"...Cain rose up against his brother Abel, and killed him."
The quasi-documentary film I AM by director Tom Shadyac, the director of ACE Ventura and The Nutty Professor fame explores the question of the interconnections of human life and it makes a convincing case about that connection and the results of continually disregarding that fact. This film can help to enlarge our viewpoint on the Zimmerman verdict and in shifting the conversation.
George Zimmerman is a product of the cultural narrative of separation and difference which is most profoundly characterized in this country by skin color. This story teaches that the difference of skin color and race make us different and since we cannot understand all of those differences it is a good idea to be afraid. Of course our fear makes it necessary to stay prepared to make a defense against those who are different and any violent act toward them is acceptable because the most important thing that must be done is to survive no matter what the survival strategy cost.
The fear that holds this narrative together enlarges itself with every incident that occurs which can be remotely related to its central theme, which is that those who have been designated as other will cause harm and one most stay ready to fight them. This way of thinking leads one to the conclusion that Zimmerman makes regarding self defense. Of course it is self defense, but it was not a defense against young Martin, it was against a culturally constructed monster fueled by years of fear and rage.
If only Zimmerman could have realized that Martin was his brother, how different that night would have been. We are connected. We are all God's children. In Shadyac's documentary, several scientist discuss their work which allegedly points to the fact that behaviors in one corner of the universe can impact other corners which are far away from them. Some of this work is being done at the Institute of Heart Math and it supposedly demonstrates ways that organisms are affected by thoughts and feelings directed toward them. Actually it is not that difficult to see that our thoughts affect our behaviors and that affect can be for good or ill depending upon our intentions.
One cannot kill one's brother and have life continue as if it did not happen. Across this country and our world for that matter, brothers continue to kill brothers and we seem to have become accustomed to it. Regarding this, all of us need to turn ourselves to the task of deep soul searching reflection and to pay close attention to what it reveals. If there is any place in our thoughts that is likely to deny our deep connections to one another, it needs to be brought to the light for healing.
The narrative of racism will not be erased by laws though they are necessary, its erasure will come as more people make the effort to look for connections instead of difference and become more intentional about living life as a human community. As a child of the 1960s I am clear about the need for all of the past work that has been done to make changes. But in thinking about where we were and where we are now, it is clear that we need far more than changed laws.
A brother killed his brother. How do we respond as if we were the parents of both of them? How can we stop the cycle of polarization? When and where will we enter this cultural equation that continues to support the myth of separation? Of course it is challenging to think about all of this because Cain killed Abel many centuries ago and we have made so little progress toward changing the desires of brothers to kill each other. But it seems quite clear that learning to live in response to our natural interconnections is our best way forward.
When we learn to go forward in this way we will cross the border of white skin privilege and rid ourselves as a nation of the ways in which black skin has been valued as less than white skin. A large of part of the reason that Trayvon Martin is dead and George Zimmerman is walking free is because of skin color. We all know this to be true. But it is immobilizing to camp out at this position because it merely leads to more polarization.
It is difficult to see what we will do as a nation in regard to our understanding of white skin and its privilege, but thoughtful people who are committed to peace, justice and making the world better in general need to consider what they will do. We, who dream of a better way, do not have to be immobilized by the cultural narrative. New ways of seeing are possible as the I Am film so boldly declares and our planet needs us to take a chance on plotting a new course where brothers will not find it necessary to kill one another.