GEORGE ZIMMERMAN AND THE END OF OUTRAGE
By Mohan Karulkar: George Zimmerman stands accused of murdering Treyvon Martin in a case that has captivated the nation for weeks. Up until this past Wednesday, “murder” was a loaded word, because Zimmerman hadn't actually been charged with anything. And in that time, people across the country were left wondering why. Self-defense? Faulty laws? Shoddy investigation? Cover-up? How could charges not be brought in the gunning down of an unarmed teen?
Outcry followed. Protests, articles, campaigns, and celebrity endorsements pushed for the arrest of George Zimmerman. As details emerged, including the chilling 911 tapes of screams and gunshots, the story morphed into a debate on race, politics, and justice. Public opinion was unified at first, but more recently began to split along racial and political lines. Some people were tired of the publicity, and some people had simply given up on justice.
Now, with Zimmerman’s arrest, we find ourselves at an interesting juncture. The outcry was not really about a racially-motivated killing — those sadly happen every day — but in the police response to that killing. And for once, it seems that the outcry — the outrage — has affected measurable change. There’s no denying that, if nothing else, the public scrutiny caused Florida’s government to take a closer look at this case specifically, and cases like this in general. It also got us talking, which is no small feat.
And so I admit, with a certain amount of pride, that we are a people who cannot help but be outraged when something heinous is pressed upon our consciousness. Outrage can bring about change, and for that reason, it is worth defending. But once change has occurred, what then?
The arrest that was called for has taken place. The conversation has started. The books have been reopened. And the moment … remains teachable. Do we search our souls for greater meaning? Do we tackle topics like profiling, bias, and violence in our local community, and in ourselves? Do we seek to learn? Do we seek to heal?
Or do we remain caught in a cycle of outrage, with little left to protest but the unfairness of life itself?
It is tempting to let outrage fuel the demand for a particular verdict, but consider that that right is not ours. We may demand justice, and it appears that justice is finally in progress. But a verdict? That is for the real judge and jury, not the proverbial one.
And in the end, if we believe justice was averted, then that’s another outrage for another day. But in the meantime, maybe it’s time to let the change our outrage has brought forth inspire change in our own lives. Maybe it’s time to pursue healing in our communities, and give society — and each other — a second chance.
After all, when we let outrage turn into to love, we use weapons of grace to honor the victim. And in doing so, we honor each other as well.