Go ahead- just try. Try to satisfy the right wing.
On Sunday afternoon, Barack Obama issued the following statement:
The death of Trayvon Martin was a tragedy. Not just for his family, or for any one community, but for America. I know this case has elicited strong passions. And in the wake of the verdict, I know those passions may be running even higher. But we are a nation of laws, and a jury has spoken. I now ask every American to respect the call for calm reflection from two parents who lost their young son. And as we do, we should ask ourselves if we’re doing all we can to widen the circle of compassion and understanding in our own communities. We should ask ourselves if we’re doing all we can to stem the tide of gun violence that claims too many lives across this country on a daily basis. We should ask ourselves, as individuals and as a society, how we can prevent future tragedies like this. As citizens, that’s a job for all of us. That’s the way to honor Trayvon Martin.
Millions of Americans attributed George Zimmerman's actions to racial profiling and/or racism and demonstrations broke out in major cities throughout the United States. Many people contended that the nation's entire criminal justice system hinged on race and that animus toward blacksstill saturates the country and its white citizens. And our first black President merely asks that we honor a deceased teenager with compassion, understanding, and attention to reducing deaths by firearm.
And the right wing couldn't take it. A Daily Caller blogger sarcastically responds "Now we’re getting down to it. Gun control. A Hispanic guy shot a black guy who was beating his head against the sidewalk, so let’s grab up all the guns. Let’s keep people from being able to defend their own lives." Breitbart implies that the speech was characterized by a "push for gun control laws. "One at scaredmonkeys.com writes rhetorically "So much for respecting the juries verdict. So let’s get this correct, Barack Obama wants to honor Trayvon Martin with gun control?"
Uh, no, he doesn't. At least as far as we know, he doesn't want us to do any more than to "ask ourselves if we're doing all we can to stem the tide of gun violence that claims too many lives across this country on a daily basis." But If conservatives believe that the only way to cut down on "the tide of gun violence that claims too many lives" is through gun control, so be it. With few of them ever having acknowledged the role of poverty, joblessness, food inadequacy, discrimination, or environmental factors, a recognition of the importance of national gun control measures is a major step forward. (Obviously, they believe no such thing or perhaps would never admit to recognizing the value of sensible firearm regulation.)
The day after the President's statement, Attorney General Eric Holder spoke (transcript here) at the annual convention of Delta Sigma Theta, a black sorority, where he stated
Of course, as this celebration unfolds, we are also mindful of the pain felt by our nation surrounding the tragic, unnecessary shooting death of Trayvon Martin in Sanford, Florida last year – and the state trial that reached its conclusion over the weekend. As parents, as engaged citizens, and as leaders who stand vigilant against violence in communities across the country, the Deltas are deeply, and rightly, concerned about this case. The Justice Department shares your concern – I share your concern – and, as we first acknowledged last spring, we have opened an investigation into the matter.
Independent of the legal determination that will be made, I believe that this tragedy provides yet another opportunity for our nation to speak honestly about the complicated and emotionally-charged issues that this case has raised. We must not – as we have too often in the past – let this opportunity pass. I hope that we will approach this necessarily difficult dialogue with the same dignity that those who have lost the most, Trayvon’s parents, have demonstrated throughout the last year – and especially over the past few days. They suffered a pain that no parent should have to endure – and one that I, as a father, cannot begin to conceive. Even as we embrace their example and hold them in our prayers, we must not forego this opportunity to better understand one another and to make better this nation we cherish.
Moreover, I want to assure you that the Department will continue to act in a manner that is consistent with the facts and the law. We are committed to standing with the people of Sanford, with the individuals and families affected by this incident, and with our state and local partners in order to alleviate tensions, address community concerns, and promote healing. We are determined to meet division and confusion with understanding and compassion – and also with truth. We are resolved, as you are, to combat violence involving or directed at young people, to prevent future tragedies and to deal with the underlying attitudes, mistaken beliefs and stereotypes that serve as the basis for these too common incidents. And we will never stop working to ensure that – in every case, in every circumstance, and in every community – justice must be done.
Early the following morning, the editors of National Review Online posted a commentary arguing the Attorney General and President Obama
want to fuel the narrative of ever-simmering American racism. Holder made that clear in a speech on Monday at Howard University’s Delta Sigma Theta sorority, claiming — in a less overtly offensive tone than in his 2009 “nation of cowards” speech — that the shooting of Martin presented an opportunity “to speak honestly about the complicated and emotionally charged issues that this case has raised.”
There is nothing less honest than exploiting the Martin family’s tragedy, injecting racism where it has no place, and leaving Zimmerman to twist in the legal wind under the guise of vindicating “civil rights.” Nonetheless, the administration wants its narrative, so it will need to keep its base’s passions inflamed.
No, no, they really did. The Attorney General says "I believe that this tragedy provides yet another opportunity for our nation to speak honestly about the complicated and emotionally-charged issues that this case has raised." And one of the most prominent- at one time the most prominent- voices of American conservatism charges Holder with "injecting racism where it has no place."
Here is where the progressive is to say "of course racism played a major role in the failure of the criminal justice system to hold Zimmerman responsible for brazenly, without cause and with malice, shooting to death Trayvon Martin." But hold on: Eric Holder did not go even that far. He did refer to "underlying attitudes, mistaken beliefs and stereotypes" but, oddly, the NRO missed that. Instead the editors noted the A.G. urged people "to speak honestly about the complicated and emotionally charged issues that this case has raised" and weirdly termed it an effort "to keep its base's passions inflamed."
The passions of the base are inflamed by charges of "racism" or "racial profiling," as even Rush Limbaugh seems to understand when he remarks "The left has begun to talk about 'profiling' here, not racism." The base is not inflamed by an exhortation to discussion, such as made by Holder.
The response of the criminal justice system in Florida to the killing of Trayvon Martin was not all about race, and probably not primarily about race. But it was somewhat about race. The elephant in the room may be ugly and may even smell, but it is there nonetheless and won't go away when we pretend it's not there.