Who's to blame? It's bigger than that

By state Sen. Linda Newell


The recent George Zimmerman/Trayvon Martin verdict brought up a whoosh of emotions for millions of us across the country, including Colorado. With the flood of media run-downs and editorials, Facebook posts, Tweets and coffee-shop conversations, you would swear that every citizen in America was affected by the outcome of the trial. Well, maybe we are.

So, whom can we blame for these intense feelings of frustration, vindication and deep sadness? Defendant, victim? Prosecutors, judge, jurors? Lawmakers, judicial system? That's what we're all yearning for, isn't it? Finding the person or people to blame so we can see justice served.

As the youngest juror on the federal John DeLorean trial in California years ago, I remember so vividly how badly I wanted to know the real truth. Who was to blame for this mess? Finally, through months of testimony and viewing videotapes (ad nauseam) seeing DeLorean nod in agreement to the deal, I just knew he did it. He was guilty of cocaine trafficking. But by the end of deliberations, when it came down to the letter of the law, the rules of the court, and the judge's instructions, we could not find a guilty verdict. It was so much more complicated than a quick judgment from any armchair quarterback. We had taken an oath. That was our judicial system, which, although not perfect, is often touted as being the most just possible.

In the weeks after the acquittal, dozens of reporters stalked me like cockroaches. Literally jumping out at me from behind cars and waiting on my porch at night, just to find out who was really to blame. Was it me as the rumored holdout juror who finally gave in? Was it our system that failed us? It was quickly the country looking for the latest person to blame, as we so often do with all widely publicized events. And here we are again.

But now with the Zimmerman case, it goes much deeper. Why? (Now, this gets deep, so hang in there with me.) To be scientific, there are models of Systems Theory that show us that when one part of a system is failing, the whole system is impaired. When one person in a society is hurting, then we're all hurting on some level. That impairment or hurt can even hold us back from progressing as a system or society.

So, who's to blame? Well at the root, we all are, in some way. It takes all of us to create a society of laws, and one with prejudice, ego and fear … or love and compassion. No matter who you think is to blame in this, the blame itself is part of the problem. It separates us rather than unites us as a soulful community.

So, with the next verdict, law or incident, rather than looking for someone to blame, let's seek to understand the complicated whole of it and others' perspectives to see how we can be part of the solution, rather than perpetuating the problem.

State Sen. Linda Newell represents District 26, which includes Littleton, Englewood, Sheridan, Cherry Hills Village, Greenwood Village, west Centennial, and parts of Aurora. She can be reached at Linda.Newell.Senate@gmail.com or 303-866-4846.


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