By Erin Drushel

[avatar user=”ErinDrushel” size=”thumbnail” align=”left”]Erin Drushel[/avatar]

…Not Guilty. That was the verdict for the killing of Trayvon Martin.

It doesn’t sit well. It doesn’t feel right that an unarmed young man is dead and no one is held responsible. But whether you agree with the verdict or not, that’s what a jury decided based on applicable laws. The Department of Justice is now reviewing the case for any further legal action.

As a Canadian, I just find this whole situation unfathomable. That’s not to say Canada is free of prejudice or gun violence – that would be delusional. But the very idea that an unarmed person is considered such a threat as to warrant death…it’s beyond grasping.

Do you have the right to protect yourself? Yes. But do you have the right to put yourself in a position where you need to protect yourself? And why is shooting an unarmed person dead considered self-defense?

It’s because the system has failed in the most fundamental way; it failed to value life.

All too often I’ve had American acquaintances that automatically respond to threatening situations – whether it’s a personal threat or a threat to their property – with, “I need to get a gun.” As a Canadian, my automatic response is, “I need to get an alarm system,” or “I need to call the cops.” And before anyone talks about the financial cost difference between those choices, I’ll ask: what is someone’s life worth? Are you prepared to kill a 13-year-old kid because he or she swiped your bike in the middle of the night?

The shooting death of Trayvon Martin not only highlights the gun culture in the U.S. but also the racist undercurrents which have flowed since America’s inception.

Racism is inextricably tied to this case despite people in the media claiming otherwise. If you don’t believe me, just read the comments on this Cleveland Plain Dealer articlethen tell me it’s not a factor. I was sickened when I started to read them. It’s no wonder the world looks at the United States with such disdain when those are the voices that are continually heard.

But we must remember that’s not everyone. Protests – mainly peaceful – have been cropping up across America following the ‘not guilty’ verdict. They are not only protesting the verdict, but also Florida’s controversial “Stand Your Ground” law. These protests are bringing together all the faces of America…those who understand that we are all connected and are each responsible for each other.

The best way to change the world is to peacefully let the world know that something is unacceptable.

However, these protests won’t bring back Trayvon Martin. And it won’t bring back any of those who have died in similar situations but with little public comment. But hopefully it will lead to changes that will save lives in the future.

So now the question is: what can we do?

We all need to be and act better than what others think we are. We need to value life, look beyond hate, and try to teach those who would rather not understand. If we don’t learn these lessons and speak out against injustice, then there is little hope for the future.

– Erin Drushel