I had promised myself that I would not say another word about Trayvon Martin, or respond to any other posts, tweets or other form of social media ephemera until I am finished with the work I am doing here in Cambodia. But in my bed, drifting asleep, I couldn't help but to think of the beautiful mass I attended in Phnom Penh this morning, in the midst of so much poverty, so much injustice... and yes, so much hope. And recalling the events of the day, I was reminded of today's Gospel reading, especially vivid in the wake of the Zimmerman verdict:
....And who is my neighbor?" Jesus replied, "A man fell victim to robbers as he went down from Jerusalem to Jericho. They stripped and beat him and went off leaving him half-dead. A priest happened to be going down that road, but when he saw him, he passed by on the opposite side. Likewise a Levite came to the place, and when he saw him, he passed by on the opposite side. But a Samaritan traveler who came upon him was moved with compassion at the sight. He approached the victim, poured oil and wine over his wounds and bandaged them. Then he lifted him upon on his own animal, took him to an inn, and cared for him. The next day he took out two silver coins and gave them to the innkeeper with the instruction....'Take care of him. If you spend more than what I have given you, I shall repay you on my way back.' Which of these three, in your opinion, was neighbor to the robbers' victim? He answered, 'The one who treated him with mercy.' (Lk 10:25-37)
What irony, I thought. That within an hour after hearing the Zimmerman verdict over breakfast, I should hear this reading; a story in stark contrast to Zimmerman's behavior, a person who in his zealous righteousness failed to show a young teenage kid even a modicum of mercy -- the smallest bit of neighborly love. Who, motivated by his own biases, prejudices and fears, reluctant to trust in the law, deprived a young kid of the very presumption on which his freedom now rests.
And I found myself wondering: for thousands of years, the message to love thy neighbor, regardless of background, creed, religion, ethnicity, race, gender, nationality; love beyond all rational (and irrational) boundaries; love despite difference or indifference, has been taught to so many, and yet, how quickly we all forget -- including, those of us shaking our fists at Zimmerman, potentially losing our own souls, our own compassion in the process. How often have I forgotten unconditional love of others? Of my enemies, of those I do not know and do not understand? And, can I really be surprised that someone like George Zimmerman might forget the same?
What if we were motivated by love, not fear? What if, as Nick Surkamp tweeted Sunday morning, George Zimmerman offered Trayvon Martin a ride, to get out of the rain? What if we all stopped to acknowledge that our implicit biases, though perhaps rationally derived at the outset, are often wrong, and therefore changed our motivating narratives in response? What if we extended to others the very presumption of innocence we hope would be extended to ourselves? What if rather than succumbing to generations of social conditioning, that tells us certain of us are nothing more than the worthless, menacing, threatening, criminal other, we opened our hearts, and said hello? What if, in our every action and interaction, we were motivated by love of our neighbor, not fear of their difference? Might Trayvon Martin still be alive?
I do not have all of the answers, but what I know is this -- a society devoid of love, devoid of compassion, will always be a society devoid of justice. We would be wise to remember love of neighbor, above all else.