The “difference … between man and other forms of life”
is that man has invented what he calls
“morality’ and ‘reason’ to justify what he is doing. …”
--Patriotic Gore, Edmund Wilson
If you have the facts, argue the facts;
If you have the law, argue the law;
If you have neither, pound the table really loudly
--old lawyer's adage
The range of what we think and do
is limited by what we fail to notice.
And because we fail to notice
that we fail to notice,
there is little we can do to change;
until we notice how failing to notice
shapes our thoughts and deeds
War is the spectacular and bloody projection
of our everyday life, is it not?
War is merely an outward expression
of our inward state,
an enlargement of our daily action
--The Causes of War, J. Krishnamurti
The U.S. serves as the neighborhood watchman of the world, proudly and without apology. We figure we are the Good Guys for trying to keep order and teach the heathens a better way. Unfortunately, since they often behave in ways antithetical to our neatly arrayed protocol and are full of tribal enmity and such, they get killed sometimes.
This neighborhood watchism of the U.S. is related to the outsized news coverage of a discrete tragic event which occurred in late February in a small town in Central Florida, a story which has quickly fired up most of the blogosphere.
We are outraged as a nation over the death of a single young black American shot by a supposedly self-appointed "neighborhood watchman." We know nothing beyond this fact, and the loud and persistent calls to bring Zimmerman to justice hinge on the following claims:
- Trayvon Martin (TM) ™ did not present a mortal threat, therefore the killing was a criminal act
- TM ™ was just a convenient target for Zimmerman's (Z) fantasy of being an American Super Hero
- Firearms are too readily used in our society
All of these are clearly articulated presumptions of a civilized society and a liberal democracy -- hard to refute on the abstract level. All life is valuable, to include that of the most heinous criminals and low-life serial killers. The U.S. is a nation of law, and no individual transcends these precepts.
If TM ™ was not a threat to Z or to anyone's life, then his shooting was not justifiable and not in accordance with our societal values. However, into the simplicity of the legality of the issue creeps the fact that we are NOT a post-racial society, and we are a violent one pretending to be otherwise.
Returning to our neighborhood watchman analogy, If TM ™ was killed illegally, then so too every Afghan, Iraqi and Pakistani whom we killed simply for being Afghan, Iraqi or Pakistani, for we just as assuredly racially-profiled them, too. It's quite simple on that level: We are hypocrites because get morally outraged over one act of supposedly inappropriate violence while supporting a national policy of inappropriate violence.
Yet we project our collective moral outrage and guilt upon Z for his willingness to apply deadly force in what we interpret as an illegal use of violence while we as a nation habitually murder the moral equivalent of TM ™ every day of the week in the Phony War on Terror (PWOT ©), and do so without any self-mortification. And without the slightest irony, we figure if we stamp him (Z) out, we can gain some sort of vindication and atone for our transgressions. We love our martyrs, and if that were to happen, we would get a two-fer in the TM ™ saga.
The U.S. was on board with invading Afghanistan and Iraq and 10 years later is still killing people who posed no lethal threat to our national or personal well-being. Yet surely the Iraqis were simply trying to buy some Skittles and iced tea (biscuits and kaffir) with rags and not hoodies on their heads, and we killed them as frivolously as Z. supposedly did a helpless, cookie-baking young man.
While the Afghanis never entered the sanctum sanctorum of our protected personal lives -- the sacred gated community -- they did enter the symbolic sanctuary of our sacred financial and business lives when their supposed charges attacked the Twin Towers in 9-11-01. As a result of that violation and intrusion, our taxes and lack of outrage have allowed the U.S. to "go Zimmerman" on tens of thousands of hadjis.
We are all Zimmerman.