When I come upon an obituary for someone young, I always want to know how he or she died. It’s only natural to want an explanation for something that seems so contrary to nature.
As the debate over Trayvon Martin continues to burn brightly, I can’t help but reflect upon our need for an explanation for tragedy. As I scroll through my Facebook feed, it seems that everyone is either on Team Trayvon or Team Zimmerman. Friends are passionately debating the merits of the case – should Zimmerman be charged with murder? Was Trayvon actually the aggressor? What does this tragedy symbolize in the larger context of race relations in the United States?
Despite the fervent insistence of Facebook friends, we simply don’t know enough about the case to make a sound judgment one way or another yet. Even the police are still sorting through the details. But, we want answers. We want this death to make sense. We want absolutes.
But, what if this senseless tragedy is just that – senseless? And, what if we never know definitively what happened that night? What if the current situation is just a byproduct of poor judgment on behalf of one, if not both, parties?
Despite the moral ambiguity of this situation, I think there are a few action items that we can rally around.
- Maybe in this high-tech, high-speed world we live in, we have to have patience and let the system work. It’s hard to wait for answers, but perhaps this investigation has to unfold. Maybe the best we can do is pray that justice – whatever that looks like – is carried out.
- Can we please stop blaming the victim? It doesn’t matter if he was expelled (or suspended, depending on who you ask) from school or had gotten in trouble. His “crimes” were likely not punishable by death. So, he listens to rap and copies the lyrics onto his Twitter account – he's 17! What do we gain by blaming Trayvon’s lifestyle? Quite frankly, trying to tarnish Trayvon just makes us look cold.
- And, while we’re at it, can we also please stop vilifying Zimmerman? We know he shot and killed someone, claiming self defense. We'll have to see if the facts support this. If he acted inappropriately, he should receive punishment. But, again, this isn’t for us to decide because we don’t know all the facts yet.
- There is no media conspiracy. The media is fixated on who to blame because there have been no new angles to this story. The media can only report on information they have – let’s give them a new angle? FL leaders, pick up your phones.
- Speaking of media….Will somebody please take away Rev. Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson’s microphone? These predatory race baiters are professional – yes, they do make a living off of this – community dividers. At a time when the community should be supporting this family through its loss, Sharpton and his cohorts have made this virtually impossible. This isn’t fair to the Martin family or to George Zimmerman, who is supposed to receive a fair trial.
Unfortunately, this debate has gotten overheated and we’ve lost sight of what’s really important here. I think we were – and continue to be – too quick to judge on the facts of the case. Most importantly, this is a time to rally around a family who lost a son, and to let the justice system work its magic.
Michelle Balch Lyng is a principal at Henley Public Affairs with over 12 years of experience in crisis media management, corporate affairs, and campaign management. She serves as the media director at the Open Government Institute of Colorado.