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Brother Against Brother: Martin or Zimmerman

imagesWith a grace that eludes most of the rest of us, Trayvon Martin’s mother posted this statement right after the verdict was read: “Lord, during my darkest hour I lean on you. You are all that I have. At the end of the day, God is still in control. Thank you all for your prayers and support. I will love you forever Trayvon! In the name of Jesus!” I wish I could turn this over to God.

During the Civil War, there was a slogan that emerged, “Brother Against Brother.” I never thought about it. I knew that families were divided over the issues that brought war to America, but I didn’t realize what it meant, or what it really means to choose sides when the results have such major repercussions. I didn’t realize that persuasion, debate, and facts are lost in the emotion that builds over issues based on very little to do with reality, and everything to do with personal prejudices. That sometimes it means parting ways with people you never thought possible. And I don’t know what to do with that.

I had dinner a few nights ago — before the Zimmerman verdict came in — with someone I love. The case was a topic of conversation, and I realized immediately that this person — in my opinion — was not reasonably considering the facts, and that he was really personally angry. Actually in a rage. He said things like, “I would shoot someone who attacked me with a piece of concrete sidewalk too.” Huh? I searched my mind for what piece of evidence he was talking about. There was no piece of sidewalk concrete in Trayvon’s hand. Nope. Didn’t exist. Was never in play. He said that Martin attacked Zimmerman. I said we have no idea who attacked who, but we do know that Zimmerman was told by the police to stop following Martin and he chose to ignore that directive. He had his facts wrong… and if he were writing this blog, he would likely say the same thing about me.

But here is the problem. I could see that we could part ways over something like this. That I could get really angry at what I consider to be his lack of reason and his prejudices. He has always been a conservative, but over the past few months, more and more, when I read what he writes and listen to what he says, I realize it’s more than that. He’s prejudiced. Plain and simple. And while that characterization may or may not be accurate, it is the way I am experiencing him. He is a blood relative, and I love him, but I am not sure I can continue to pretend that this is not there between us.

Brother Against Brother.

Then there was a weekend earlier this summer when a guest was watching the news with me while she and her sister were visiting. It came on the news that a gay man had been shot outside a restaurant in the Village in New York City, and that he had apparently been shot because he was gay. I lamented that we seemed to be taking steps backwards; there hadn’t been a gay hate crime like that in NYC in years. My friend’s sister got very angry, stood up and said, “What do you want? You keep putting it in our faces. I don’t want to see gays kissing on TV, or getting married. I am an American too, and I don’t want to see it! This is what you get when you put it in my face.” She went on to tell me that Obama was personally buying all the ammunition in the country and then he was going to come and take all the guns and she for one wasn’t standing by and taking it. I asked her where she’d heard that. “I heard it on the radio,” she said. From whom? “I don’t remember his name.” I asked her what her source had cited as proof that this was happening. She said he didn’t cite any proof, but she believed him. Then she complained to me — and I can understand where she was coming from on this — that people like me try to make her feel stupid.

What ensued was a discussion that could go no where but downhill. A thirty-five-year friendship hung in the balance, and I left the room rather than say what I wanted to say. It is with me still, and I don’t know where to go from here with it. We have not really discussed it since it happened, and I’ve always known that she and her family, like my conservative relative, sit on the far side of the table from me politically. But she’d never worn this kind of hatred for all that I stand for on her skin like a piece of clothing before. It was always a layer or two beneath. Can I continue to ignore it?

Brother Against Brother.

Then, after the Supreme Court decision on the Voter issue last month, yet another good, good friend said, “Finally we won one.” I said, “Huh?” Who is we? What do you mean “we won one?” We, the people of the United States of America, are not winning anything. Nothing good can get through Congress or even a personal dinner party conversation, and the divisions among us all are getting larger and larger, and everyone is getting angrier and angrier, and the good of the country, of our children, of our future, is no longer the point. Winning these battles is all there is. I am right, and you are wrong.

In my opinion, the national obsession with this case has nothing to do with justice over what happened that night. It has to do with a civil war raging on the national battlefield of our media. This case was a battlefield, with the right conservative types (I refuse to use sacred words of historical value like Tea Partiers) on one side, and liberal bleeding hearts like me on the other. The verdict wins the battle raging between us on so many issues, not to be confused with actually what happened that night. And so we all move farther and farther from one another.

Brother Against Brother.

Has there ever been, in my lifetime, a darker time in my beloved America? I cannot think of one. The war in Vietnam divided the country, but it was not a fight about the core beliefs that make you a good or a bad person. It scares me. It makes me realize what a terrible time the Civil War must have been. Will we all start associating only with people who agree with our core beliefs? Will my friends and family still be my friends and family? Can we really be so divided that it changes who is in our life? I don’t know how to navigate these waters. And lacking the faith of Trayvon’s mother, Sybrina Fulton, I just can’t seem to “give it up” to a power higher than myself. I feel I must step up and speak my mind, put my money where my core beliefs are, and try to speak authentically and respectfully about what I think and see. And I must recognize that as strongly as I believe I am right, so do those who speak so angrily against my point of view.

So I’ve set aside my trepidation about writing what I think, and put it out on a blog that no one is forced to read, and I hope for the best. Whatever your core beliefs are, this is your time to stand up and be counted in whatever way you can. Our futures depend on it. And may the side of true justice win.


Postscript: I have to add something here. I did watch a lot of the trial and followed the recaps. I think the verdict was a travesty of justice, not based on black/white issues, but rather the terrible incompetence of the prosecution. And their press conference afterward, congratulating themselves on the working of the judicial process, was seriously ridiculous. But this was not the point of my blog, so I put it here.

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