We the People

Eternal vigilance is the price of liberty. Politics and civil commentary with community columnist John Eyster.

Time for “soul-searching” reflection?

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John Eyster
Saturday, July 20, 2013

Time for “soul-searching” reflection?

Like David Brooks, who attested to his own personal response to President Obama’s call for “soul-searching” reflection on the weekly “Week in Politics," I was challenged by and motivated by the President’s assertion that I – yes, I myself – needed to “do some soul-searching”! How about YOU?

IF you want to hear David Brooks' statement, you can use this link, “Week in Politics” discussion on “All Things Considered” on National Public Radio yesterday (Friday, 7/19).

I have listened to the President’s personal testimony several times. These very personal reflections on the environment in the US after the shooting of Trayvon Martin and the acquittal of George Zimmerman by our first African-American President are very, very intensely personal and therefore mightily significant.

Did YOU hear the WHOLE testimony by President Obama? IF NOT, I urge that you hear it. YOU can read it online, but reading does NOT communicate the personal reflections of Barack Obama, an African-American American! LISTEN! You can use this link to listen to Barack Obama’s personal reflection posted on YouTube, “President Obama on Trayvon Martin Case.”

Barack Obama’s personal experience and perspective was important for all of us to hear, as noted by the New York Times’ Editorial, “’Trayvon Martin could have been me 35 years ago,’ Mr. Obama said, adding that ‘it’s important to recognize that the African-American community is looking at this issue through a set of experiences and a history that doesn’t go away.’

The President said there are "very few African-American men in this country who haven’t had the experience of being followed when they were shopping in a department store" or "the experience of getting on an elevator and a woman clutching her purse nervously and holding her breath until she had a chance to get off."

“’That,’ he said, ‘includes me.’”

I am a white American.

I have NEVER EVER had the experience of being followed when I was shopping in a department store! Have YOU?

I have NEVER EVER had the experience of getting on an elevator and a women clutching her purse and holding her breath until she had a chance to get off! Have YOU?

Another incisive thought hit me when Mr. Obama noted that while Mr. Zimmerman did not invoke that the stand your ground defense. At the same time, Mr. Obama stated that it was still relevant. The New York Times editorial asserts that in one of the most powerful parts of his remarks, he said: “I’d just ask people to consider, if Trayvon Martin was of age and armed, could he have stood his ground on that sidewalk? And do we actually think that he would have been justified in shooting Mr. Zimmerman, who had followed him in a car, because he felt threatened?”

I agree with President Obama, “If the answer is ‘at least ambiguous,’ we might want to examine those kinds of laws.” IF Trayvon Martin had been the person who STOOD HIS GROUND, would he have been protected? I do NOT think so. What do YOU think?

I encourage you to read one or more of the feature articles about President Obama’s personal witness. I suggest: New York Time's “President Offers a Personal Take on Race in U.S.” and/or Washington Post's “Obama asks Americans to ‘do some soul-searching’ in aftermath of Trayvon Martin case.”

I would urge that you read and consider the MOST meaningful and encouraging material I have found on the situation, Joshua DuBois’ feature, “The Enduring Rift: Understand our inner Trayvons and inner Zimmermans” in this week’s Newsweek. You can use this link to read the article, “The Enduring Rift: Understand our inner Trayvons and inner Zimmermans."

I agree with DuBois' call to a VERY LOCAL face-to-face conversation about our inner Trayvons and inner Zimmermans. What do YOU think?

For those of us who claim the identity, “Christian,” I think that DuBois’ report on the childhood experience of Russell Moore is very meaningful and challenging. BE SURE you pay attention to the identity of RUSSELL MOORE! He is the new head of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, the public-policy arm for the denomination, and its most powerful spokesperson.

DuBois’ reports, "To Moore, where and how this dialogue happens matters. “These conversations have to be had at the local level, organically, and it can’t be in the heat of nationally polarized moments. We have to take time to invest in preparation. There’s advance work that has to be done.”

Consider this childhood experience of Russell Moore reported by DuBois, "...when he (Moore) was a very young child attending Sunday school in Biloxi, Mississippi, which is just off the Gulf of Mexico and about as far south as you can get. Moore was playing with a dirty quarter and placed it in his mouth, as boys are prone to do. Noticing the infraction, his teacher scolded, 'Russell, take that quarter out of your mouth. You never know if a colored man touched it!' Little Russell sat, stunned, as the teacher proceeded to lead the class in the famous song 'Jesus loves the little children; all the children of the world ...'

DuBois writes, "The experience was jarring for Moore. He told me that even at a young age, he knew those two things—racism and the Gospel—could not comfortably rest side by side. 'I see now that my teacher was dealing with a sort of ethical schizophrenia,' he says. She held one belief about God the Father, and quite another about his African-American children."

What is YOUR response?

Here we go…

Mr. E.

Last updated: 8:25 am Monday, July 29, 2013

John W. Eyster lives in the Edgerton area. He is an adjunct professor assigned with the online/distance education faculty of Viterbo University, LaCrosse. He continues his personal mission supporting democracy/civics education in Wisconsin K-12 schools through Project Citizen, We the People, Discovering Democracy (Milton HS). John is a community blogger and is not a part of The Gazette staff or management.

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