Tuesday, April 10, 2012

The Dead Without Redress

One person kills another. Or many others. Numbers are unimportant. What is important, is the taking of the life or lives. The act of killing is the lowering of the threshold of empathy and compassion and humanity, to the point where instinct derives its own twisted and vicious pleasure from the taking of life. For the average person, to take a life is a horror seldom mitigated, even where there is clear justification. For the soldier, who is the target of the enmity of their foe, to kill is to live another day and to ensure the survival of others in their care. For law enforcement, it is always the last resort.

Or, at least we would like to think so.

Loose among us are those who, for lack of a better referent, have subsumed killing as some type of "sport." They have defined their world such that, to kill another person, or group of people, is no more or less troubling than filing a tax return or stubbing a toe. The perceived or actual "injustices" they experience lead them to take out their rage on the objects of their envy, their spite, their hatred, in an orgasm of death that slakes their thirst for vengeance and leaves us fearful. We are fearful, because there is no sign, no tattoo, no marker that tells us who they are amongst the milling crowd.

And so, one person kills another. We hold our breath in anticipation. We wait. Wait. Wait.

Wait for justice.

We are told vociferously by many of our flag-waving brethren that we are a nation of law, and yet, too often a body is lain beneath cold soil and a murderer is untouched by the sword of justice. The admonition against killing another living, breathing person is as old as human code of behavior, found in many and varied cultures throughout our world. Thou shall not kill. That Christian Commandment leaves no margin for hesitation or error. To take the life of another is wrong, allowable in only the most extreme of circumstances. Human law is built to make that clear -- we don not settle our differences through murder, lest we pay the penalty for it.

Yet, it does not seem to work that way.

A man kills a child. Forget that George Zimmerman is a Hispanic man and Trayvon Martin was a black boy for a moment and ask yourself: stripped of race, stripped of publicity, stripped of racism, stripped of hyperbole and hypocrisy, was this right? Can it be considered acceptable in human society for a man, a self-appointed "guardian" of his neighborhood, to gun down a boy, through the provocation of his mere presence? Does that not sound ridiculous? The boy, unarmed, walking to his current residence, suddenly set upon by a strange man, perhaps even forced by circumstance to confront the man because he feared attack, is shot dead in the grass by that man, armed against all advice and counsel, violating the admonition to let the police handle it... and now layer their respective races and cultures upon that scenario and one wonders just what the law is waiting for!

If George Zimmerman were any kind of average person, the horror of the event, seeing the boy lying there dead, the gun hot in his hand, the report from the shot echoing from the surrounding buildings, the peering eyes from behind curtains, would have triggered some form of remorse at the taking of a life. The import of the event would have wound its way to the deeper recesses of his mind, would have triggered panic and guilt and remorse and the nagging dread that comes from knowing you have deprived a mother and father of their son by your own hand.

It did not.

Now he plays the victim, as if somehow Trayvon's presence or actions were enough to force him to pull that trigger. There is no shame. There is no guilt. There is not even an attempt at apology for his actions. No, there is only ringing silence, a long and growing absence of the actions a man troubled by what he did might take to assuage his guilty feelings, and the muddling around of a justice system that was built to handle events just such as this. While the roots of grass seek purchase in the soil that covers the late and lamented young boy, George Zimmerman sits and takes breath upon breath, in hiding from the actions that mark him as another symptom of the casual, anti-social bigotry that remains firmly rooted in our nation.

They who kill must stand in judgment before the law and justice must be allowed to take the day, no matter the circumstances. Where the court of law will not do its duty, the court of public opinion will take the lead, and the justice of an enraged and fearful citizenry will not be constrained by the letter of law or human decency. The clock is ticking, the torches are lit, and the low murmur of the mob grows as crickets on a Summer evening. Justice must be done.

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