What I See In the Neighborhood (Rest In Peace, Child)

My deepest condolences to those who lost this child. I do not know you, but you have my prayers and my commitment to try and help make my community a safe place for the children I know. Please forgive my attempt to reason with my thoughts in a public forum as my recounting of facts is harsh. I do hope my thoughts will spark discussion that will make my community safer for children and others living here.

There is too much conflicting and confusing information surrounding the media circus of Trayvon Martin/George Zimmerman. As a parent and a Christian, I have tried to learn from this and decide how a may better the community that Christ has called me to serve. It is hard to suppress emotion as I try to discern what is true or not true in gathering what I need to know in order to act to keep my children and my community safe.

Here are the only facts I can gather that I know to be true to help in my thoughts. Despite what I’m seeing all over the internet, I have left “race” out of it and also noted what I may doubt with phrases such as “may or may not.” The facts that help me:

1. Two parents have lost a child who died at the hands and judgment of another man.

2. An armed man who can legally own a gun shot and killed an unarmed child who cannot legally own a gun.

3. Before the armed man who could legally own a gun shot and killed the unarmed child who could not legally own a gun, he rejected the advice of law enforcement dispatchers to not pursue the unarmed child and pursued the child with his weapon.

4. The armed man who could legally own a gun pursued the unarmed child who could not legally own a gun by his own reasoning that “he looked like he was up to no good” and “he’s on drugs or something” prior to shooting the unarmed child.

5. The unarmed child who could not legally own a gun was profiled on a 911 call by the armed man, who minutes later would kill him, on a 911 call as “he’s up to no good,” “he’s just staring,” “he’s wearing a…hoodie,” “[he looks like he’s] in his late teens,” “he’s just walking, looking about,” “these a**holes, they always get away,” “I think there’s something wrong with him,” “he’s running.” He also went on to say “okay” when advised not to follow the unarmed child that he shot and killed at an intermediate range of 1-18 inches. The armed man also seemed to fear the unarmed child when he said from inside his vehicle, “I don’t want to give [my address] out loud, I don’t know where this kid is” (the armed man who could legally own a gun calls the unarmed child who could not legally own a gun and would be dead minutes later “a kid”?).

6. Since there is no clear picture of the scuffle in which the unarmed child was killed by the armed man, all that can be assumed from testimony is that the armed man, who could legally own a gun, pursued the unarmed child, who could not legally own a gun, against the advice of law enforcement and was unable to restrain, subdue, or control the behavior of the unarmed child who may or may not have been surprised or scared that an armed man was following him. The armed man, who may or may not have been losing the physical conflict with the child that came about after he pursued the unarmed child against dispatcher advice, chose the combat advantage not legally afforded to the child by brandishing a gun and shot and killed him with the gun that is his legal right to own as an adult. The unarmed child, according to autopsy reports, was shot at 1-18 inches and lived “20 seconds to several minutes” and “for some time, anyway” after being shot. Right or wrong, the unarmed child lost the fight with the armed man who chose to pursue him against dispatcher advice and based on the armed man’s view of how the unarmed child looked and was walking.

7. The 911 call, in which the dispatcher advised the armed man who could legally own a gun not to pursue the unarmed child who “looks black” and “is up to no good” and (according to the armed adult) “is in his teens”, was made at approx. 7:09 PM. The 911 call made by the armed adult ended at approx. 7:15 PM. Police arrived on the scene at 7:17 PM where they found the armed adult standing near the unarmed child who we now know had been shot and killed. The unarmed child who could not, and now will never be able to, legally own a gun was pronounced dead at 7:30 PM. It appears that the judgment and verdict of the armed adult to shoot the unarmed child took place within an approximate window of one-and-a-half to two minutes. The unarmed jury of peers who judged and decided the armed adult’s case after he killed the unarmed child was given all the time necessary (over 15 hours) for a verdict according to due process in a controlled environment where the only armed adults were the law enforcement allowed in the court.

8. The unarmed child who could not legally own a gun was known for his misbehavior and had been suspended from school for recurring bad behavior as the media would report after he had been shot. Some of the behaviors were reported as tardiness, theft, graffiti, and bad language. These allegations, if true (and some acts were caught on video according to investigators) receive a prescribed method within our justice system by those trained in every aspect of law, justice, and investigation. None of these allegations are punishable by instant firing squad in the U.S. currently. Also, these allegations were not known to Zimmerman, the man who could legally own the gun that shot the unarmed child who cannot legally own a gun, who could not even accurately describe the actions, race, or behavior of the child that he saw walking in his community as Zimmerman (who at the time of the phone call was not threatened by anyone) drove by. These behaviors, if true, can now not be given due process the like of what was afforded citizens such as was given to the armed, adult male who shot and killed the unarmed child.

9. The unarmed child who cannot legally own a gun had traces of marijuana in his body according to his autopsy. Because he was shot and killed by Zimmerman, the adult who can legally own a gun and was advised not to pursue the child that Zimmerman said was “in his teens”, he cannot be given the chance to rehabilitate either by the society/the law or by his mother or father who may no longer act as parents to the unarmed child.

10. There are too many “what ifs” surrounding this case.
What if the child, Martin, had been armed rather than the adult? What if the adult, Zimmerman, had not had a gun – would he have so cavalierly pursued the child or been so callous in his prejudiced profiling? Could the child also had “stood his ground” in the initial presence of an armed man who had decided to pursue him? What if the unarmed child had not been wearing a hoodie? What if Zimmerman had not been prejudiced against “these a**holes, [who] always get away?” What if? What if? What if?

11. The unarmed child’s parents cannot speak with their child about how to act in a situation like this. They cannot remind him now of the safe place to go if he suspects danger. They cannot advise him on how to defend against armed strangers. They cannot remind him to do his homework. They will not celebrate his next birthday with him. They will not see him on Christmas. His absence was determined by an armed man who could legally own a gun and was advised not to pursue the child.

Will other facts come to light that will help me reason through this tragedy? It’s clear that there are no winners in this case. Justice, or whatever justice is according to our legal system, is a cold resolution of tragedy and death. What can I say to my children? How do I keep them safe from armed adults who will quote faulty laws and misconstrue constitutional rights to justify murder? How do I tell to my children that if they run, they’re guilty, if they fight, they’re in danger of being shot, and that if they look a certain way that it’s practically over. I don’t have answers amid my sorrow and astonishment. If you’re not a Christian or a person of faith, there’s no need to read further. However, here are a few things that I have tried to focus on in hearing this case:

1. Love God and love your neighbors.
If I’m not doing this, I’m not thinking straight about this tragedy.
This situation has the potential to create deep, profound love and knowledge, and safer communities or to create deep, unbridled hate, racism, red herring agendas, and/or community divide. Neutrality, unfortunately, is not an option. What or who do you love?

2. Become like children in order to enter the kingdom of Heaven.
We have to become like children in order to take instruction, to humble ourselves, to grow, to see others as equals before we start the callous, adult behavior of separating ourselves by race, economics, gender, and other sinful behaviors. And by the way, the kingdom is the church. The church has to adopt this behavior in order to overcome and survive this tragedy.

3. Do not give partiality.
Racism is sin. Racist jokes are sin. Judging a person according to race is sin. There is no such thing as “black racism” or “white racism” – it’s simply racism and it’s wrong. If alluding to race causes racism in a brother or sister, abstain from it. Do not be a stumbling block in any form or fashion in regard to race and racism.

4. Weep with those who weep.
A mother and father have lost a child. This child has been put under the microscopic scrutiny of law enforcement, the justice system, the media, and social media clowns who have judged his every act as a child (good or bad, but mostly bad). This becomes part of the memory for that mother and father who have buried their child. Do not exploit that for your personal causes and whims. Let me be more clear:
– Do not use a child’s death for your rant against “liberal media”
– Do not use a child’s death for your disdain for “gun control”
– Do not use a child’s death for your dislike of “President Obama”
– And please, for the love of God, do not compare the media’s non-coverage of the beating of a white child to the trial of an armed man who killed an unarmed child. Every reasonable person who reads this sees that you are making a “black” and “white” statement in regard to race. It’s the old “why can’t you see that the media won’t cover a crime for white people” argument. Racism of any form is unacceptable. Shame on you. Do the right thing in regard to the “other case” without adding insult to injury for more than one family. Justice is not a form of fair air time comparison. Again, shame on you.
– Do not use a child’s death for trivial, social-media-outlet sayings. This is a buckshot method that guarantees no controlled results. Do you want good results or bad results? More love or more hate? It doesn’t matter since you cannot control what happens afterward. Simply weep with those who weep.

(I speak to myself as I would others here. If you have found yourself guilty of any of these, please consider what has been expected of you by the One who gave Himself for you and called you to serve others, especially those who have found themselves in the poverty of grief and injustice at the moment. Please consider the distraction and worthless energy you have provided from relieving this grief and mending the justice system through your own selfish, personal agenda. Please consider your emotionally-charged actions as they take a bad situation and make it worse when the sparks you create fly about to create uncontrolled fires, as the tongue has a habit of doing. Lord, save me from feeling this way. Lord, save me from others who would feel this way. Lord, save me from those who would stand their ground against my unarmed child.)

5. Hug your child. Keep children safe.
Get involved with your community and schools. Make a family that has activities that keep children safe and promote the idea of family and safety. If you don’t have children, have some. If you can’t have children, adopt some. If you don’t have the strength to adopt, then foster. If you can’t foster, then mentor. If you can’t mentor, then sponsor. If you can’t sponsor, then support. If you can’t support, then encourage. If you can’t encourage, seek counsel on why this is, but by no means should you judge, prejudge, or admonish a child otherwise. If you’ve found yourself at that level in the game, then you are the weak link in the community that creates the very prejudices you fear enough to carry a gun and brandish it at a faulty, emotion-based whim. Counteract your insecurity and fear. Find a way to change your community. Raise a child in the way he/she should go. Stand your ground to keep a child safe.

6. Christian “rights” and American rights are not the same thing.
All things may be legal, but not all things are helpful. Love God and love your neighbor. For the Christian who happens to be American, everything is based on this.

7. Seek justice, do good.
Just because America made “a right” doesn’t make it right. If man made it, man can change it.

Please forgive my scattered thoughts as I reason through this tragedy. Heaven help our communities and those who shape justice. Rest in peace, Trayvon Martin.