Teachable moments

July 19, 2013 

The inciting nature of the Trayvon Martin-George Zimmerman case makes it nearly impossible to discuss without a rise in emotions, blood pressure or voices.

But honestly, we should talk about it. And we need to.

Even if we could set aside the racial components to this case for one second, we would still be left with the challenging topic of self defense, or, “standing your ground” when a threat or perceived threat is upon us.

I’ve listened to all opinions on this ever since the verdict was announced last Saturday night.

I know some people think George Zimmerman went looking for a fight and then, as he was losing the fight, used deadly force to end the altercation.

I know others think that Zimmerman was in fear for his safety and life and simply had to defend himself over a teenager that was attacking him.

I’ve had one friend describe it as this: Zimmerman is guilty of exhibiting complete stupidity and poor judgment, something we would not want in a neighborhood watch individual; Martin is guilty of not avoiding contact with said moron.

So the legal experts have opined for a week now and social media blew up after the initial verdict. Most of the fears of Rodney King-type riots turned out to be nothing more than irrational.

We even heard from one of the six female jurors who told us she believes Martin started the fight and Zimmerman had no choice but to end it.

When a dispute of this magnitude has no witnesses and only one of the two involved lives to tell the story, we’re going to be divided on what we feel like really happened. That’s natural.

But it doesn’t mean we need to avoid the topic – whether that is race, self defense or whatever the next situation may bring.

We need to take a hard look as a country as to what it really means to “stand your ground” and why violence seems to be the accepted end result of the first time Zimmerman and Martin ever met each other.

Why couldn’t they talk it out? What if they would have passed each other at the convenience store prior to this altercation, one holding the door for the other, or even sharing a polite head nod and small talk about the weather?

Our propensity toward violence is appalling and is the real, underlying topic of the criminal cases that send us into the stratosphere when they don’t go the way that some people think they should.

Why do we treat each other this way and how on earth do we repair this?

Loving thy neighbor. Perhaps we all need that reminder again.

John Beaudoin is the publisher of the Lee’s Summit Journal. To comment, call 816-282-7001 or e-mail jbeaudoin@lsjournal.com.

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