“You ever been to the Grand Canyon? Its pretty, but thats not the thing of it. You can sit on the edge of that big ol’ thing and those rocks… the cliffs and rocks are so old… it took so long for that thing to get like that… and it ain’t done either! It happens right there while you’re watching it. It’s happening right now as we are sitting here in this ugly town. When you sit on the edge of that thing, you realize what a joke we people really are… what big heads we have thinking that what we do is gonna matter all that much… thinking that our time here means didly to those rocks. Just a split second we have been here, the whole lot of us. That’s a piece of time so small to even get a name. Those rocks are laughing at me right now, me and my worries… Yeah, its real humorous, that Grand Canyon. Its laughing at me right now. You know what I felt like? I felt like a gnat that lands on the ass of a cow chewing his cud on the side of the road that you drive by doing 70 mph.”
– From the movie Grand Canyon
Out of a laundry list of memorable scenes from the Lawrence Kasdan flick, I keep coming back to this one. Danny Glover and Kevin Kline are blowing off steam after Glover’s character- Simon- comes to his rescue. Inside that moment, they were just two guys talking about the problems of the world, figuring it out as best they could. A world they were sharing the space of, but one which possessed a racial chasm of wide and complicated truths and consequences. Inside their peaceful summit, they reduced the mean thick into a palatable solution, resigned to the fact that its balance was a fleeting bask. Inside the answers to their questions, their differences were unifying, not divisive.
And therein lies the grand canyon of which I thought on over the last couple of days. The screaming gap which still exists between two cultures whose shared existence is fraught with self made obstacles. Let’s face it, this country does a bang up job of talking up how we want to democratize every little corner of the world while conveniently ignoring the lack of democracy in our every day language, gestures and deeds. Asking whether Trayvon Martin should have been followed on that night is a fair question. It may be an unpleasant reminder as to how far we still have to go, but it’s a fair question nonetheless.
Say it would have been my son walking home that night. Would we be having this conversation? They were the same age, basically the same height and weight. Excepting for the color of their skin, you could have stood them next to each other and called it even. Of course, you can’t discount color. Not when it transforms Trayvon from a strapping young man looking to get home to a menacing thug looking to find trouble. While I understand this narrow minded description of Trayvon possessed the context of a criminal trial’s unforgiving devices, I’m also well aware it exists independently of a courtroom.
Trayvon Martin fell into that canyon that divides us. His loss has to be our loss, it has to matter that much. It should matter, to everyone. It’s not just the latest sad story, it’s his story. We have to look to Trayvon Martin for what he can become.