It’s hard to describe the days following last weekend’s Zimmerman verdict as educational, but we have surely learned some things.
Some are uplifting, some downright depressing. But for what they are worth, here are my ten top takeaways from a crazy week:
1. Sometimes, even in these cynical times, a jury gets it right.
Here in the era of O.J. and the $3 million hot coffee civil suit, it is easy to grow jaded about the failings of our human jury system.
But on rare occasions, under the harsh glare and pressure of public scrutiny, jurors will gather and surround themselves with just the right shields against emotion and irrelevant sideshows.
The Zimmerman jury had to know that an acquittal could well lead to violent reactions. They also had to know they would join the defendant in the crosshairs of vulgar, unhinged critics.
Yet they examined the evidence, ruled on its merits and gave us an inspiring example of our judicial system working properly.
2. Twitter brings out the worst in many.
The hours following the verdict offered a cascade of America at its ugliest and stupidest, all painfully played out in the social media world.
Amid pro- and anti-verdict tweets that weighed in within the range of civilized speech, countless posers, malcontents, idiot kids and idiot adults took the opportunity to grab their 15 hundredths of a second in the online spotlight.
I tried to mitigate my disillusionment by concluding that for every obscene, hurtful tweet that was genuine, at least three were just chowderheads trying to raise eyebrows with cheap shocks.
3. Some people need black to equal innocent and white to equal guilty in order to strike some rough balance against injustices of the past.
This is a curious psychological pathology that suggests that memories of slavery and the Jim Crow era will sting less if we tilt today’s courtroom playing fields against all whites and in favor of all blacks.
This path is doomed, of course, and it damages us along the way, by slowing the progress we are undoubtedly making. Whites willing to cast off that last vestige of racism may hit the pause button on their epiphanies at the sight of angry blacks unveiling their own pernicious prejudice-- the belief that Zimmerman (and anyone supporting his acquittal) are acting out of racial hostility.
4. Al Sharpton and his fellow rabble-rousers do not know the meaning of shame.
I am willing to hear and tolerate their assertion that the jury ruled wrongly, that Zimmerman is a racist predator and Trayvon Martin a hero worthy of honor.