“Cain rose up against his brother Abel, and killed him.”
The quasi-documentary film “I AM” by director Tom Shadyac, the director of “Ace Ventura” and “Nutty Professor” fame explores the question of the interconnections of human life and it makes a convincing case about that connection and the results of continually disregarding that fact. This film can help to enlarge our viewpoint on the George Zimmerman verdict and in shifting the conversation.
Zimmerman is a product of the cultural narrative of separation and difference which is most profoundly characterized in this country by skin color. This story teaches that the difference of skin color and race make us different and since we cannot understand all of those differences it is a good idea to be afraid.
Of course, our fear makes it necessary to stay prepared to make a defense against those who are different and any violent act toward them is acceptable because the most important thing that must be done is to survive -- no matter what the survival strategy cost.
The fear that holds this narrative together enlarges itself with every incident that occurs which can be remotely related to its central theme, which is that those who have been designated as “others” will cause harm and one most stay ready to fight them.
This way of thinking leads one to the conclusion that Zimmerman makes regarding self defense. Of course it is self defense, but it was not a defense against young Martin, it was against a culturally constructed monster fueled by years of fear and rage.
If only Zimmerman could have realized that Martin was his brother, how different that night would have been. We are connected. We are all God’s children. There is decent evidence which makes it clear that behaviors in one corner of the universe impact other far away corners. There has been work done in laboratories that point to the fact that organisms are affected by thoughts and certain types of behaviors toward them.
Actually, it is not that difficult to see that our thoughts affect our behaviors and that affect can be for good or ill depending upon our intentions. One cannot kill one’s brother and have life continue as if it did not happen. Across this country and our world for that matter, brothers continue to kill brothers and we seem to have become accustomed to it.
Regarding this, all of us need to turn ourselves to the task of deep soul searching reflection and to pay close attention to what it reveals. If there is any place in our thoughts that is is likely to deny our deep connections to one another, it needs to be brought to the light for healing.
The narrative of racism will not be erased by laws, though they are necessary, its erasure will come as more people make the effort to look for connections instead of difference and become more intentional about living life as a human community.
As a child of the 1960s I am clear about the need for all of the past work that has been done to make changes. But in thinking about where we were and where we are now, it is clear that we need far more than changed laws.
A brother killed his brother. How do we respond as if we were the parents of both of them? How can we stop the cycle of polarization? When and where will we enter this cultural equation that continues to support the myth of separation? Of course it is challenging to think about all of this because Cain killed Abel many centuries ago and we have made so little progress toward changing the desires of brothers to kill each other. But it seems quite clear that learning to live in response to our natural interconnections is our best way forward.
This column by Catherine Meeks, Ph.D., appears twice monthly. Meeks is also a contributing writer for the Huffington Post. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.