“Our society's obsession with media violence does not show that human beings are naturally violent. Instead, it demonstrates that our society is ill.”
– Paul k Chappell in Peaceful revolution
“The greatest single antidote to violence is conversation”
– Jonathan Sacks in The Dignity Of Difference
Don’t envy violent people or copy their ways. Such wicked people are detestable to the Lord, but he offers his friendship to the godly. (Proverbs 3:31, 32 NLT)
This is a continuation of a series of reflections on the tragedy of Trayvon Martin's death and its implications for me personally, and the broader society. In the first post, I spoke about the clear racialization that initiated the process and how that racialization destroys the possibility of true community. Regardless whether you believe George Zimmerman's accounting of the events or not, I think we can all agree that Trayvon's death was senseless and that his family is justified in feeling a sense of injustice. If we stop for a moment and seek to empathize with the Martin family, we can begin a process of support and even see a glimpse of possible means of redemption of this horrific event.
It is the lack of community that leads to paranoia and profiling. No ethnicity has the market cornered on paranoia, mistrust, or suspicion, but it is the attempt to have authentic community which lowers the fences of misunderstanding and yields an openness to accept and identify with people who are culturally dissimilar. It is easier to kill and maim that which is a thing than that which is truly human. It is easier to kill and maim that which we feel is evil and malicious than that which has similar motives and relationships as our selfs. Relationships reduce violence.
So this brings me to a polarizing topic that I need to just get out in the open.
The presence and access of a loaded firearm not only led to a senseless killing but emboldened Zimmerman to stalk and confront Trayvon in the first place.
The defense maintained that Zimmerman was a physically weak man who is not capable of physically matching up with Trayvon. (I personally do not believe that, but for the purpose of this blog, lets assume there is truth in what he said). If George Zimmerman was intimidated by Trayvon Martin, then what explains his zealousness in tracking him and confronting him, despite law enforcement counsel not to follow? The answer is simple: He had an equalizer, a loaded gun on his person.
The presence of loaded weapons in public spaces has not led to people being safer. There are no statistics, when analyzed objectively, that demonstrates the presence of guns as a deterrent to crime. Everyday, 13 children and young adults between the ages of 10-24 will be fatally shot today. By the way, much of those fatalities are not planned shootings but accidents and negligence.
The constitution did not give us the unconditional right to bear arms everywhere and anywhere. It actually granted the right of a well armed militia, which we all have now in the national guard. It has been expanded most recently (1987) to understand the second amendment as the right for people to carry firearms.
All that to say, is this tragedy begs us to consider our gun laws. The presence of a gun in this tragedy enabled George Zimmerman to boldly pursue Trayvon Martin. According to NRA logic, the answer to this would have been to have Trayvon Martin with a concealed weapon as well. That way, he would also feel emboldened and safer. Gun access leads to more death and destruction. It equips hatred with potency.
Simply adding guns to fractionated communities of suspicion and mistrust is a recipe for disaster. Its interesting, that we can understand that any legitimate right, such as the right to bear arms, comes with responsiblities. Our children are dying at unprecedented levels because America can not responsibly have such access to guns. Paraphrasing peace activist Stanley Hauerwas, we can only begin to study and approach peace once we have decided that violence is not necessary or inevitable.
This tragedy should move us to look at the role of guns in our society and how they often escalate tense enviornments. In this case, Zimmerman's right to bear arms took Trayvon Martins's basic right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.
I will be working with advocacy groups such as the Children's defense Fund to work to protect children and young adults and to reduce gun access. This, makes us all safer and reduces the probability of reading about more senseless deaths and mourning families. I want to encourage you to make a difference and to look at the role of guns, not only in this tragedy but in the ongoing violence that is robbing the futures and dreams of our communities.
God bless you,
Pastor M Traylor