s“The moral arc of the universe is long, but it bends toward justice.” That’s what Dr. King said, not long before he was killed by a bullet from a white man’s gun. A half-century after those words were spoken, the killer of Trayvon Martin walks free.
I’m sorry, Trayvon. Those of us who came before you failed you. It looks like we didn’t walk enough for freedom. We didn’t fight enough for justice. But we’ll keep on walking.
Why are we still fighting this war of the spirit? Why does racism still kill the innocent? There are as many answers to that as there are dark caverns in the diseased human soul, but one of them is this: Racism is good for business.
Dr. King understood that. He knew that Jim Crow, like slavery before it, was an edifice to human greed. He knew that racism kept a tiny and brutal elite in power. Racism oppresses African Americans, and it does something else the elite finds useful: it distracts white people from the forces which also oppress them.
The jury’s verdict wasn’t rendered today. It was rendered over the course of centuries, and signed in a foreman’s hand when Stand Your Ground laws were designed. And Stand Your Ground laws were designed by corporate America.
When the inevitable movie is made, it will almost certainly be called “The Trayvon Martin Story.” This is a story with only one human protagonist. Trayvon’s quest was a simple one. He wanted to get to the store, buy a snack, and get back home alive. He didn’t make it. In this movie the protagonist dies.
“The George Zimmerman Story” can never be made, because Zimmerman lacks agency or autonomy. He’s unformed, shapeless, in affect and appearance as well as in character. He has a rounded, soft baby’s face and body. He seems incomplete, like a piece of pastry half-cooked.
Of course Zimmerman should be held responsible for his deeds, but he didn’t act alone. He had powerful accomplices and persuasive provocateurs. He was manipulated – into wanting power, the false sense of power of a police officer. A cop’s gun can’t kill what threatens George Zimmerman, but he doesn’t know that.
That’s where compassion comes in. Look at him: a locus of passivity, a helpless leaf buffeted by the gale force winds of his own fears, ambitions, and cravings. Those winds blow from a faraway place, far beyond this sick young man’s sight and understanding.
Racism’s good for business: News ratings have probably gone through the roof. Our overall climate of fear – white fear – has soared more quickly than the summer thermometers. And the Zimmerman verdict is the official seal of approval for this simmering climate of terror. It’s the sanctification of white fear, its seal of approval.
White fear has been given diplomatic immunity. White fear has been pardoned in advance for any and all crimes committed within the borders of this nation. It’s now above the law. No, scratch that: White fear is the law.
And white fear is a new currency, redeemable at any American bank. Hedge funder Steve Schwarzman, who said taxing people like him as if they were ordinary citizens would be like “Hitler invading Poland,” makes money from the Colt gun corporation. Other Wall Street gun profiteers include Steelhead Partners, Renaissance Technologies, Route One Investment Company, Columbia Partners, Bogle Investment Management, and Millennium Management.
Each of these funds is deeply embedded with our too-big-to-fail banks. Each fund’s CEO is warmly greeted in the nation’s capital, and in the capitals of every state in the union.
But the gun profits themselves are trivial. The real game is distraction. Think about it: It seems like we’ve seen nothing on the television for weeks except this case. We’re not talking about crimes of JPMorgan Chase. Or Bank of America. Or any of the other corporate crooks who have robbed the Zimmerman and Martin families of their hopes for financial security.
Distraction keeps corporations in power today, just as it kept landholders in power under Jim Crow and slaveholders in power in the Antebellum South.
That’s why ALEC, the corporate shadow-government operation funded by the Koch Brothers and other corporate moguls, originally pushed the NRA and Stand Your Ground laws around the country. ALEC literally wrote the model law that became Florida’s law – and legalized the killing of Trayvon Martin.
They can be beaten. Dan Froomkin notes that ALEC’s leaders retreated under pressure – a little. Jim Crow fell, at least partway. They can be beaten, if we keep on struggling and keep on marching.
And so we’ll walk on. Our hearts may be sick, but we‘ll walk on. We may feel hopeless. We may wonder if Dr. King’s arc in the sky will vanish when we approach it, the way most rainbows do. But we’ll walk on.
We’ll walk to resist the sickness of the human spirit. We’ll walk to reject the petty and sniveling racism of Carlson and Coulter and the other pathetic fading figures fighting to regain their lost fame in the traces of the Martin family’s tears.
The choreographers of hate and fear won’t stop. Their hearts and souls won’t let them. They’re as broken inside as George Zimmerman, and far more destructive. So we’ll walk on, because we’re human and we seek to preserve humanity. The way is long and the road is dark, but we’ll walk on.
Every holy book has said it. Every revolutionary and prophet has repeated it: Greed and hate are tattooed together on the souls of the corrupted. The spirit and the wallet are eternally connected.
When we fight the economic fight, we fight the spiritual fight. And vice versa. So we walk on. For Trayvon, for Medgar, for Martin, for Goodman and Chaney and Schwerner, we’ll walk on. For the dark twisted souls of the pawns, those ugly, fearful, hateful, lost creatures – we’ll walk for them too. We’ll walk for the children of Newtown, and for the unseen lost children of a thousand inner-city Newtowns.
We’ll walk for a mystic who walked to the ocean in India, for a preacher who walked across Alabama, for a young boy whose long walk home from the store won’t end until eternity itself ends.
We’ll walk on because it’s the right thing to do. We’ll walk on because we’re called to it, because we hope in our hearts that Dr. King’s righteous curvature of space and time is real. We’ll walk on because we must.
It gets hard sometimes. Hard, and very sad. But tonight we promise you: We’ll walk on.