Putting aside the question of whether or not I’m a Christian leader (I’m not), when the story broke of young Martin’s death I did receive a number of requests to write about it. As touching and even humbling as those requests were, they also felt about on par with being asked to play a kazoo at a requiem mass. So I declined.
Words are supposed to mean something. They’re supposed to have an Actual Effect. Everyone knows that what happened to Trayvon Martin is well beyond words. We all know that his murder was a horrendous, numbing affront, a ghastly abomination beyond articulation.
We all know that when Trayvon Martin was killed, we all died a little.
What is there to really say about that? That murder is bad? That racism is bad?
Murder is bad. Racism is bad. The fact that in America today it’s easier to buy a gun than a vanity license plate is bad. That George Zimmerman still hasn’t been arrested for the murder of Trayvon Martin is so bad it would outrage Satan himself.
We know all of this.
I was ten years old when Martin Luther King was murdered. Everyone I knew was in deep mourning for weeks if not months.
When Tommie Smith and John Carlos raised their fists at the 1968 Olympics, my heart caught in my chest; I literally couldn’t breathe.
Anyone of any age at all during any phase of the civil rights movement knew that a just and more righteous America was finally emerging from its nightmarishly racist past. That vibrant, sometimes violent but always cleansing energy was everywhere. There was a riot goin’ on; the revolution was being televised.
It was real. It was happening. A new America was being born.
And forty-five years later here I am, watching yet another senseless racist murder dominate the news for a week or so.
Here I am, knowing there are people out there proud to now be sporting on their car or wheelbarrow this bumper-sticker:
Here I am, playing my kazoo.
(Of course, all this depression aside: how cool is the reason that bumper sticker exists in the first place?)