Voter ID education and outreach – it’s the right thing to do.

Rural Votes and South Forward have formed an alliance to help North Carolina voters understand and comply with new voter ID laws signed into law by Governor Pat McCrory on August 12, 2013.  A little recent history about voter ID laws and the previous protections from Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act may be helpful to explain why the new law in North Carolina requires action to help voters understand and comply.

Neighboring South Carolina passed its law in May 2011 that required voters to show a photo ID before they could vote. Republicans praised the law as protecting the integrity of elections. Democrats criticized the law as disenfranchising the hundreds of thousands of South Carolinians – mostly minorities – who did not have a photo ID.  In December 2011, the U.S. Department of Justice blocked the bill from taking effect. You can read the entire letter from the DOJ rejecting the South Carolina law here. South Carolina sued and a federal three-judge panel then upheld the law as a result of the state deciding to agree to allow voters to opt out of the photo ID requirement if they had a “reasonable impediment” and signed an affidavit attesting to that.

That kind of check and balance fueled by Section 5 resulted in the South Carolina law being rendered largely toothless by the federal court, in essence, forcing South Carolina to adjust their requirements. The safety net of Section 5 was felled on June 25, 2013 by Shelby County V. Holder in a 5-4 vote of the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS).

While the Court did not invalidate the principle that preclearance can be required, it held that Section 4 of the Voting Rights Act, which sets out the formula that is used to determine which state and local governments must comply with Section 5’s preapproval requirement, is unconstitutional and can no longer be used. Which means that while Section 5 survives, it will have no actual effect unless, and until Congress can enact a new statute to determine what the coverage should be.

That’s right — Congress.

Now, let’s talk about NC. On July 25, 2013 – one month to the day of the decision by SCOTUS to make Section 5 gutless, the North Carolina legislature passed a new voter ID law. The law “limits the kind of identification that voters can use at the polls to a North Carolina driver’s license, a state-issued ID card, a military ID, or a U.S. passport.” According to the law, out of state licenses will only work for voters who have moved into the state within 60 days of the election. College IDs are not valid forms of identification. The approved bill also cut early voting. Governor Pat McCrory (R) signed the bill into law on August 12, 2013 Parts of the law are in effect now, although primary photo ID requirements are not taking effect until January, 2016.

Back to the fight. Just yesterday a panel of the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals met in Charlotte to hear arguments on an injunction to prevent elements in the law already implemented in the May primary from being used in the fall election.  It’s an appeal of a decision made little more than a month ago by U.S. District Court Judge Thomas D. Schroeder to deny a preliminary injunction. According to Judge Schroeder, plaintiffs had not proven the premise that voters were being harmed by the law’s implementation.

Photo voter IDs were declared constitutional by the Supreme Court of the United States in 2008.  In a 6-to-3 ruling, the court rejected arguments that Indiana’s law imposes unjustified burdens on people who are old, poor or members of minority groups and less likely to have driver’s licenses or other acceptable forms of identification.

Notwithstanding the treat of a blistering dissent by the Honorable Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, photo voter ID laws are deemed constitutional.  Until very recently, 16 states had enforceable photo ID laws, 8 were considered strict. On Friday, September 12, 2014, a federal appeals court in Chicago ruled that Wisconsin can implement its photo voter ID law, while the appeals process continues. The law, enacted in 2011, has been blocked by court challenges up until this point.

Wisconsin is now the ninth state to have a strict photo ID law in place, a stunning and disconcerting comeback.

A number of states, including NC and NH will be in the strict column in the not so distant future. There are court challenges in 5 states with photo voter ID laws on the books. It’s worth watching state legislatures that have had ID laws blocked by litigation. We can expect new laws, written more thoughtfully, will rear their ugly heads where legislators and bound, and determined to pass new strict voter ID laws.

Photo voter ID laws are not going away. They may be tweaked by courts along the way, one or two maybe tossed out entirely because a judge determined a particularly egregious requirement was over the top.  In the meantime, Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act is unenforceable and we’re waiting on Congress to reaffirm that section that protects voters in certain jurisdictions. With that in mind, RuralVotes and South Forward are already working hard to help make sure every vote is counted by reaching out to average voters to help them understand and comply with the new laws before they take full effect.

It’s the right thing to do.  You can help.

Who Gets To Vote?

Two hundred thirty-eight years ago today America was born. Under the shadow of the American Revolution a nation of promise and hope was created. Then it happened: the Second Continental Congress restricted the right to vote to white, free, male landowners, over the age of 21. That was the start of our nation’s still bumpy ride on the road to voting equality.

Every time there was a boost for democracy, there came an equal opposing force. In Florida, blacks composed almost half of Florida’s population at the end of the Civil War. Like in other Southern states, most blacks in Florida were slaves and none had the right to vote.

As a condition for rejoining the Union, Florida and the rest of the Confederate states had to draft new constitutions protecting the political rights of the newly freed slaves as directed in the 15th Amendment. Florida politicians then adopted other provisions to eliminate black voting.  The 1888 poll tax and literacy test reduced black voter turnout from 62% to 11%.

In 1907 US born women lost their citizenship if they married a non-citizen.

In 1917 interpreters for Mexican-Americans were banned at Texas polling places.

In 1928 the Arizona Supreme Court ruled that Native Americans living on reservations were wards of the state and could not vote.

In 1947 Caddo Parish, Louisiana, black voters were enrolled only if three white voters vouched for them.

In 1965 the Voting Rights Act was passed to shore up the 15th Amendment and fix all that. Has it?

In 2004 Arizona was the first state to require a government issued photo ID as a prerequisite for voting.

Thirty-four states have passed voter ID laws in the last ten years. According to Wendy Weiser, director of the Brennan Center’s Democracy Program. “These laws represent the most significant cutback in voting rights in decades.”

Currently, the laws are being challenged in the courts by several advocacy groups, as well as the United States Department of Justice. However, court cases can take years and no matter the fate of this law in the courts, elections in the near future will be greatly impacted.

The North Carolina Center for Voter Education reported that 260 new voter IDs were issued in the first three months of 2014. Of that number 87% of the IDs were issued to new voters, leaving approximately 31 of the more than 300,000 already registered voters as having received an ID. It’s not all bad news though.

A recently released study, conducted by Jack Citrin, Donald P. Green, and Morris Levy, gives strong indicators there is opportunity in educating and assisting voters whose right to vote is at risk. The Citrin, Green and Levy study contends, “the Help message appears to raise turnout, with positive effects ranging from 0.66 to 2.03 percentage points.”

RuralVotes and South Forward have been hard at work on the North Carolina Voter Identification Assistance Project (NCVIP).  Our mission is to reach out to hundreds of thousands of affected North Carolina voters, explain the new laws and make sure they have access to the identification they need to continue to be able to vote.

We hold these Truths to be self-evident, that all Men are created equal … the promise of July 4, 1776 has yet to be delivered. There is plenty of work to be done and you can help by visiting: www.VoterIDProject.org to make a donation.

One judge issues death penalty to Arkansas Voter ID Law, Arkansas Supreme Court stays the execution…

This story says it all when it comes to relying on the courts to upend voter ID laws.

RuralVotes has teamed up with South Forward to launch a new Voter ID Project. First stop, North Carolina.

From the early suffragists, to the repeal of the Poll Tax and Jim Crow laws, it took generations of struggle for women and minorities to be granted the right to vote. With the final passage of the voting rights act in 1965, America was finally a land where every vote truly counted.

Less than one generation later, in 2012, with the stroke of a pen, North Carolina Governor McCrory disenfranchised over 300,000 North Carolinians – over half who vote regularly.

Currently, this law is being challenged in the courts by several advocacy groups, as well as the United States Department of Justice. However, as witnessed by recent events in Arkansas, court cases can take too long and and elections can be left impacted. The solution isn’t simple, it starts with hoping for the best, but preparing for the worst.

Our mission is to reach out to affected voters in rural North Carolina counties. We will contact them, county by county, explain the new laws and make sure they have access to the identification they need to continue to be able to vote under the new laws. The most important weapon in our arsenal in defending democracy is our vigilance. Crossing our fingers is no substitute for action.

Just in from National Farmers Union

WASHINGTON (Jan. 28, 2014) – The National Farmers Union (NFU) President Roger Johnson, under direction from the NFU Board of Directors, sent a letter today to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and Speaker of the House John Boehner calling for the 2014 Farm Bill to be called up and voted on this week.
Farm bill conference committee members have agreed to a compromise that will provide farmers, ranchers, rural residents and America’s consumers with policy certainty over the next five years,” said Johnson. “Thanks to the leadership of Chairwoman Stabenow, Chairman Lucas, Ranking Member Cochran, and Ranking Member Peterson, and, the farm bill is now at the final stage in the legislative process.”
The letter outlines several of NFU’s priorities that were included in the final report language.
“NFU is pleased with the conference report for a variety of reasons,” said Johnson. “The bill includes fixed reference prices to provide assistance to farmers only when truly necessary. It provides a strong crop insurance title and approximately $4 billion in livestock disaster assistance. The bill increases funding for the Farmers Market and Local Foods Promotion Program and related initiatives. We are also encouraged by the inclusion of robust mandatory funding levels for renewable energy programs. We’re also very happy that the bill preserves the ability of American family farmers and ranchers to distinguish their products in the marketplace through the existing Country-of-Origin Labeling (COOL) law.”
“On behalf of all family farmers, ranchers, fishermen, rural residents and consumers, I call on Congress to pass the bill this week,” continued Johnson. “It is time to move forward and pass the farm bill.”
Click here to view the letter.

Phillipines Relief Information

The ever widening devastation brought to the islands of the Philippines by Typhoon Haiyan burst into our homes via images of survivors hanging on the thread of hope that the world cares.  Governments from every corner of the globe pledged aid to the victims in the forms emergency shelter, personal hygiene supplies, tons of food and most precious of all, water.

It’s almost too huge to comprehend as we sit comfortably in our living rooms and try to absorb the enormity of the suffering happening more than 8,000 miles away. We can help. Donating to help efforts to stave off hunger, illness and homelessness is as easy as a text from your cell phone. Please make a $10 contribution by texting the word AID to 80108 to the eGive Foundation or to 27722 for the World Food Program.

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Just in: President Obama says it’s time for a Farm Bill

National Farmers Union President Roger Johnson agrees.

WASHINGTON (Oct. 17, 2013) – National Farmers Union (NFU) President Roger Johnson issued the following statement today, after the end of the U.S. federal government shutdown:
“Last night’s action by Congress ended a shutdown of our government and will return agencies back to normal operating status. This is good news for family farmers, ranchers and rural residents who were left without critical services for far too long.
“It was promising to hear President Obama mention specifically the unfinished business that is the farm bill in his address to the nation last night. Now that conferees have been named, it is time for the committee to get down to business and take action to bring certainty to our family farmers, ranchers, fishermen, rural residents and hungry neighbors.
“We have already had discussions with some of the members of the conference committee, and will continue to do so in the coming days. NFU will continue to encourage the conferees to maintain permanent law, establish fixed reference prices for commodity programs, enact an inventory management tool as part of the dairy safety net, provide $900 million in mandatory funding for renewable energy efforts, oppose adverse amendments to Country-of-Origin Labeling, and include adequate funding levels for the Farmers Market and Local Foods Promotion Program.
“With the support of the president, we have reached the critical time for Congress to make some real progress and pass a farm bill this year.”

Seems to Me I’ve Heard That Song Before

The title of this essay is that of a song I remember from bygone days. Frank Sinatra used to sing it. Listening to Barack Obama and John Kerry give their rationale for attacking Syria, gave me an ear worm – the song keeps running around in my brain and I’m sick of hearing it.

The US’s 43rd president, may his name be forgotten, justified attacking Iraq by saying Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction and was likely to give them to Al Qaeda to use on us Americans. His secretary of state carried the president’s water to the UN and around the world. England provided ammunition in the form of a memo on Saddam’s attempts to obtain yellow cake uranium from Niger. None of this was true.

Now we have the 44th president saying that the Assad administration in Syria used sarin gas (now described as nerve gas, while the UN inspectors do their thing) on civilians and must therefore be punished. His secretary of state warns that if Assad has nerve gas Al Qaeda can get it and use it to attack us Americans.

Seems to me I’ve heard that song before.

This president assures us he’s mindful of the lies that preceded the attack on Iraq, and I believe him, because instead of blaming Assad categorically, he avoids outright lies by saying, as he did today, “It’s quite likely….” and “We’re pretty certain.”

Questions:

Since when does the US attack a sovereign nation that has neither harmed us nor threatened to do so on the basis of “quite likely” and “pretty certain?”

In what way is killing innocents with nerve gas any worse than killing them with bombs and drones?

What is the argument against waiting for the report of UN inspectors before deciding what to do?

What if we attack and then find out we were wrong when the UN reports?  That the Al Qaeda contingent within the Syrian rebels did it, as some claim? That we can’t even know for certain who did it?

In the aftermath of the 9/11/01 attacks we learned that the US “intelligence” community had warning a month earlier of a planned attack on US soil but failed to “connect the dots.”

In the aftermath of the 8/21/13 nerve gas attack in Syria we learn from the Associated Press that

One of the key pieces of intelligence that Secretary of State John Kerry later used to link the attack to the Syrian government — intercepts of communications telling Syrian military units to prepare for the strikes — was in the hands of U.S. intelligence agencies but had not yet been “processed,” according to senior U.S. officials.

In other words, the US “intelligence” agencies failed to “connect the dots.”

Seems to me I’ve heard that song before.

In 2003 we were told that the attack on Iraq would evoke “shock and awe,” overthrow Saddam Hussein, and bring peace and democracy to the country in little time.

Now we’re told the purpose of a strike on unspecified targets in Syria is to punish the Assad regime, that it will all be over quickly, that no US forces will be deployed to fight in Syria, and that there will be no adverse affects resulting from the attack.

Seems to me I’ve heard that song before.

Questions:

Who among us is sufficiently clairvoyant to be able to say such an attack will have no consequences — retaliation from Syria, Iran, or Russia, for example, on US installations abroad?

When this “limited” action metastasizes, as it surely will (see our history in Vietnam and Iraq) how will the US pay for it? Will we see more children deprived of Head Start? More families deprived of fuel assistance this winter? A successful effort on the part of the ultra right in Congress to end the SNAP program? Cuts in Medicare and Social Security?

If Congress votes not to intervene in Syria’s civil war, will the president go ahead anyway and authorize the attack? If he does, shall we establish once and for all, by considering impeachment, whether the Constitution reserves the right to declare war to the Congress, and whether an undeclared war is war nonetheless?

Had enough? Ready to do something to head off this blatant violation of international law?

The ABC news political unit has put together a “whip count” of Congress members showing how they intend to vote at present. The count will change in the next few days. ABC promises to update it. The vote won’t happen before Wednesday – the president plans a major speech on Tuesday – so there’s time to make your thoughts known.

Here’s where things stand at this writing, according to ABC:

  • Sure or likely to vote against attacking Syria: 217
  • Sure or likely to vote to attack Syria: 43
  • Undecided or unknown: 172

Needed to vote the resolution to attack up or down: 218

Your path is clear. If you want to prevent another Middle East war, look at ABC’s tally, find where your congress member stands and get in touch.

Don’t ignore those Democrats listed as being opposed. The pressure on them is likely to be horrendous. Make the case to those listed as likely to oppose, undecided, and unknown. Contact your own representative only. Contacts outside your congressional district are useless.

I don’t feel good about hoping the president will lose on this vote; I know that some who will vote against his proposal will do so only because they want him to fail in everything. But foreign policy should not be a partisan matter and I want him to lose by an impressive majority, not because he’s who he is, but because he’s wrong about this. And then I want him to obey the will of the people, as expressed by their representatives.

To find your congress member’s contact information, to phone or send email, go to

http://www.house.gov/representatives/find/

and enter your ZIP code. Then find your rep’s phone number or the “contact me” e-mail link. E-mail is probably best, especially over the weekend. I’m guessing voice mail boxes will be full by now.

You know you should let your voice be heard. Don’t put it off. Do it now.

Stomping on Martin’s Dream

Writing to overturn key provisions of the Voting Rights Act, Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts declared, “Nearly 50 years later, things have changed dramatically. Largely because of the Voting Rights Act ‘[v]oter turnout and registration rates’ in covered jurisdictions ‘now approach parity. Blatantly discriminatory evasions of federal decrees are rare.’…The tests and devices that blocked ballot access have been forbidden nationwide for over 40 years.”

“Justice,” in this case, is best understood as an occupational title, not a moral principle, let alone an aspiration to mend our grievously fragmented social contract.

No sooner did the U.S. Supreme Court stomp on the Voting Rights Act, nullifying some provisions and sending the pivotal Section 5 back to Congress for refinement (good luck with that), than Texas, followed by a host of Republican-led state legislatures, set about making radical changes in election policies, practices, and laws.

The crucial part, Section 5, required certain states and counties notorious in years past for infringing on the voting rights of people in certain groups, said groups defined largely by the color of their skin, to ask permission of the Department of Justice before changing state voting laws.

Adopted initially in 1965 and extended in 1970, 1975, and 1982, the Voting Rights Act was arguably the most successful piece of civil rights legislation ever enacted by the United States Congress. Then John Roberts got out his chain saw and work boots.

Normally, it takes months or even years before the full effect of a Supreme Court decision can be assessed, let alone felt at ground level. This time it took a day. The ink was barely dry on John Roberts’s signature before the Texas legislature reinstated a voter registration law earlier overturned and put on hold by a lower District Court. Other states followed suit.

Consider this: In Texas, between 600,000 and 800,000 registered voters lack the photo ID the new law requires. People of color are between 46 percent and 120 percent more likely than whites to be in that number. Voter ID cards are issued by the Department of Public Safety. Only 81 of 254 Texas counties have DPS offices. Some people must travel as much as 250 miles to get to a DPS office; counties where the majority of residents are not white are far more likely to lack a DPS branch; non-whites in these counties are about half as likely as whites to have a car. DPS ID cards are free to non-drivers, but the documents required to validate the person’s identity and right to be in Texas are not. Obtaining a birth certificate is no easy matter in any state. Texas requires an original, not a copy. If the person’s name on the birth certificate is not the same as the one being used, then another original document – a marriage license or court ordered name change, for example, also not free – must be presented.

I have a driver’s license. I have my birth certificate. I have a court decree allowing a name change. I am not in Texas. Still, reading the Texas brochure explaining how to document my identity made my head want to explode.

Texas does not accept as valid a student ID card – not even one issued by a state college, a welfare ID card, or a SNAP (food stamp) ID card. But I’m not picking on Texas alone. Other states reject certain state-issued photo IDs but accept others, such as a concealed weapon license.

It’s not just Voter ID cards that are stomping on Martin Luther King’s dream. Republican legislatures and state election officials are cutting back on polling places in strategic areas – places where the majority of voters are of color, to be specific. Here’s Texas again: in one county that is home to a traditionally black college, where there were four polling places now there is one. And that one is expected to serve more than 9,000 voters. The state average is 1,500 voters per site. Outside the 9,000-voter poll are 35 parking places. And the law does not allow polls to stay open after the normal closing time if people are still on line waiting to vote.

Get the picture? Even people who have been able to vote in years past stand to lose that right if the 30-plus states contemplating, or implementing, strict Voter ID laws are successful. Says the American Civil Liberties Union,

“Studies suggest that up to 11 percent of American citizens lack such ID, and would be required to navigate the administrative burdens to obtain it or forego the right to vote entirely….Three additional states passed laws to require documentary proof of citizenship in order to register to vote, though as many as 7 percent of American citizens do not have such proof.”

Almost without exception, those who will find themselves required to jump through flaming hoops to vote, and those unable to make the leap, will be people of color, elders, students, and those with disabilities. What do these groups have in common? They’re more apt to vote for Democrats; they tend to see the Republican Party as indifferent, if not outright hostile, to their interests.

Now why in the world would they think that?

Personally, I don’t think that rank and file Republicans are necessarily blind to what their chosen party is up to. I think that independent voters and registered Democrats, who see what’s going on but don’t have much sway with the legislators who are stomping us back to the 1960s, have a role to play in talking with reasonable, ethical, aware Republicans, getting them to call on their legislators to remedy this situation before the 2014 elections.

Legal challenges will proliferate. Voter registration drives will help people get the documentation they need to vote. And maybe, just maybe, the Obama Administration will be as good as its word.

On August 22, as the Justice Department filed suit against the new Texas law in federal district court, Attorney General Eric Holder said,

“We will not allow the Supreme Court’s recent decision to be interpreted as open season for states to pursue measures that suppress voting rights,” Holder said Thursday. “We will keep fighting aggressively to prevent voter disenfranchisement. This [suit]represents the department’s latest action to protect voting rights, but it will not be our last.”

And on August 28, speaking at the ceremony celebrating 50 years since the March on Washington for Jobs and Justice, crowned by Martin Luther King Jr’s “I have a dream” speech, President Barack Obama said,

“[W]e would dishonor those heroes as well to suggest that the work of this nation is somehow complete. The arc of the moral universe may bend towards justice, but it doesn’t bend on its own. To secure the gains this country has made requires constant vigilance, not complacency. Whether by challenging those who erect new barriers to the vote, or ensuring that the scales of justice work equally for all…it requires vigilance.

And we’ll suffer the occasional setback. But we will win these fights. This country has changed too much. People of goodwill, regardless of party, are too plentiful for those with ill will to change history’s currents.”

From your lips to god’s ears, Mr. President. We can help, but it’s you who ultimately must pick up dear Martin’s dream from under the heels of those who would grind it to dust. At this you must not fail.

Inquiring Minds Want to Know

Just as Congress was heading home for a five-week vacation, the administration closed embassies throughout the Middle East, warning of increased danger of an attack somewhere, on something, and telling people everywhere to be extra cautious.

Gradually, it emerged that the warning came because someone overheard a phone  conversation between two Al Aqaeda leaders about how they’d like to do something destructive around this time.

Americans who are inclined to be afraid are now Very Afraid. And congressmembers are conveniently at home and can hear directly from those who are afraid about how they don’t mind if their privacy is compromised as long as we don’t get attacked again.

This happens against a backdrop in which some representatives and senators in both parties are preparing bills to curtail the National Security Agency’s snooping powers, ending the FISA Court’s tradition of hearing only one side of the story, and more.

So what I want to know is this: If it’s true, as we’ve been told, that NSA is recording only who we are talking with on the phone and in email, how often we contact them, and for how long we are in contact — but not what we say — how is it that someone heard the conversation between these two Al Qaeda leaders (I’m omitting their names purposely)? Doesn’t that mean NSA is actually listening to phone conversations?  And if the program that lets the NSA listen to this phone conversation has nothing to do with the NSA program some legislators will try to curtail, when will the administration tell us that?

They will tell us, won’t they?

Guilty of Getting Himself Killed

You want proof that his race was what got Trayvon Martin killed? Try this: a jury of six white women found his 29-year-old killer not guilty of second degree murder or even manslaughter because the 17-year-old black boy, wearing a hoodie in the rain and armed with a bag of candy and a can of iced tea, put him in fear for his life.

Forget that the killer, a fully-loaded pistol stuffed in his pants, called police to report a “suspicious” person on the street, said “these assholes always get away,” and muttered “effing punks” under his breath. Note the use of the plural nouns, “assholes” and “punks.” It shows the shooter saw the boy not as an individual human being, but as the representative of a class of undesirables he didn’t want in his neighborhood. Walking while black was Trayvon Martin’s crime, and he paid for it with his life.

Okay, I’ll grant you that Trayvon, on his cell phone talking with his girlfriend, described the man who challenged his right to be in the neighborhood as a “creepy-ass cracker.” Note the use of the singular noun. Trayvon confronted one person. The killer confronted an entire class of people — black men, to be specific.

I submit to you that so-called “Stand Your Ground” laws such as the one that gave the killer permission to shoot a boy in the chest at point-blank range give an unfair, even fatal advantage to non-black men who harbor fantasies of black men as bigger, stronger, and angry to the point of threatening their lives simply by existing.

The prosecution had to prove malicious intent to get a conviction. All the defense had to do was sow a reasonable doubt in the minds of six women, people like me who have never evoked terror or size envy in a man who saw them as representatives of a class of less-than-human beings.

I certainly have a reasonable doubt that Trayvon Martin could have banged his assailant’s head on the concrete sidewalk — repeatedly, as the defense claimed — without rendering him unconscious, or dead. I have a reasonable doubt that Trayvon even put up a good fight; there was no evidence of blood on his hands, or of the killer’s skin under his fingernails.

If you doubt for a moment that Trayvon died because he was black, picture his shooter as the black man and Trayvon as a light-skinned Hispanic boy. What do you think the verdict would have been then?

Don’t tell me America is not still a racist nation.

I have one consolation to offer: Even if he loses all the weight he gained while awaiting trial, unless he undergoes a face transplant George Zimmerman is marked for life. He’ll always have the 4-a.m. horrors of remembering how it felt to pull the trigger. He doesn’t dare shoot another black man; that would reveal who he really is. But he’ll always be looking back over his shoulder, fearing vengeance.

My religion holds that there is that of God in everyone. I’m trying to believe that about George Zimmerman, but I can’t help but hope he never again experiences a good night’s sleep.

And I also hope that those who are expressing their anger in public will honor the stoic dignity of Trayvon’s parents, and not answer violence with violence. The best revenge will be to stand up tall and witness for justice, every time we see a violation of a human being’s right to walk free.