By Zachary Bailes
Throughout Easter weekend I kept thinking about Good Friday.
In the wake of Trayvon Martin’s death, I wondered if the fear that put Jesus in the tomb was similar to the fear portrayed by “Stand Your Ground” today.
Stand Your Ground is the title for Florida’s self-defense law enacted in 2011. In short, if one can justify someone as a threat, they are justified in using deadly force. This is part of the reason State Attorney Angela Corey hasn’t taken the case to a grand jury. Though she can still bring charges, Florida requires a grand jury for first-degree murder. Whether or not she will eventually choose to pursue a grand jury remains to be seen.
The difficulty rests in the language of the law: was it, or was it not, self-defense? There’s an unsettling gray area that does not necessarily mean “justice” will be served — only that which can be proven in court.
On the heels of a bombing last week in Afghanistan that killed three Americans and six Afghans, an agreement Sunday handed control of special operations missions to Afghan forces. I cannot help but wonder if Afghanistan is really just a different form of Stand Your Ground.
Since World War II the United States has engaged in a national defense policy worthy of the moniker. It’s as though the U.S. views itself as neighborhood watch for the global community. While we do not always shoot, we intimidate.
What, though, is to prevent us from pulling the trigger? What is to prevent us from gunning down a country and people that we thought was suspicious? Hazy photos of Grenada and Iraq have been the hoodies of our neighborhoods. Yet, still, we have not learned from them.
When rallying support against Saddam Hussein, President George H.W. Bush said, “A hundred generations have searched for this elusive path to peace while a thousand wars raged across the span of human endeavor.” The problem was, and is, that path to peace remains elusive because we continually shroud it with Iraq, Grenada, Philippines, Vietnam and the list continues. The path remains covered in the shirts bloodied by a national policy of Stand Your Ground that reeks of justified murder.
On Easter churches were filled with many brightly dressed people who lauded the risen Christ. But as long as we endorse or fail to challenge national policy and state laws that emulate Stand Your Ground, we deny the life-giving event we celebrated Sunday.
Our churches possess the potential to become the voice of conscience for a country whose policy so often nails people to crosses rather than liberate them into an Easter morning. As long as individuals or nations use Stand Their Ground as an excuse for killing, we will never rise from the cold, bare tomb.