THE BLOG

"Somebody Has To Pay"

07/15/2013 03:23 pm ET | Updated Sep 14, 2013

In the Spring of 1963, as I was preparing to go to Leopoldville (now Kinshasa) as the CIA's No. 2, we were briefed that, if we came across an accident on the road, we should not stop but continue driving on. This was because, in the mentality of the Bantu, the principal ethnicity in that region of the Congo, if such an accident does not produce a culprit, the one driving the next car coming along is to be considered the guilty one.
As preposterous as this notion is (or was), it reflects a deep-seated, if primitive, feeling that somebody has to pay for a human tragedy. From the medieval concept of wergild to the blood money being paid today in Afghanistan for the killing of innocent persons, this notion persists in much of the Third World.
I'm not going to comment on the Trayvon Martin-George Zimmerman trial, as I haven't followed it that closely. Because of the racial aspects, the case was elevated to the national level, including by President Obama himself, who stated that if he had a son, "he'd look like Trayvon."
From the incident of February 26, 2012, in which an unarmed 17-year-old black teenager was shot to death not by his own hand, to the acquittal of the shooter on July 6, 2013, nothing has changed: a non-accidental killing has gone by without being requited.
There is, however, a new development: The Justice Department on July 7 announced that a federal investigation will be re-started on the issue of whether hate-crime changes can be brought against George Zimmerman.