Trayvon Martin, the Bigger Picture

By now, most of America is aware of the tragic death of Trayvon Martin at the hands of George Zimmerman. I don’t feel there is a need to review the details of the crime for anyone not living in a cave. Florida’s shoot first, ask questions later law – I mean, “Stand Your Ground” – is yet another of a long list of tragic legacies left us by the Bush family. How, precisely, chasing someone down and confronting them constitutes standing your ground is a bit beyond me, I confess, but that’s what the Sanford, FL police department would have us believe.

I have read the news reports, the opinion pieces, the blogs – actually an amazing number of them given that I didn’t seek them out. I have seen the well intended Facebook pictures of people of all stripes in hoodies. I feel the sense of powerlessness that drives their actions and their protests even as I feel a certain futility in their actions. You see, prosecuting George Zimmerman would be the right thing to do and I hope it happens. Investigating the local police department should happen. Changing Florida’s law is essential. The sad truth is that none of those very necessary, very important measures will change anything until we address the cause of the problem.

The cause of the problem isn’t guns. In Japan where even the police don’t have guns people simply use knives or swords to attack one another. If we could eliminate every gun, every knife, every sword, people would simply rip branches from trees to attack one another. The problem is that we live in a culture of violence that we created, that we feed, and that we have very little interest in seeing ended except in the aftermath of specific tragedies like the Trayvon Martin murder.

We’ve got a war on drugs, a war on gangs, a war in Afghanistan, people clamoring for a war in Iran, we just finished a war in Iraq…well, sort of…a war on unemployment, a war on poverty, a war on runny noses, a war on bad fashion, a war on just about everything you can imagine. I would like someone to tell me just how we hope to stop violence when the truth is we seem to like nothing more than fighting things, people, nations, causes, illnesses and just about everything else?

I agree with His Holiness the Dalai Lama, who has said that we cannot have peace in our world until we have peace in our hearts. We have been plagued throughout history by religious perspectives which encourage violence despite being filled with peaceful teachings. It’s time for each of us to do what most religions have refused to do – transform our hearts and minds. Make no mistake about it, our world is filled with people who are not evolved enough to make the leap. Some of them will read this blog and call me unrealistic, or say I am blaming the victim, or any of a host of other tactics meant to rationalize their unwillingness to achieve peace. Those of us who do understand how necessary this transformation truly is will do the right thing – despite the large numbers of people who seem invested in upholding the wrong thing.


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