Trayvon Martin, Job and the Grace of Silence

by Dennis Sanders on March 28, 2012

When Job’s three friends heard about all this disaster that had happened
to him, they came, each one from his home—Eliphaz from Teman, Bildad
from Shuah, and Zophar from Naamah. They agreed to come so they could
console and comfort him.

When they looked up from a distance and didn’t recognize him, they wept
loudly. Each one tore his garment and scattered dust above his head
toward the sky.


13They sat with Job on the ground seven days and seven nights, not
speaking a word to him, for they saw that he was in excruciating pain.

-Job 2:11-13 (Common English Bible)

Maybe I’m just becoming a cold-hearted troll, but it’s become harder for me to get so easily riled up about things like I used to. I don’t feel the need to always have to “speak out” all the time about things.

That wasn’t always the case.  More often than not, I would be out saying something about anything.  I would frequently blog about whatever was the injustice and just get my words out.

Somewhere along the way, I decided to not make immediate judgements- to just speak out.  I have a lot more questions than I do answers and because of this, I am less willing to just speak my mind.

The recent tragedy concerning Trayvon Martin has a lot of people talking. There’s a lot that one could talk about here: racism, the role of young black males in American society, gun control or lack thereof and so on.  I know that it’s common for pastors and even moreso for black pastors to speak out on events like this, but I’m still holding my tounge, unwilling to somehow speak to the moment.

The reason I don’t at this point is because there is so much that is unknown in this case.  We have a lot of pieces of what happened between Martin and his alleged shooter, George Zimmerman, but we don’t really have a clear story.  While many may think otherwise, the details of this case are still being learned.  What seems so obvious might not be. Blogger Doug Mataconis has some notes that sometimes the rush to judgement has had tragic results:

There may be more evidence out there that has not been made public,
which is the primary reason why making judgments based only on what’s in
the media is a mistake. Sadly, because the police work here was pretty
shoddy, there is likely some crucial forensic evidence (such as pictures
of Zimmerman immediately after the incident, the clothing he wore that
night, results of blood work for drugs and alcohol on Zimmerman, and
physical (blood) evidence that was on Zimmerman after fighting with
Martin) that prosecutors are never going to have access to, and that’s
unfortunate. Perhaps there’s enough here to get an indictment, and my
guess is that if the State’s Attorney who has been appointed by Governor
Rick Scott to take over this case wants to get an indictment for
Manslaughter or 2nd Degree Murder she will get it. But that’s where we
should leave things, in the hands of the legal system.

There is a disturbing tendency in high profile criminal cases for the
public, egged on by the constant media coverage and the incessant drone
of the talking heads, to rush to judgment long before it’s warranted.
We saw it happen in the Dominique Strauss-Kahn case only to see those
charges dismissed when the accuser’s credibility collapsed like a house
of cards. We saw it happen in with Richard Jewell, who was hounded,
tried, and convicted, by the media of the Centennial Park bombing in
Atlanta in 1996 only to be completely cleared of all charges. It
happened to former Reagan Administration Labor Secretary Raymond
Donovan, who was charged on multiple racketeering counts only to be
acquitted, at which point he famously asked “Where do I go to get my
reputation back?” It happened to the parents of Jon Benet Ramsey, who
spent years being accused int he public of their daughters brutal rape
and murder even though the evidence linking them to the crime was as
flimsy as possible. It’s happened to people who aren’t famous too, of
course. Just ask Cory Maye or Cameron Todd Willingham. Of course, Willingham might not answer because Texas executed him for a crime he didn’t commit.

But the thing is, we want to try to make the events fit our own templates to further our own agendas.  We try to hunt and look for whatever shred of evidence about silly things like Trayvon smoking marijuana and use that to paint him as some crazy thug.  We want to use some words said during a 911 call to paint Zimmerman as soon kind of suburban klansman.  For some reason, we don’t want to simply wait and see what the facts bear out.  No, we already have the “facts” and are ready to fashion stories based on whatever spin we can get from those facts.

There is a small part of me that would like to talk about how it is to be black man in America and how people can view you as a threat even when you’re not.  But for some reason, I just don’t feel like adding more words to the cacophony.  I don’t know if my words are going to make a difference and frankly, I don’t know-we don’t know the whole story yet.

The Bible tells of the story of Job, a man who was afflicted with tragedy upon tragedy.  He lost his fortune and his children.  When his friends heard of what happened, they came over and tore their clothes in a sign of mourning and sat with Job in silence.  Later on, Job’s friends start to talk and it might have been better had they kept quiet.  Their words were not helping Job.  More and more, they blamed Job for what happened-trying in their own way to spin what happened to a conclusion that was satisfying to them.  Job later rebuked his friends for not helping him when he so needed help.

There will be time for judgement later.  For me, right now, what I feel is sadness that a young life was ended too soon, another man’s life will change forever, and that a nation doesn’t know how to talk and listen to each other.  For me, now is the time for mourning and silence- not grandstanding.

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