” What is justice? Giving water to trees. What is injustice? To give water to thorns. Justice consists in bestowing bounty in its proper place, not on every root that will absorb water. ” -Rumi

Last night as I read an article about the verdict in the Trayvon Martin case my 11-year-old son asked what it was about. I closed my laptop and I took a moment to put words together to describe the situation. I left out as many loaded details as I could.

“A teenaged boy was walking home from the store in a neighborhood that was not his own. Another man, who thought he looked suspicious began to follow him. He was part of a community watch group and he thought the boy was up to no good. They got into a fight of some kind and in their scuffle, the community watch man shot the teenager.”

“What happened to the teenager then?” 

“Well, he died.” 

“What happened to the community watch guy?”

“He stood trial for it and was found not guilty.”

“But he shot the boy.”


“How could he not get punished for killing a person?”

“Because he said it was self-defense. He said he was afraid for his life.”

“Did the teenager have a gun?”


Henry shook his head.

“I don’t understand,” he said.

“Me neither,” I answered.

Some things I think I know.  Speculation is a safe pass time these days. If I hear the term “armchair lawyer” one more time I might throw up. Pundits get paid pretty well. It’s lucrative to have a strong opinion and a loud voice and a learned perspective because we all want to know how to feel in the wake of difficult things.

We all want to be justified in our thinking and our feeling and our opinions and yet it’s important, today, to remember that we are not simply the sum of our opinions. It’s important today for most of us to keep in mind how little we actually “know” in the grand scheme of things and I’m not talking about the rule of law or the case at hand.

Some are filled with moral outrage today, some are filled with righteous pride. Some are clinging to the possibility of justice, some are clinging to the integrity of the system. I only know that I feel sad for the loss of the boy and the realization that I don’t know what social progress looks like anymore.

That is all I know.


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