Mercy after the Verdict

I stewed on the Martin/Zimmerman verdict for several days before actually saying anything about it. I feel like there are a few things that disqualify me from saying much about the actual trial, the main one being that I don’t know very much about it. I’ve read news stories, but I didn’t watch the proceedings, and I know very little about the law when it comes to a person’s rights as they encounter hooded teenagers. Being a teacher and a mother, I think my judgment is clouded where news stories about young people are concerned, which is probably why both sides would have asked that I be excused from jury duty on this case. My lack of expertise with the law and my abundance of expertise with young people are the reasons I have chosen NOT to write about the trial or the verdict. I have instead chosen to examine people’s reaction to it.

What I found was the ugliest response on social media to date. Uglier than people calling our president names, uglier than gun pride in the face of 26 children dying, uglier than people lined up for chicken with a side of hatred…….People were so detached from what actually happened in this case that it made me sick. Within 10 minutes of each other, two of my Facebook “friends” (both of whom claim to be Christian) posted statuses so ugly that I took most of the day off Facebook. As a result of my hiatus, this post will be missing the screen shots that I so enjoy using as evidence to prove that humans are, in fact, every bit as bizarre as I say they are. Nevertheless, people from whom I expect more were being just vile, and it is this vile behavior I am choosing to focus on in this post.

I’ll start with the less disgusting posts. One trend that day was to compare George Zimmerman to Casey Anthony and Michael Vick. The insinuation is that Anthony killed her child, and Zimmerman killed Martin, but they both were acquitted, while Vick killed dogs and served 2 years. Makes sense…. unless you actually think about it. First, the prosecution in the Anthony trial failed to meet the burden of proof in a case where the defendant pleaded not-guilty to premeditated murder. The idea of a reasonable doubt is the only thing that Zimmerman and Anthony had in common. There was no question whether or not Zimmerman killed Martin; instead, the question was whether it was in self-defense. This is what makes comparing those two trials silly. And as for Vick, there is no comparison at all. Vick did not go to trial. He pleaded guilty to federal dogfighting charges. There was no question about his guilt as he admitted it; therefore, there was no jury, no burden of proof, no reasonable doubt. Furthermore, making such a comparison, in my mind, equates the victims. Do the people who posted this nonsense see Caylee Anthony and Trayvon Martin as dogs? Surely not. Vick’s lesser crime need not be thrown out there as evidence of injustice because it’s not comparable, and doing so shows that people have lost touch with the value of human life.

Speaking of the value of human life, let’s talk about that. It seemed particularly trendy to attack Martin’s character in response to the verdict. I’m sorry, but it was never Trayvon Martin on trial here. No matter your thoughts on George Zimmerman’s rights to protect his neighborhood, Trayvon Martin is clearly the victim. He was a child — 17 — and whether or not he had a stellar past is irrelevant. To type on a public forum that Zimmerman “is to be commended for getting another thug off the street” (yes, it happened) shows how little people value life (which is something these same people claim to be “sacred”, but that’s for another post). I think to put things in perspective, all of us should glimpse back at our teenage years and see if there’s anything we aren’t proud of. I shudder to think what George Zimmerman would have thought of me with my Nirvana t-shirt, greasy ponytail, and Dr. Martins, as I rattled the 6 or 7 beer caps in my pocket and wallowed in my teenage angst. See, it’s part of the beauty of life: the griminess of adolescence goes away, and none of us has to be judged based on who we are at 17. The sadness felt by those of us who actually respect human life is this: Trayvon Martin will not be awarded the opportunity to trade that hoodie for a suit and tie. A life cut short is sad, and much of the public is failing miserably at realizing this. No matter your beliefs on neighborhood watch or self defense, sympathy is warranted here and is certainly preferable to posts like the above mentioned one.

I found it overwhelmingly appropriate that the reading in church on Sunday was the Good Samaritan. I’ve always liked this story because, in my mind, it outlines what Jesus expects of us: Love Him; Love others. This week, the preacher was using it to talk to us about being neighborly and showing mercy. I immediately made a connection to the Martin case. What kept popping up in my mind was another post I’d seen in response to the verdict. It simply said, “What if Zimmerman had offered a kid a ride home in the rain?” Yes. This is what it’s all about — the way we treat people when it’s easier to ignore them. Mercy certainly would have changed the outcome of Trayvon Martin’s life, and the public showing an attitude of mercy in the aftermath of this trial can change the lives of others.

Mercy is defined in the dictionary as compassion or forbearance shown especially to an offender or to one subject to one’s power; lenient or compassionate treatment. It seems to me that there’s a lot of mercy to be shown in situations such as this. Sympathy for a family who lost their son. Awareness that a man has been turned loose into a public that is pretty angry at him. Prayer for people who are hurt or disappointed at the outcome of the trial. In any event, we should respond in ways that respect our neighbors, or we shouldn’t respond at all. You know, the old “If you don’t have something nice to say….” Sometimes mercy takes the form of being sensitive to the feelings of others.

I suppose I’ve let more of my personal opinion on the case come through than I really meant to. But my basic points are these: Let’s think about what we say when faced with sadness, anger, and disappointment. Let’s respond to controversies with tact and grace. Let’s keep touch with the reality of public events. Let’s always try to show mercy where it’s needed. (Even if it means not firing directly back at people when they say REALLY stupid stuff.)

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