Monday, September 2, 2013

Moral Relativism – where are we going, exactly?

Over the last eighteen months every American that pays attention to any “news” has been subjected to the reporting in the Trayvon Martin / George Zimmerman incident in Sanford, Florida.  The case was, as the trial showed, a messy affair with a ton of emotions on both sides and accusations of “racism”, “profiling” and even conspiracy theories that the Sanford Police were going to let Mr. Zimmerman (who is now identified by the new term “white-Hispanic” in the news media) go or that the Federal Department of Justice or the Florida Attorney General’s Office were going to railroad Mr. Zimmerman into a conviction for murder (although a jury ended up acquitting him) or a violation of civil rights charge (which, I imagine could still happen). 

I followed the case pretty closely and was struck by the misrepresentations from both the left and right.  Yes, IMO, MSNBC and others worked very hard to make Mr. Zimmerman into a “racist” by editing his words in the 911 call along with the pontification that while raised in a multi-ethnic home, a past history of dating black woman along with advocating against the Sanford Police in a case involving a homeless Blackman and mentoring black children, Mr. Zimmerman must be racist and must have profiled Mr. Martin simply because he was black.  Those on the “right” were also guilty of finding every flaw of Mr. Martin’s short life and working to make him out to be not only a thug but also a drug induced criminal.  Mr. Martin’s family was viewed with suspicion because of his family status (divorced parents) and the so-called money aspect of the Trayvon Martin Foundation they found along with the legal case against the homeowners association.  Mr. Zimmerman and his family were the subject of overt innuendo and threats by a variety of groups including the New Black Panther Party and IMO the promoting of street justice by folks (some famous) who willingly posted what they believed to be the families address on twitter.  Sadly, even Pres. Obama became a bit-player in this fiasco with his infamous words, “if I had a son”.  Those on the left saw this as compassionate while those on the right saw this as “baiting”.   For me, I saw it as an ill-timed comment about an ongoing criminal case that as an attorney the President should have known better than to make.  For me, in reality, I believe the truth was someplace in the middle as it often it. 

I don’t believe that Mr. Zimmerman is or was “racist” because he saw Mr. Martin as a “suspect” individual that night.  I believe he was a man who had seen his community decline in terms of safety and saw an increase in crime.  As someone with a B.S. in Corrections and Juvenile Services, not question that I am a bit of a numbers (statistics) nerd.  Because of this I spent a great deal of time on Zillow and other resources looking at crime in Sanford and found that although it is a small community they do have a high level of crime when compared to communities of comparable size and socioeconomic breakdown.  Does that mean it is a horrible place to live – well, of course not but it does mean that the community has “issues” that need to be addressed.  It is possible that Mr. Zimmerman was a good citizen and concerned about his community, sure and it seems there exist no evidence to suggest otherwise.  I do think that Mr. Zimmerman’s criminal history is relevant but at the same time understand he was not convicted of two of the three crimes he was charged and was even diverted in the one conviction. 

Mr. Martin was without question a teenager who made stupid teenage decisions that most of us are guilty of.  Did he post inappropriate photos on facebook and twitter?  No question but the reality is that this is now the world we live in and thankfully for folks my age we did not have “social media” back in the 1980’s or a great many of us would not be able to ignore or forget the ignorance that was our existence during high school.  I don’t question that Mr. Martin used drugs and alcohol but I don’t think that makes him a “thug” or horrible person but a misguided teenager.  I don’t question that Mr. Martin struggled with school attendance and behavior but then again so to do hundreds of thousands of teenagers, myself included when I was that age. 

As and avid blog reader and faithful follower of the news, my biggest issue with the Zimmerman case was the continued polarization of citizens into “camps” by blog writers, commenter in the news and even the general public who commented on the news or in blogs.  If you were not passionately seeking, “Justice for Trayvon” then somehow you were seen as uncaring and possibly racist.  If you were not in the “Zimmerman camp” you were part of the “liberal ignorance”.  If you were white and pro-Trayvon you were suffering from, “white guilt” while God forbids you were black and expressed any uncertainty in Zimmerman’s guilty as this would mean you were an “uncle Tom”.  Sadly, the polarization becomes a wedge when opinions should be seen as a chance to learn and expand your base of understanding and knowledge of others in a compassionate and intelligent manner. 

Watching the trial it became clear to me that the State of Florida had gravely overreached in charging Mr. Zimmerman and that convicting him for murder would be impossible given the scenario of the case they offered.  I was struck by the fact that the State sought to include a “child abuse” charge against Mr. Zimmerman and could only wonder if they saw they hypocrisy in doing so.  Consider the State sought successfully from arguing any of the past “bad acts” by Mr. Martin as Mr. Zimmerman would not have had any knowledge of the them but somehow Mr. Zimmerman was suppose to know that a man who was over six foot and clearly in better shape than him was now a “child” prior to the conflict.  To me this behavior by the State was a clear indication that not only were they reaching but also they were willing to throw out everything including the kitchen sink in an effort to gain a conviction. 

I was not surprised by the verdict nor was I surprised by the way the “left” and ‘right” behaved after the verdict.  What does surprise me is just how far we have come with “moral relativism”, in my view.  We are a nation of laws and I have always believed that we should respect those laws even when we disagree with them.  I am fine with the idea of civil disobedience but not with the desire that some on the “left” have expressed that a lack of a conviction against Mr. Zimmerman somehow means that it is “open season” on Blackman in America.  The truth is that crime statistics not only don’t support this supposition, giving a national voice to such “ideas” does nothing but also continue to promote a divide in our Country while ignoring the real crime that occurs in our society.  I have also been surprised by the continued talk of “stand your ground laws” by those opposed to the Zimmerman verdict simply because of the dishonesty they show, IMO, by taking such a position.  In truth, “stand your ground” was not even a part of the Zimmerman case.  Yet, here we are. 

I have not commented on the case simply because it is such a political hot potato and because I honestly believed that more moderate voices would prevail.  While those “moderate voices” did prevail in court our public moderators have remained, “left v. right”, “us v. them” and so on.  This is the “moral relativism” that I see as troubling.  It is that you are either with us or against us without an acknowledgement that good people can see things differently.  When the Florida AG, Angela Corey said on HLN that Mr. Zimmerman was a “murderer” after he was acquitted it gave a voice to civil disobedience and “morally relative thought” that I find not only objectionable but also sickening.  Like it or not Ms. Corey’s position of authority gives her voice a weight that most are not afforded and by her own words gives cover to those who wish to view the legal process with objection. 

In the movie JFK, Jim Garrison gave a speech to his office where he spoke of “black being white, white being black” and that we are “through the looking glass”.  Seems we are in many cases as just this past weekend Tracy Martin, the father of Trayvon, was the grand marshal at Florida A&M University or FAMU as they opened football season.  Mr. Martin was there to promote the Trayvon Martin Foundation and to raise awareness for the victims of violence.  While both are honorable and worthy causes the truth is one other significant thing took place that day at FAMU.  For the first time since 2011 the FAMU Marching Band was able to take the field.  FAMU Marching Band had been suspended from marching after the hazing incident that resulted in the death of Robert Champion.  Since that time thirteen people from FAMU’s Band have been charged in the manslaughter case and face prison for the role they played that resulted in Mr. Champion’s death.  While it is without question that FAMU has a right to move on from the criminal behavior of those charged in the death of Mr. Champion, I can’t help but wonder if anyone at FAMU or with the Martin Family considered the “moral relativism” that was shown the day Mr. Martin acted as “grand marshal”.  Imagine that on that day Mr. Martin was present to bring awareness to victims of violence and to serve as a reminder to those present, many of whom believe justice was not served in the Zimmerman case and use such belief as an indication of our “communities” supposed continual racial animosity, while at the same time headlines in the news and the audience “welcomed back” the FAMU Marching Band who at the time of the game have thirteen former members awaiting trial for the manslaughter death of a fellow band mate. 

Sometimes I wonder if we, as a people, consider the messages we send.  As a father, I hope that I can and do send consistent message’s to my children and pray that I can, even if I will fail (and as a human, I will), will make amends for the wrong messages quickly and with an apology.  Sadly, I don’t see us as citizen’s doing the same and fear where this “relative” though of “morality” will lead us. 

End of Summer "update" . . .

Summer seems to be unwilling to go out like a lamb and quietly fade into fall.  Recent temperatures have seemed more like the middle of July than the beginning of September and most importantly the autumn air that welcomes football season.  Sadly this also means that it is back to school for Jacob, Hannah, Knoah and the beginning of pro-social pre-school for Ethan. 

Jacob has completed his first week of school as a freshman at Monroe Saint Mary’s Catholic Central.  He seems to be adjusting well to the school and has even talked about his growing network for friends.  SMCC was a “tough choice” for me to swallow in some regards but mostly because I had hoped that Jacob would like to attend Madison High School (not far from my house) as I have been impressed with Madison for the rate of student’s placed in college after graduation and because for entirely selfish reasons I would have loved for Jacob to make the decision to move in with me, Laura, Ethan and soon Ian.  Of course, I understand that it would have been a tough choice for Jacob because he has spend the majority of his life in Monroe and it would mean being away from his Grandmother, Aunt and Uncle that he is very close to along with Hannah, Knoah and of course his Mom.  I respect and admire Jacob making the decision to stay in Monroe – it’s a great, great town and for wanting to attend SMCC as it is a great school with a terrific reputation.  On a side note there was also the whole “rivalry” issue of Jacob attending SMCC as I graduated from Jefferson High in Monroe and SMCC was always our most bitter enemy!  I get a small lump in my throat seeing Jacob wearing the green and gold of SMCC but in fairness, it is a great place and I pray that he does wonderfully. 

Hannah and Knoah will be returning to Triumph Academy in Monroe this year where they will be in the seventh and second-grade this year.  Hannah will have one more year at Triumph and I am already hoping to steer her toward the wonderful “middle college” program at Monroe County Community College after she completes the eight-grade.  Several years ago Dr. David Nixon (retired Pres. at MCCC) became the impetus for this program and was able to get the support needed to begin it.  What an amazing and wonderful concept that kids entering “middle college” can leave after completing with not only a high school diploma but also an associates degree.  I am hopeful that Hannah will consider this “option” for her future.  Knoah has done very well at school and many of the fears that parents of special needs children may have are addressed with wonderful fashion by Triumph and Monroe County ISD.  Knoah has done a terrific job of making friends at school and at learning.  He and I enjoy reading together and his verbal communication has been awesome. 

Last week, me, Laura and Ethan toured the “pre-school” in Tecumseh were Ethan could be spending one day a week learning basic social skills along with the foundations of education.  He is already doing very well and although he just celebrated his second birthday last month, Ethan already knows his ABC’s, can count to 50, is reading some “sight” words and is even nearly potty-trained thanks to “M&M’s”!  Ethan has grown very fond of “Dora” and seems to be moving away from his obsessive love of “Yo Gabba Gabba” which as a “stay at home Dad” is AWESOME!  There is only so much “Gabba” one adult can take. 

Over this past weekend the kids (Hannah, Knoah and Ethan), Laura and I painted “bird houses” for what will become part of “Gnome Village” in our “backyard”.  It is a “vision” that I have and one that although Laura laughs at she seems willing to let me do it.  Maybe she sees no reason to fight it because in fairness it will be GREAT once we are finally done (even if that is 2021)!  Laura’s mom, Debbie, is also a terrific supporter of “Gnome Village” and is actually responsible for getting the “bird houses” for everyone to paint!  Eventually both Jacob and Ian will be represented with a birdhouse and while Jacob could have painted his during the weekend he was “to busy” (and to cool) to do an arts and crafts project with us as the X-Box was “calling him”.  Part of me wishes that Jacob did not spend so much time playing on-line but at the same time he is “chatting” with friends from school as he plays and I find that social connection a really important thing for him. 

Debbie was able to finish Ian’s room this weekend by painting four dinosaurs.  Just as she did with Ethan’s room, Debbie did a great job!  She is a terrific artist and a really wonderful person who has been amazingly supportive and helpful.  I was able to con Laura into the inclusion of a “caveman” on the walls and was happy that it could be “Capt. Caveman” from the old ABC Cartoon series! 

So with today being “Labor Day” and the kids still sleeping, I’m happy that I was able to get a “quick update” done in our lives.  Sometimes I think that I am slacking off way too much on writing a blog but I always keep in mind that the sole and only purpose of the blog is to have a record of my thoughts and feelings for the kids in the future.  I do know that I have to become more “active” but don’t envision that anytime “soon” with Ian’s arrival scheduled for next week. 

The summer has been filled with lots of ups and downs.  Being unemployed still sucks.  Not being able to take the kids and do some of the fun things that I would like has been a downer but then again the “ups” have been terrific also.  The Australia exhibit at the Toledo Zoo, fireworks, cookouts, playing outside with the big red ball among others have been “great”.  Ethan’s birthday is almost the “close” of summer for us in many ways at it falls on the 15th of August and this year he received an amazing gift from his Grandparents of a “playscape” that is, IMO, out of this world.  It is HUGE and will be able to accommodate him and Ian for years to come.  Knoah and Hannah have been having a magical time playing with him and teaching him how to climb the ladder, go down the slide and even enjoy the trestle bridge.  

Sometimes I don’t think that I keep in mind how terrific my children and my life are.  I guess that I have always had that as a “problem” like many people as I only see what is right in front of me sometimes and I need to be reminded how awesome things really are.  Laura continues to be nothing short of amazing and her family have proven to be so extraordinary in the acceptance they have shown not just me but Jacob, Hannah and Knoah. 

I always “know” that things are better than they seem but can get “sidetracked” but silly things.  This past weekend at dinner while we were all talking and laughing the comment was made by one of the older kids that they were so proud of their “half-brother” Ethan.  I understood the context of what they were saying but in fairness it rubbed me the wrong way because I don’t want them “seeing” one another like that.  We had a long conversation about it and I understood after listening to them that it wasn’t a concept that they had “thought up” but one that they were introduced to.  It was a difficult conversation for me, more so than the kids because of all I know about my life and the lives of the kids prior to 2010.  We discussed that “family” is about people who care about you and have a commitment not only to you as a person but accept and love you for who you are.  I think they understand and given everything that “connects” them I hope they begin to see each other as what they are; “siblings”.  I struggled sleeping that night and Jacob and I took a short drive to look at the stars and clear my head once Hannah, Knoah and Ethan were in bed.  It was and is hard for me to understand the category of “half” being communicated by Jacob, Hannah and Knoah given everything and one that I hope will quickly leave the thoughts they have as I fear if this does not happen that one day it will cause a sense of pain and alienation for them.  Anyhow the truth is all that I can do is try and be a good Dad and pray for the kids. 

So there it is, a not so “brief” update on my life as I continue to look for work.  Continue to love my children.  Continue to move forward with a great relationship with Laura and gleefully await the arrival of Mr. Ian Jayce Henricks-Sweat.

I will post photos of the birdhouses and other “stuff” later.  Sadly – another “low” was finding my laptop dying a very painful death a few weeks ago. 

Happy Labor Day and Welcome to the 2013-2014 School Year!  It is going to be a GREAT year.