I have only taken one law class but I learned enough to know our legal system is based on factual judgment. In addition, the wheels of justice are supposed to be greased with equality and fairness. In the end, however, a jury renders the verdict based on the evidence presented, and the members of that jury are charged by a judge to be fair and to make their decision based on legal guidelines. It is, at best, an extremely difficult task for everyone involved.
The verdict in the Trayvon Martin case has been rendered. Based on the evidence submitted and the facts gathered, I am not surprised. Unfortunately, there is only one eye-witness account, and that is George Zimmerman’s. Trayvon Martin cannot testify on his behalf.
I doubt we will ever know what really happened that night, just like we will never know what happened to Casey Anthony’s baby or to Nicole Brown Simpson. Although our perceptions of what happened may be one thing, the reality of what we know to be true or false is another; and our justice system is not based on perceptions — it is based on fact and evidence.
The public dialogue and arguments following this verdict, however, are about what we perceive to be true and what we perceive George Zimmerman did or did not do; and our perceptions are as different as people are. Perception is one’s unique understanding of reality, and perception colors how we categorize, assimilate, or reject all the information our brain filters. Our perception of reality, in turn, forms our opinions and beliefs, and thereby, colors our judgments. Our perceptions help determine with whom we socialize, what we do for a living, how we vote, what we purchase, and how we interpret life in general.
Our opinions about this case, therefore, are based on our perceptions; hence, certain people will never see eye to eye on this topic or any others. Their life experiences are not the same and, therefore, they will always have a difficult time understanding one another’s perceptions and opinions.
Do we give up on reaching across the divide, however? Only if we give up on living.
We will never be unanimous in our opinions, but we must try to understand the other points of view. It is only through empathy that we can hope to achieve harmony of any kind. Being empathetic with opposing views is perhaps the biggest challenge to democracy, but it is the most fundamental requirement to the cultural, social, economic, and political evolution necessary for our democratic survival.
The tragic fact in this case is that a seventeen-year-old young man is dead. His mother and father must wake up each morning, with this thought probably being their first and go to bed each evening with its being their last.
And the man responsible for his death must live the rest of his life with the reality of what happened that night — whatever it may be — forever branded in his psyche. The question of if he could have handled it differently will probably echo in his thoughts for eternity.
I would not want to be in any of those places for all the money in the world.