July 14, 2013

A Prayer for George Zimmerman

For anyone who's been reading my blog recently, I'm sure the title of this post is a bit surprising.

But it's Sunday.

I have so many thoughts and feelings going through me right now.  But let me start with the Black Panther Party.

Most people don't know that the full name of the organization was "The Black Panther Party for Self Defense", which was originally conceived as a response to police brutality.  In addition to using California's open carry laws to defiantly confront law enforcement with their own weapons, people forget that the Panthers also feed the hungry, clothed the needy, and even organized schools for the children in their neighborhoods.

They forget because the sight of Huey Newton walking into the California State Assembly brandishing a shotgun overpowers any story about school lunches or clothing drives.

Guns have a tendency to do that.

If you'd like to know what happened to the Black Panthers, don't look at these impostors who are occasionally trotted out on Fox News as if they were Emmanuel Goldstein from the book "Nineteen Eighty-Four." According to the documentary "Bastards of the Party", you should look at the Crips, the notorious LA street gang, which, after years of sabotage from law enforcement, violence, arrests, political pressure, and the introduction of the drug trade, is what the Los Angeles Panthers devolved to in the late 70's.  Most of the prominent leaders of the party are either dead, in prison, or in exile.

Guns have a tendency to do that, too.

In "Bastards of the Party", the filmmaker, a former gangbanger, lamented the cycle of violence, where you feel compelled to kill the people who killed your friend, just like they felt compelled to kill members of the gang who killed their friend, and so on, and so on, and so on.

In the end, he said that the only way he could help brake the cycle was if he chose NOT to seek revenge on the people who'd murdered one of his family members.

As one of my friends, an AME minister, once pointed out to me, mercy is where you give someone something they don't deserve, but GRACE is where you don't give someone exactly what they deserve.

It's Sunday, and despite the pain and fear in my heart, grace is on my mind, because it's what Christ would ask of me in this moment.

My old film school instructor once said that, according to Catholic canon, the definition of a miracle is any moment where fear is transformed into love.

It was fear that led that jury to say George Zimmerman was justified in stalking and killing an unarmed Black teen.  It was fear that led Zimmerman to arm himself and appoint himself protector of the neighborhood.

And as angry and as fearful as I've been since the verdict, as much as I've imagined being Trayvon  (I can not tell you how many times I've walked home at night from the store wearing a hoodie) and, being someone who hopes to be a Black father one day in an affluent and largely white suburb of Los Angeles, as much as I've imagined the unspeakable pain of his parents, Christ calls me to also imagine being George Zimmerman.

This is a man who wanted to be a hero, a small man who dreamed of pride and respect from being a protector and defender.  Never in his wildest dreams did he imagine he would become one of the most hated men in America because of his own prejudice and fear. Ironically enough, his unspoken fear of African Americans has transformed into a very real and, sadly, justifiable fear after this whole business.

There will be plenty of time for lawsuits and recriminations and acrimony.

But today is Sunday, and so, in addition for praying for Trayvon's soul, I'm also praying for George Zimmerman and his soul.  I am digging deep into my heart to find, if not love, a measure of empathy for a man who has rightly earned my rage.   In the same way, I pray for the jurors.  I pray that my heart and my prayers can reach out to those who would fear me, my sons, and those that look like us for no reason and feel justified in our murder.

I'm sending them love to cancel out their fear.

I'm praying for them because America needs a miracle.

For George Zimmerman, I can only say what the priest said to Jean Valjean: "I've bought your soul.  No go forth and be a good man."

For Travyon's parents, I'll ask for their forgiveness.

And for Trayvon, well, he's with God right now, so he already knows what's right.
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