds on dull minds and emotive appetite. We must pray, and pray hard to bring light into the darkness, love where there is hatred, peace and healing where there is injury. We have to get better at loving like Jesus, at challenging in love like Jesus, of forgiving and showing mercy like Jesus and in the name of Jesus, not for our purpose or glory or vindication, but for His.

Let's get to work, eh?