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Entries in justice (1)

Monday
Mar262012

A Tale of Two Martins

On Tuesday the 20th, Trayvon Martin came onto the scene for me during a press conference with his attorney that appeared on TV while I was in Florida with Kelli's mom and grandmother. I had never heard the name prior to that day. And it was something I was impatient about. I mean, I try to avoid TV as much as possible, and on that particular afternoon, we were just about to pack and leave that house in Port Orange and were on our way to catch a train to Washington DC. But all of a sudden in the last five days, Trayvon is everywhere. And the hoodie has become an iconic image as all manner of people display it, wear it, march in it, all to show solidarity with the fallen young black fellow who went out to get some candy in the wrong clothing a month ago and was felled by a white vigilante who still is out free, something that defies logic and our usual idea that the bad guys get busted. Unless they're white. Does everyone remember To Kill A Mockingbird?

It turns out that Sanford was one town we might have caught our train but we went to the next station in DeLand, which is a bit closer to Port Orange.

While in DC, I had time (while Kelli was in her meetings) to traipse around and see the National Mall, and on Thursday night, I took in the Martin Luther King memorial. It was pretty darn packed at 8 pm, full of school kids and a rich mix of Americans of all stripes. It was the one memorial I visited that elicited a bit more of a visceral response for me. I don't think it's nearly as nice a sculpture as the Lincoln but to stand under it is a powerful thing, maybe because he was almost a man of my time. (He was killed about five years before I was born.)

The link is pretty clear: two black men gunned down well before their natural times for the worst of reasons that amount to total senselessness, fear, and hatred. I think were he here today, the prophetic Rev. King would make a great pronouncement decrying the hypocrisy and injustice. 

Over the weekend, as the Facebookosphere was lit up with posts encouraging the wearing of hoodies and "I am Trayvon" messages in a display of solidarity with the victim, this image crossed my mind immediately, especially since I had taken several pictures of the memorial from all useful angles.

While in DC, I also visited the Holocaust Memorial Museum, and was able to meet a cousin of Kelli's, a convert to the Baha'i faith, and one who offered an anthology of statements about economic justice that Baha'u'llah had made about a century ago. All of it seemed to be even more focused than the stuff that Jubilee Economics works with from none other than the Bible itself. Because of this and other things, I knew something would happen as I made my first foot journey to the iconic places in DC, the seat of the Empire. Maybe the King memorial moved me because of Trayvon, but probably not in real time as I stood there and snapped my pictures; I didn't know much about the Trayvon case. But King is a perennial favorite among those of us who identify as progressive Christians. He's not just a brilliant social activist in the secular realm, but he's acting out of the radical paradigm of the Hebrew Prophets, who were the voices that criticized power run amok, idolatry, injustice, and all that. As my former pastor Jerry Lawritson likes to say, King too easily gets overlooked as a Christian pastor, but that is where he got his true voice and authority to do the "secular" work he did. The old prophets were the voices that called their societies and the powers to reform and repent. King realized it was a unified mission to serve God and country in one effort to gain justice and peaceful cooperation. 

So there is a rather delightful subversiveness about King being enshrined in stone with the national figures. He didn't hold office. And a good thing. His role, the role of the prophet, is to be on the periphery where one can avoid the entanglements and mixed loyalties that come with having power. But his prophetic power came from witnessing injustices manifested in the senseless violence that apparently is still not squelched even 44 years later. He's gone from the flesh, but you know he'd don a hoodie this week.