Trayvon Martin: Latest Cause Celibre


There are no protesters in the streets here in Kandern, Germany. No one even mentioned the Zimmerman trial at dinner last night, although several did remark on the beauty of the stone church in the valley below.

I learned about the non-guilty decision the same way many people learned of it, through the go-to-news channel of the here and now:  Facebook.

I saw the photos of protestors via Twitter.

And I can only say that from across the big pond things look different.

Those protesters flooding Times Square look more like the post-game crowds at a Florida-Georgia game. It’s hard to believe that what drew them to the streets was the injustice of it all.

Here’s the thing I can’ t help but wonder — if all these people really cared about justice, why aren’t they doing more about it on a daily basis?

Because if these same people who are storming the streets and Facebook with all their rants about fairness and justice and race relations, actually took the streets in ministering to those living on the frayed ends of splintered society, how much better off would we all be?

Don’t get me wrong. I’m all for people taking to the streets to protest. In fact, I can’t help but wonder where have all these protesters been while our own federal government has been spying on us?

Where have all these protesters been when Congress knowingly continued to send our servicemen and women into wars based on fictions of their imaginations?

Where have all these protesters been while black boys and black girls have been gunned down at alarming rates in Chicago?

Where were all these protesters when a crazed teenager attempted to massacre an entire school at Newtown?

Where were all these protesters when a masked gunman took to a movie theater in Colorado?

Where were all these protesters when Helen Ford tortured and murdered her own 8-year old granddaughter?

So spare me the righteous indignation over Travyon Martin. If these so-called protesters really cared about injustice they would do more than take to the streets whenever the CNN and FoxNews cameras showed up.

The truth is they are only there because Travyon Martin is the latest cause celibre.

These people are not real protesters.

They are simply mobs on a rampage.

Unlike the protesters of the 1960s, these mobs aren’t willing to work for change — they are in it simply for the short-haul. 




Browse Our Archives

Follow Us!

What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment
  • Bill

    Thank you for the comments. Many people love to “protest” more than do something consistently and with sacrifice to help. I feel for the Martin family and the Zimmerman family. This is a bad situation.

  • Darian G. Burns

    Great post Karen. Thank you!

  • Jody Rutherford

    I usually find your writing thoughtful and well-considered, Karen. I have to say I’m pretty disappointed with this piece. Maybe it’s because you’re currently out of the country that you seem so out of touch with how disheartened so many people are by the verdict. The examples you used are comparing apples to oranges. What is there to protest when someone guns down school children or movie-theater goers and the perpetrators are arrested and tried (other than protesting lax gun-control laws, and I know plenty who have been protesting those) and will surely be severely punished? In this case, an unarmed teenager was shot dead and the killer walks. The protest here in Portland, OR where I live was peaceful, as were most protests/demonstrations throughout the country, so characterizing the protests as “mobs on a rampage” is unfair. This piece comes across as knee-jerk and judgmental, something I would not expect from you.

    • Judy: Sorry to disappoint you but this is not a knee-jerk reaction. This is an honest evaluation of how I see our culture. Perhaps mobs on a rampage is strongly-worded. But unlike protesters of the Civil Rights movement of the 1960s, if the bulk of these protesters were working on behalf of injustices on a daily basis, we would live in a completely different culture. As as journalist, I think these herds are driven for the most part by media attention. Once the cameras and headlines die away, they move along to the next cause celibre. Remember when Bin Laden was killed and mobs took to the streets of DC shouting “We did it”? Most of them were university students who had never served in the military, never been to war. I suspect the majority of those taking to the streets around the nation won’t be volunteering at the Southern Poverty Law Center next week, or even inviting their Hispanic neighbor out to supper. Aren’t these the same people, after all, who failed to protest on behalf of more stringent gun controls?

  • tanyam

    I’m sorry, but I think cynicism is a problem in and of itself. Leaving aside the particulars — this verdict, this issue, this day — if I’m suddenly inspired to take to the streets — over a war, an unjust law, the death of a child or 22 children in a classroom or an injustice of any kind — should I just hang it up because I’ve not been there before, and don’t have plans, as yet, to be “in the trenches” tomorrow?
    If because of my age and my dress I look like a co-ed on my way to a football game, am I not allowed to have a fiercely held opinion? Am I not allowed to be enraged by something, (and maybe a little bit confused as well?) Must my motives be pure, my information complete, my commitment already wholehearted?
    Here’s how I think social change happens, and the way social movements function. They start with a few who risk their lives, and who give their lives. And then those things catch on — and they catch on eventually among people who are otherwise doing other things. And they include people who are half hearted as well as those who are whole-hearted. Somebody has a crush on a soldier who goes to war, and they start paying attention to what’s going on in the world. Somebody knows somebody who’s going to a protest, and they go along, and maybe they meet someone with whom they have a life changing conversation.
    And you know what’s death to all this? Cynicism. Particularly about young people who are just feeling their way into their first real passions, beliefs, and commitments. And I’m sure you know this — the 60’s protests — they were not only the purehearted either. They were full of hanger-oners, and posers, and people who were too stoned to be much good. Some worked hard, some nodded along, and some became investment bankers.
    So next week the people who work on race, will be working on race, and other people will go back to their lives. But it is an open question what this story, or another story, or another afternoon in the streets will do to them.

    • Yes, I agree, cynicism is a problem perpetuated without restraint in our culture. I am as prone to it as the next person. However, this post isn’t prompted by cynicism. It is prompted by years of observation, as a girl who grew up in the segregated south, and as a journalist who has watched journalistic ethics trodded underfoot as newsrooms fight to stay alive in a society that cares less about facts and more about opinions. You are entitled your opinion. That is the signature mark of our culture — having an opinion.

      Social change happens a variety of ways, you are correct. But it rarely happens as a result of half-hearted people taking to the streets in self-righteous indignation.

      Being informed can change a person’s world view.

      Doing even a little bit of good on a daily basis makes a bigger difference than carrying a placard ever did.

      Social justice doesn’t spread like a fever.

      Is it more passion these protesters need?

      Or is it compassion?

  • Eric Boersma

    People have been protesting the Iraq and Afghanistan wars literally since before those wars started. People have been protesting gun usage in this country for decades, in Chicago and elsewhere (and I’m not even sure how someone is supposed to protest Sandy Hook or Aurora). Ditto Helen Ford: I’m not sure how someone is supposed to protest a grandmother going to jail because she abused and killed a grandchild.

    Just because you’re late to the boat doesn’t mean people haven’t been speaking out against these things for over a decade, at the least. You’re confusing your ignorance of a situation with reality, which is a dangerous position to take. You should probably seek to undertake a bit of research before stepping on your soapbox and condemning people for protesting against the laws that let George Zimmerman go free.

    • Eric: I am not late to the boat. If you had done your research, you would know that my speaking out about the wars in Iraq & Afghanistan have been consistent and thorough. If you did your research at all, instead of jumping on Miranda’s (pseudonym) ill-informed rant, you would know that my concerns go beyond just the surface on issues related to war, child abuse, and gun control. Miranda was obviously intent on capitalizing on my name to drive blog traffic. It appears to have worked.

      • Eric Boersma

        I have no idea who Miranda is. I don’t know who you are. I just know that I read one blog post, and it was horribly out of touch with why people are upset about the Martin case. Dismissing the emotions of millions of black people because “it’s just the latest celebrity cause” makes you look ignorant, uninformed and out of touch. I’m white. You’re white. Part of being white is that we don’t get to decide, we can’t even understand what this case means to black people.

        But we can listen. You seem uninterested in that. You seem interested in condemning 18 and 19 year old kids for not protesting the Iraq War, which started when they were eight. What those early college students were doing by protesting was the result of having listened to their black friends and black neighbors and black classmates. Race issues in the United States aren’t solved, not by a long shot — they’ve actually been getting worse the last couple years. But the banding together, by people of all colors, should be a cause for celebration — the idea that a young black male could become a celebrity cause for any reason would have been unthinkable to my parents’ generation. That Trayvon’s death is causing young people to become politically involved during their formative years is a good thing.

        Don’t turn into your parents. Don’t let the fact that Their Thing is not Your Thing make you feel like their contributions are somehow invalid or less than. Rejoice that we are seeing a generation grow up that can share in Christ’s heartache for a healed world.

        • I seem uninterested in listening? I seem interested in condemning 18 & 19 year old for not protesting war?
          You apparently are doing a drive-by-shooting as a blogger.

          • Eric Boersma

            Flip the script with me for a moment, if you would? You seem to be implying that I’m grossly misunderstanding you, so would you mind clarifying for me? What message were you trying to send with this post? What were you trying to communicate by suggesting that that the Trayvon Martin protests were a “cause celibre” (sic)?

          • The meaning behind the post is that our media-celebrity-focused culture drives the fervor and the fury. The point of the post isn’t the rightness or wrongness of Trayvon Martin’s case, but only a plea that people put their feet where their mouths tend to lead.