Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing, there is a field. I’ll meet you there. –

Trayvon Martin/George Zimmerman Picture

Trayvon Martin/George Zimmerman Picture

Jelaluddin Rumi

Wow!  What a powerful thought.  As I look at the state of affairs in this country and the world at large Rumi’s advice seems timelier then ever.  Needed now more then ever.

We seem to be stuck in a rut.  Everyone wants to win more than they want to solve problems.  Everyone would rather be right than get things done.  No where is it more prevalent than the Trayvon Martin/George Zimmerman debacle. 

A civil rights movement will never be worked out via a murder case.  Our court system was never meant for that. Why was it utilized that way?  Because we can’t work through and discuss the real issues.  We should be upset and angry whenever anyone is murdered. If we did a better job reaching out to one another, being a stronger human community we could do more to help all victims by not allowing them to be victims in the first place. So why don’t we?  Because we misrepresent people and problems just as we have in this national debate.

I am dismayed by the caricatures, half truths and even lies from both sides. I have seen the information regarding Trayvon Martin. Some sources paint him as a saint and others a punk. It just depends on who you listen to and believe. When I look at him as a whole he was somewhere in between.

The same is true when it comes to George Zimmerman. Some use facts to make him look like a racist, others a humanitarian. When I view him in a balanced way,  I see someone entirely different.

It is like a tale of two cities.  Like Dr. Jekyll “OR” Mr. Hyde.  What made Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde an interesting story was the “AND.”  The idea that generally someone is not all good or all bad.   The complexity of a person is interesting.  That is why many people loved Tony Soprano as a character in the HBO hit series The Sopranos.  Yes he was despicable, but he also had endearing qualities.  He was human.

So why do we paint people as caricatures?  As simpletons?  As sinners or saints?  It is rarely for story telling purposes.  I think it is for four main reasons:

  1. We want answers, not questions.  Complex people and situations often conjure up questions and uncertainty.  The problem with simple answers is that they often discourage asking questions, let alone good questions.  And good questions are what lead to real answers.
  2. We want things to reflect our experience.  Answers that we can not relate to feel wrong.  The problem with this desire is that we are willing to negate all of those people who have a different experience.  We tell them they do not count.  And we are a nation of differing backgrounds and experiences.  We can not afford to disenfranchise large amounts of our population.
  3. We make decisions based on emotion and comfort.  We are willing to throw out facts to make ourselves more comfortable.  Emotions are important, but they are not and should not be our only or even main decision making tool.  Some of our greatest leaders made decisions that were right, produced real change, and were very uncomfortable.
  4. We want to win.  If we want answers that reflect our experience and make us feel emotionally comfortable then we have a need to win.  Too many times to win at all costs.  Our ideas, our version has to be true!  We see it played out on our news or should I say entertainment.  Bill Maher and Ed Shultz versus Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity.  They do not offer news.  They do not offer the truth.  They offer each of us a chance to win…to be right.

And that is what has happened here with this tragedy and court case.  The terrible truth here is that we do have two sides that see this tragedy differently and the difference in these views will not be worked out over the outcome of the trial or on people perpetually saying they are right and thinking tough talk solves problems. It will occur when we can have honest conversations about the issues without everyone trying to get their way first.

  •  When people who are white conservatives really ask themselves, “Why 86% of African Americans feel that justice was not served?’
  •  When African Americans begin to ask themselves, “Why is this case more important than all of the other murders going on everyday?”

But more importantly, it will be when we are all willing to ask ourselves:

  • How can we together reduce the number of homicides in this country regardless of color?
  • What is the best way to build our youth up?
  • How do we increase individual accountability?  For our actions and the results of those actions?
  • How do we progress as a nation in order to be a more perfect union?

Too many times on Facebook and in our organizations we come across as self oriented and narrow minded. It takes real strength and conviction to try and see things from a balanced perspective. It also takes more work to find a balanced perspective.

  • Every time we explore an issue it is important to proactively listen to the various sides, especially the ones you tend to disagree with.
  • Try to go to the original sources.

Then if we can sit down and actually answer the question, “How do we move forward from here?” Maybe we will get there. But that is hard work. It is easy to tell others that disagree with you they are wrong, or that they are being stupid, or cry babies. But those words are not strong. They seem like it. But they are just a disguise for weakness and a willingness to be right rather than get something done.  We have real problems to solve!

We need to remember there is a difference between a verdict which is about winning a court case and accountability which has to do with personal responsibility. Just as I believe Trayvon could have avoided this by making different choices, I also believe that George Zimmerman could have as well. He disregarded police instructions after all. I think it is about time we own up to the fact that we have a low set of expectations regarding ownership and accountability for our actions and their results in this country. We need to raise the bar. And that has little to do with left or right, black or white, politically correct or not. It has to do with being honest with ourselves…brutally, looking at the whole picture and situation, holding our own bias in check (and we are all bias), and looking curiously for the truth rather than just winning. These two caricatures live to support the lefts and rights viewpoints, they fill a vacuum because we are so fragmented we have lost the quest for truth. We have lost the ability to reason and look at all of the facts. We have moved to a blame society. One where people and parties are holier than thou, yet act as if they live in the gutter.  When we choose to simplify things to the point that it no longer represents the whole truth, only the portion we are comfortable with, we buy into the nothing more than hogwash.

And that is what we have.  A great deal of hogwash!  Everyone wants to win and so we all lose.  And the Trayvon Martin case is just a microcosm of the broader ills.  This mindset is infiltrating our entire society.

“Don’t compromise.”

“Engaging the other side makes you look weak.”

These beliefs are so far from the truth.  Almost every great movement or change has come from hard work, building buy-in, collaboration,  and creativity.  Not control, fear, name calling, and extreme metaphors.  People say that unless you take a side you are giving up.  Unless you take a side you are weak.  I say it is the opposite.  Taking a side at all costs is weak and easy.  The difficult approach is looking at all of the root causes, even the ones you don’t like to know about. And working with all of the stakeholders who want real change and solutions to come up with something new.

So when you want to solve problems.  When you want to do something of value.

When you move beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing, and find that field. I’ll meet you there.


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