published Tuesday, July 16th, 2013

Cook: All we cannot save

Really, no one was acquitted. No one set free. Not George Zimmerman, and certainly not the rest of us.

To be acquitted implies innocence. But somewhere on the register of Zimmerman's soul is a midnight act that killed a teenage boy named Trayvon.

Was it legal? Was is justified? These aren't the questions.

The question is: Will this ever come to pass?

Will there ever come a day when we as Americans make peace with one another?

Is it possible to live in a land that sees color -- you are black, I am white, she is brown -- as a blessing and nothing more?

"No," one woman told me Monday.

She is black, I am white. She said she'd been crying for days. Old tears. Old, weary ... angry tears.

We are both Americans, yet seem to inhabit two different Americas. The story of race, as W.E.B. DuBois once said, is one of double consciousness; black Americans live in two worlds, with two perspectives, quite conscious, in this case, that Trayvon could have been their child.

Me? I never think my son would be shot in such a way.

Such a chasm is profoundly tragic.

So I wonder: How long will America last?

There is nothing that says America will go on infinitely, and more and more it seems our ends are as frayed as ever, that we are reaching the last page in our torn book.

There is so much violence, so many shootings, incarcerations, hunger. There is so much sadness, homelessness, greed. There is so much hatred, hopelessness, words that sound like fists.

So much sickness.

The Trayvon Martin trial just seemed like one more example. Odds are, you have an example too. Something out there that makes you mourn, cast your eyes downward, and cry out:

Are we reaching the end of America?

A divided house cannot stand, and I cannot think of a time when we've been more divided. Race. Class. Technology. Employment. Religion. Morals. Family.

(It seems sports -- college and pro -- remain the only cultural meeting place we share.)

Do you disagree? In the landscape that approaches, do you see more reconciliation and fellowship? Do you see more peace on the horizon? More good news, as Christ said, for the poor?

There is an old teacher's trick that goes something like this. To prompt critical and creative thinking, a teacher gives her class the opening line of a yet-to-be-written story, and then asks each of them to finish writing it.

So let's pretend. Here's the line: America begins to heal itself when ...

How would you finish that story? What would it take to heal the land? Because right now, the forces are so arrayed against us, the crooked road so rocky, the midnight storm so dark overhead, that there are times when I weep over my children and their children simply because of the world they're walking into.

So, let's make it not so.

If we are to make this nation and society a good and righteous place, for all people, what will it take?

There seems to be no other question.

"My heart is moved by all I cannot save," wrote the poet Adrienne Rich. "So much has been destroyed I have cast my lot with those who, age after age, perversely, with no extraordinary power, reconstitute the world."

All across America, we are destroying. Each day, every day, such destruction.

Somewhere out there, a small number of people, with good hearts and wise minds, are trying to rebuild and reconstitute things. I pray they hurry, and that somehow, the rest of us are able to help.

Contact David Cook at dcook@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6329. Follow him on Facebook and Twitter at DavidCookTFP.

about David Cook...

David Cook is the award-winning city columnist for the Times Free Press, working in the same building where he began his post-college career as a sportswriter for the Chattanooga Free Press. Cook, who graduated from Red Bank High, holds a master's degree in Peace and Justice Studies from Prescott College and an English degree from the University of Tennessee at Knoxville. For 12 years, he was a teacher at the middle, high school and university ...

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