Sunday, July 21, 2013

The Zimmerman Trial and My Spiritual Growth

I’ve heard lots of arguments since the George Zimmerman trial. I’m sure you have as well. “It’s a travesty of justice!” “It’s a fair upholding of the ‘Stand Your Ground’ law.” “It’s racism at its institutional ugliest.” “It’s not racist.” “Zimmerman is a hero.” “Zimmerman is the poster child for aggravated confrontation, protected by Florida Law.”
Passions are indeed very high. My passions were very aroused.
What I don’t hear about very much is compassion and frustration: Compassion for the Martin family; Frustration at the level of tolerated violence we have grown accustom to in the USA.
I don’t hear much about how our judicial system doesn’t appear to be working. In fact I heard that if every qualified issue actually went to a trial-by-jury, our judicial system would simply collapse. The system relies on brokered plea-bargains. Felonies are pled to misdemeanors and the innocent accept a guilty verdict on a misdemeanor rather than risk going to trial with a Public Defender, who has virtually no resources, for a lawyer.
What has happened to our country? To us? That simple question is too complicated for me to address here. However, I was made aware of a partial reminder to me (hopefully, to you too) of my attitudes and perceptions concerning this issue.
At an AA meeting several made oblique references to the trial’s verdict as they shared. It wasn’t very pretty. Funny? Yes, in a macabre way – but not very pretty.
As those folks shared, I was reminded that we close each meeting with the Lord’s Prayer – one of whose lines state: “…Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us….” Since I was upset at the callous reaction of the political right, I thought to myself, “When I say this part of the prayer, I’ll be asking for the universe to treat me with the same prejudice, lack of respect, tolerance or acceptance that I have been dishing out. Is that what I really want?”
Forgive us as we forgive. Is that what I really want?
I think this is a very appropriate question – in this situation – for all of us on our spiritual path. How I confront people, with whom I virtually disagree with on almost everything, is how I am praying for me to be held accountable. Isn’t that what I’m really praying for?
Is that what I really want? It’s as if I were praying: “Dear God (or Universe, or Higher Power) please judge me with the same lack of compassion, tolerance and acceptance I have shown those whom I find so appalling. Oh! I almost forgot. God, also please evaluate me with the same indifference, prejudice and lack of respect that I have judged those with whom I disagree.
In an article for CNN, Race, bias and the Zimmerman jury, Richard Gabriel recently wrote: “… There is a well-known principle in social psychology called ingroup-outgroup bias, which is the tendency to judge members of your own group more favorably and others more harshly. This has been followed by a great deal of recent research on "implicit bias" -- a subconscious negative association that we automatically attribute to others. Both of these cognitive blind spots are dangerous because they run in the background of our minds, all day long, outside our awareness…. So, we are all suspicious of "The Other" -- in this case, the young man in a hoodie in the rain. Whether that figure comes in the form of a black teenager, a gay co-worker, the Muslim neighbor, the overweight teacher, the barista with the tattoos and piercings, or, yes, even the gun owner, we all have biases. And yet most of us will never admit we have them, placing our own Gandhi-like bias-free self-image on a pillar of fairness and equity. But the truth is, the more we deny we have biases, the more we broaden and deepen those prejudices.” [(CNN) -- Richard Gabriel is the president of the American Society of Trial Consultants Foundation and president of Decision Analysis, a national trial consulting company.]
As I said, passions are very high. My passion is very high. Why is it these right-wing pundits seem to relish stoking the fires of fear, anger, and outright hatred? Observing their television pontificating, I found myself stoking the fires that make me extremely afraid, angry, and full of disgust.
I’m not very different am I?
Damn – Now that’s a very unwelcome thought!
However, that thought is very sobering.
Although these messages are mostly for me, thanks for listening. As always – feel free to forward this message to your friends, family, and those accompanying you on your spiritual journey.
#3 July, 2013
Copyright, 2013

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