There is a huge outcry in the country this week about the Zimmerman verdict.
I am not going to give that opinion. Why? Exactly…. Why? What does my opinion matter on this case? Especially my opinion in a very granular way. As in: who won and who lost. I have strong opinions on racial tolerance, violence, and guns but I don’t feel that hurling them into the outcry is productive for me.
We keep having these racially charged trials. And then we have the outcry. And then we move on to the next trial and the next outcry. It reminds me of a parable:
Once upon a time there was a town that was built just beyond the bend of a large river. One day some of the children from the town were playing beside the river when they noticed three bodies floating in the water. They ran for help and the townsfolk quickly pulled the bodies out of the river.
One body was dead so they buried it. One was alive, but quite ill, so they put that person into the hospital. The third turned out to be a healthy child, who then they placed with a family who cared for it and who took it to school.
From that day on, every day a number of bodies came floating down the river and, every day, the good people of the town would pull them out and tend to them – taking the sick to hospitals, placing the children with families, and burying those who were dead.
This went on for years; each day brought its quota of bodies, and the townsfolk not only came to expect a number of bodies each day but also worked at developing more elaborate systems for picking them out of the river and tending to them. Some of the townsfolk became quite generous in tending to these bodies and a few extraordinary ones even gave up their jobs so that they could tend to this concern full-time. And the town itself felt a certain healthy pride in its generosity.
However, during all these years and despite all that generosity and effort, nobody thought to go up the river, beyond the bend that hid from their sight what was above them, and find out why, daily, those bodies came floating down the river.
What I try to do in situations like this is two things.
Pull back the aperture a ways and look at some of the issues from a broader perspective.
How did Zimmerman and Martin meet for the first time and get in a deadly altercation minutes later? Can anyone else see the greater outrage implicit in that picture? They did not even know each other and were able to escalate the violence that quickly with horrible consequences. Suspend for a second how you place the blame percentage wise, try to feel into this question…. how would society have to reorganize and re-prioritize to have a civilized outcome in these type of situations?
Were Zimmerman and Martin trained in conflict resolution? Are there any courses in conflict resolution in high School and college? Should there be? Were either of them mentored by strong, grounded older men? Did they grow up in racially tolerant homes? Did they minimize media consumption and learn to decide for themselves how they felt about guns and violence and pride?
Do an inventory of myself and see if I am working on the things that I would like to see happen in the society at large. So, am I training in conflict resolution? Am I mentoring and being mentored? Am I minimizing media consumption and deciding for myself how i feel?
“We but mirror the world. All the tendencies present in the outer world are to be found in the world of our body. If we could change ourselves, the tendencies in the world would also change. As a man changes his own nature, so does the attitude of the world change towards him. This is the divine mystery supreme. A wonderful thing it is and the source of our happiness. We need not wait to see what others do.” ~ Gandhi