What does the verdict in the case of George Zimmerman say about America in 2013?
There, of course, was much instant analysis moments after the verdict was announced. The cable news stations went wall-to-wall on it. Twitter and Facebook were abuzz. Everybody, it seemed, had an opinion.
Contact information ( * required )
We've waited a week to reflect on this because, frankly, we think the world would be a better place if there were a little more reasoned reflection and a little less reflexive reaction.
We've waited a week also because we've always been leery of flippant judgments on the veracity of a particular trial. It's not that we can't have an opinion of whether justice was done, but unless a person is in the courtroom to hear all the testimony the way a jury has, it's a bit presumptuous to judge.
We think a good and thoughtful debate could be had about whether so-called Stand Your Ground laws are wise.
We think there is no question that despite the racial progress the country has made in the last several decades, racial profiling takes place, and, for example, a black male driver is more apt to be pulled over than a white. A Hispanic male is too, for that matter.
We think the death of Trayvon Martin was a tragedy that could and should have been avoided and that, at the very least, Zimmerman used poor judgment in confronting him.
But all that said, we're a little taken aback by those who responded to the verdict with shock. To anyone trying to pay objective attention to the trial, it should have seemed obvious that there were questions about whether the state had proved its case beyond a reasonable doubt. You don't have to endorse the verdict to acknowledge that much.
So disappointment, we could understand. Heartache for Martin's parents and family, certainly. But shock?
A troubling aspect of this case that has escaped exploration because of the focus on race is how much America in 2013 is ruled by passion and ideology at the expense of reason and honest debate.
That, dear friends, is a dangerous brew.
One of the underlying principles of the country and our criminal justice system is "innocent until proven guilty." But in reality, how few of us really hold faith with the idea?
If someone's arrested, don't most of us tend to assume guilt?
In the Zimmerman case, politics tended to shape the perception.
Most liberals decided he was guilty. Most conservatives decided he was innocent. On either side, there apparently was no need for a trial.
We find ourselves in an age that is historic in the information it puts at our fingertips -- a huge opportunity for advancement and good.
But more and more, it seems, so many of us use that information selectively to fortify fashionable viewpoints rather than to use it wholly to challenge and sometimes refine our views.
Whether this trend is a result of social media, partisan news operations, the rise of cynicism or just the era, we do not know.
But it is a disappointment. And a danger.