Visceral horror is so compelling that it is hard to call it into question. And yet, to the extent that it really is compelling -- that anyone takes it seriously -- doesn't that horror deserve some willingness to slow down and take a look at what is so important? The alternative is a mob mentality that asserts, "I am right because I am horrified."
The tsunami of emotional reaction can create so much collateral damage ... well, it takes courage to slow down, take a look and see what's what... careful courage since those in the business of perpetrating horrors often count on the fact that serious people will be too slow to put a stop to their depredations ... and the perpetrators will walk away and never be called to account.
Take the case of Trayvon Martin, a black 17-year-old male shot to death by George Zimmerman, 28, in Sanford, Fla. on Feb. 26. The case -- which black people recognize as far from unusual in American culture -- has aroused a hue and cry. After the shooting, Zimmerman and the weapon he used to shoot Martin with walked scot-free away from the scene. Though remorseful, Zimmerman is apparently claiming he shot the hooded teenager under the Stand Your Ground law in force in Florida ... a law that allows deadly force when individuals feel themselves to be in imminent danger.
The death of a young person arouses a terrible sense of injustice and outrage and sorrow. "Death" is selectively chosen as something to avoid and protect against in a lot of cultures. Death forms a bond of horror. I don't want to die, you don't want to die, he, she or it does not want to die. To deliberately rain down death is -- selectively -- a very upsetting thing on which 'we' can all agree pretty much. So there is currently a welling up of despair and horror and anger about the shooting death of Trayvon Martin. Viscerally, the situation speaks to an understanding that racism is not dead in America. Viscerally, it speaks to the horror of -- selectively -- death.
Me too. I get sick to death of namby-pamby excuses that allow one person to kill another because they imagine they are 'right.' I won't deny my own tsunami -- fuck the excuses and explanations! hang the perpetrators!
And yet, in the midst of this convincing tsunami, I also have to admit that I don't yet know the facts and that without those facts my horror is pretty much a self-serving circle-jerk... a singular, orgasmic and utterly clear bit of horror. And I am not alone. The collective circle-jerk can be seen in the media which has surrounded the Trayvon Martin killing with ever-widening circles of unrestrained, unexamined and poorly-balanced examination. Here is one example, sent along in email this morning. That clip made me want to puke in much the same way that the notion of Trayvon Martin's death made me want to puke... shameless and horrific and wrong!
What I feel and what I know are two very different things. Unwillingness to examine with serious care means that I really am not serious about my own horrors. Instead, I am in a state of being delighted by them. The horrified reaction may be true enough -- whether it's the horror I feel about Trayvon Martin or the sweeping cri de coeur that can come up when I think of Catholic priests abusing little boys and girls or the slaughter of 17 Afghan civilians in a rampage laid at the doorstep of S.Sgt. Robert Bales. But the result of not examining my own reactions -- of slowing down and observing the factual particulars -- is an invitation to a stupidity that is dangerous ... dangerous personally, dangerous socially.
Fury is true. Fury is delightful. Fury is consuming. Fury is warranted. Fury is ... so many things, all woven together so tightly that the notion of disentangling fact from fiction is ... infuriating. Fury is so sincere that it steps beyond the boundaries of sincerity. It is right.
And maybe it is. But is it? Gouts of emotional outburst may have their basis in something that is true. But what is it that is true? At some point, after all the fireworks have run their course, isn't it necessary to seek out the particulars, assuming anyone wanted to take seriously what they claim to take seriously ... from horror to delight? In the midst of the firestorm, there is nothing but firestorm. And like the bombing of Dresden during World War II, one fire leaps to the next: If I feel fury and you feel fury, the righteousness of the fury is redoubled ... and then redoubled again as the sycophant media seeks to reverse their dwindling ad revenues.
It's all pretty messy, whether personally or socially. But I think anyone might like, when the sorrow or fury or star-spangled, orgasmic delight has cooled a bit, to examine all of this. What are the actual-factual particulars? The media might ask, as once, "what's the other side of the story ... and what's the other side of the other side?" Unraveling the whole thing doesn't happen overnight, whether personally or socially, but here is a pretty good attempt to bring seriousness to the serious conversation about Trayvon Martin. Not perfect, not utterly complete, just a pretty good attempt.
High-octane emotions are not the stuff of social cohesion, perhaps, but they are the stuff of actual-factual humanity. High-octane emotions are not the stuff of day-to-day personal raiment, perhaps (I would prefer to have a handle on my life, stay in a self-serving control, be well thought of, etc.), but they are real enough in whispering shadowed corners of the mind. High-octane emotions are real enough and have some basis, but the question anyone might ask for the purposes of seriousness is, "what is that basis?" Shall I live my life based on what others say, even if I agree with them?
I'm as pissed as a lot of others are about the apparent implications of shooting this black young man. Some part of me screeches for 'justice' and an honest reckoning. But I can't say that I entirely trust my delight and outrage.
Probably just another old fart talking... if you find yourself among those with whom you agree, it's probably time to revisit your agreements. Or, more simply put, you're probably in the wrong place.