Wednesday, July 17, 2013


People have asked me my thoughts on the killing of Trayvon Martin and the trial/verdict of George Zimmerman, and here they are.  But this is not a coherent essay:  I have no coherent thoughts at all, only random reflections…

I have no idea what really happened that night when Trayvon Martin was killed, other than that George Zimmerman shot him.  Was it self-defense?  Was Trayvon high on “drank”?  Was it criminally liable over-reaction on the part of George Zimmerman?  I don’t know.

Did George Zimmerman “profile” Trayvon Martin?  Probably; sadly, so do I, all too often.  Do you?  The news media also profiled in their original pictures of a happy, clean-cut and young Trayvon versus a seedy-looking George Zimmerman.  Were they playing the “Here’s the picture; now you know the answer” game?

Could there not have been a conversation, that night, to the effect of “Hey, you—what’re you doing here?”  “Hey, man—I live here.”  “Oh. OK.”  Why did this conversation not happen?

Shooting seems extremely excessive in the context of a fight.  Was Trayvon on top?  How?  Was he unarmed?  Yes, but how badly must a person be beaten before he/she is justified in considering his/her life seriously threatened?  And how badly was George Zimmerman beaten, in fact?

I’m sure there was a procedural answer to this, but I don’t know it:  why only six jurors?  And why were they all women?  People think the jury was stacked in Mr Zimmerman’s favor, but the prosecution had rights to strike jurors—why were they satisfied with this make-up?

Would a lesser charge have been more “provable”?  I’m thinking reckless homicide, for example, rather than 2nd degree murder.  When someone is dead by mistake, it seems that there should be some form of punishment or retribution or recompense… (unless, of course, you are OJ Simpson:  “If the glove don’t fit…”)

Trayvon has been compared to Emmit Till and Medgar Evers.  The first comparison is a stretch; the second is ridiculous.

Was the cause of justice served by this decision?  Of course—“justice” is whatever the justice system hands down.  That doesn’t mean the cause of right was served. 

I love the comment of the Episcopal Bishop of Central Florida:  “I want to live in a world where George Zimmerman would have offered Trayvon Martin a ride to get out of the rain that night” (paraphrased). 

Once again, the bottom line:  I don’t know what really happened that night.  But I am terribly sorry that it did happen.  A boy is dead; his family is devastated; a man’s life is in shambles, and he is unsafe now, wherever he is.  No one wins, in spite of the verdict. 

Are we still racially focused as a country?  Of course we are (witness our greater obsession with Latinos as undocumented aliens).  We need to get beyond this kind of moral myopia.  Speaking of immigrants, Pope Francis’ comments are germane here:  “Where is your brother?” God asked Cain after the murder of Abel.   “Who was neighbor to the man who fell in with thieves?” Jesus asked the scholar of the Law.  We need to learn that different doesn’t have to involve a “better or worse” judgment; rather, one of complementarity.  What I need, you may well have.  St Paul, millennia ago, warned the Corinthians about this attitude:  the body must have many parts, all different, all complementary, in order to function. 

When he finally dies, I would love it if George Zimmerman had to meet Trayvon Martin and engage in a “truth and reconciliation commission” sort of sit-down as his “purgatory.”  Insofar as Trayvon is innocent and George is guilty, he’ll have to ask forgiveness, and Trayvon will be able to grant it; and if the situation is the opposite, the roles will have to be reversed.  But may they enter the Kingdom together, the two of them better off than most of us are here now.


  1. So well said....especially the part about why couldn't there have been that simple conversation that might have prevented the whole situation? Why the violence? Continuing to pray for all involved.

  2. I'm not a particular fan of Geraldo Rivera, but, I would have to agree with his statement that both George Zimmerman and Trayvon Martin were profiling each other that terrible dark, raining night. Society as a whole needs to stand back and reconsider its tendency to jumping into conclusions when confronting its fears, prejudice or unknown facts. May God find a way to turn this tragedy into something positive. May God Bless George and Trayvon and there
    grieving Families.