The Optimistic Christian
In Trayvon Martin Case, America Is Better Than Its Media
Beyond expressing the deepest sympathy for his family, I have found it difficult to know how to write about the tragic shooting death of young Trayvon Martin, the Florida teen who was killed in February by a neighborhood watchman. One of the main reasons is that I haven't formed an opinion yet of what actually happened.
I don't know if I'm the only person in America in this predicament. Some days it seems that way. Everyone on TV seems awfully certain about what happened, or at least about what the issues are—or at any rate about the other (political) side's disingenuous attitude. But speaking for myself, I'm not sure. Even if Trayvon was not killed out of racist hatred, that certainly wouldn't mean that his killing was justified, or that no one made any mistakes. The shooter and the police might have done so. The matter clearly warrants a full investigation.
And while I'm not prepared to jump to conclusions about racism in this incident, I am in full sympathy with those who want to turn a spotlight on the authorities, and make sure that nothing is swept under the rug, that whatever justice we can manage is done, and that we learn from this tragedy the things that can help us in the future. A teenager was killed, under circumstances the public doesn't fully understand. We need to get to the bottom of it.
Maybe I'm not alone, though, in having questions rather than certainties. Just as I am not convinced that non-black Americans are uniformly indifferent to Trayvon Martin's fate, so I doubt that the voices calling for extra-legal measures against the shooter, George Zimmerman, are representative of black Americans. I have known too many people of all kinds to suppose that politicized archetypes are representative—and I think most of us have today.
It's easy to be swept along in the media fervor and the extremely vocal arguments about this case, but I don't really think the anger and politics that dominate the media coverage are the truth on the ground across America. A moment's reflection reminds me that in my thoroughly "mixed" neighborhood, nothing has changed in how we all regard and interact with each other. We are simply neighbors.
Granted, this is suburban America—by no means wealthy, but solidly middle class. As an adult I have always lived in "mixed" middle-class American neighborhoods. Millions have. There is a very large, expansive America in which people of all races and ethnicities live in the same neighborhoods and see their security and their quality of life in the same way. This America is real. It has existed everywhere I have lived in the United States (including Florida).
I am emphatic about this because it is now a significant, defining reality. America has changed since the 1960s—changed in the ways people back then hoped it would. The neighborhoods and work places people once dreamt of are here, all around us. The record of renewal for poor, inner-city neighborhoods is spotty; it's not that there is nothing left to be done. But the races of America living together in harmony is a present reality in too many places to be discounted as meaningless or unrepresentative.
J.E. Dyer is a retired Naval intelligence officer and evangelical Christian. She retired in 2004 and blogs from the Inland Empire of southern California. She writes for Commentary's CONTENTIONS blog, Hot Air's Green Room, and her own blog, The Optimistic Conservative. Follow her on Facebook and Twitter.